Chapter notes: ayyy you know what it is
I knew the moment I heard the debriefing that this was the one.
The temperature was biting, snowflakes that burned to the touch swirling in the mystical, freezing gale. Underfoot, hidden rocks sliced through the soles of our feet, doubling the pain. Victor and I had refused the woolly coats and thickened boots in favour of speed. The cold froze the wounds in our feet before they could blood onto the cold snow.
The objective was this: Zelo, the mad scientist that was Schmidt's right hand and the one to experiment on Bucky and me, was being transported to another base through this mountain range on a secret HYDRA train tracks. To capture the train, the Howling Commandos had to climb a mountain overlooking the railway, launch a rope to land over where the train would run and wait.
Because Victor and I could carry what most men would struggle to lift, we had volunteered to carry the radio, the rope and the bars that would safely send us down to the train. The higher we hiked, the less air there was to breathe in. Towards the end, it was only Steve who wasn't huffing like a madman. Even my intakes were just that quicker than normal.
Gabe and Jacques argued on the angle to what the launching cannon-thing would be set at, right up to the point Steve broke their French to announce that they had arrived. Quietly, I slide the heavy radio off my back and set it gently on the ground, patting the snow to check if there were any hidden rocks.
Dum Dum and Jim take over the radio from there, switching it on, finding the frequency and entering the passwords. By the time he's done, the little snowstorm that had been going for hours was starting to break up.
"There's the railway," Bucky announces, and all of us turn to silently stare at the sharp black lines breaking through the falling snow. A few seconds later the radio crackles, drawing Jim back to the box.
"The trains coming in about ten minutes." He reports, standing up to face Steve. Steve lets out a big sigh, clapping his gloved hands together.
"All right men, and woman," Steve picks up a little bar that he hooked onto the rope. "We're only going to have a little window of opportunity to land on this train. Jacques, Jim and James, you're gonna stay here to report back to base that we've landed on the train. It's up to you if you keep the radio with you. Personally, I don't care. Remember, our objective this time is to capture Zelo, not a simple find-and-destroy."
We all voice our agreements, Bucky drawing aside Steve in a little chat. The little air that I could breathe seemed to stab knives into my throat as I released it.
(Was I going to let him die?)
I cast a glance over to my brother, who was lazing about in the snow. I flop down face first and start to draw an angel with my body, next to Victor. He grunts when wayward limbs hit him. The snow was even colder when in direct contact with skin yet the powdery substance didn't help to settle my whirling thoughts.
(Was I going to let HYDRA take him again?)
I stopped moving, letting a little shudder run through my body.
The radio crackled again. I could hear Jin or Dum Dum shuffling in the snow to crouch in front of it.
"It's almost here," he says, and Victor huffs, flicking little chunks of snow over to me, ruining the snow angel. I don't bother to preserve the angel, after all, who the fuck is gonna see it, and completely roll over one of the wings to get up. The result was a rather funny looking angel. I laugh as I dust off the snow from my face, picking up one of the bars from the pile next to the radio.
I pick up the sounds of the train and all thoughts of playing around vanish from my mind as I hook the bar to the rope. An idea pops into my head.
"We only have a window of opportunity here," Steve calmly says as he picks up his own bar "So let's act quickly." The sounds of a train – the squeals as metal ground against metal, hot puffs of smoke as the coal burned, a high-pitched scream as the stream was released – grew louder and louder until the rattling of the railways was visible to my eyes.
Finally, a black chimney dashed out from behind a mountain ledge, the rest of the train's engine following; it looked like someone had taken a thick brush and drew a dark snake between the mountains. Maybe this was one of the head that we were destroying and burning.
A sound left Steve's mouth as soon as it was at least two carriage's width from the rope; there wasn't much of a distance between the ridges and the rope did not completely cover the tracks. I peek over my shoulder, looking at Victor.
"Now, honey, I know that you're scared of heights, just don't look down, ok?" I speak in an extremely sweet and sappy voice, immediately lifting my legs and throwing myself of the ridge before Victor could take a swipe at me.
The gap between the ridges rapidly disappeared. I look down; it was hard to discern if the layer of white was snow or fog. Roaring, HYDRA's train slithered under me, the carriages flickering by. Thankfully the army had decided that practice would be good for this mission, so the act of letting go and landing on the train's top was almost just like another practice session.
Victor, Steve, Bucky, Dum Dum and Gabe landed in that order with heavy thumps. By the time Gabe landed, I had already punched through the roof and murdered the HYDRA sycophants clustered in the carriage furthest from the engine. As soon as Victor and I had gained enough footing on the next waggon, Steve and Bucky and climbed up to the top of the roof with Dum Dum and Gabe covering them in case the grunts saw that they were climbing up on the roof.
There was enough stuff in each coach that it would've been a shame to blow it up so I unhooked them and let them slowly lose momentum, one by one disappearing behind the snowy mountain ridges.
From the memories of the movie, this next scene felt like it happened in a flash – the happy fighting, the man with the gun, Bucky welding Steve's shield and the fall all in a fast paced minute. But to us – to me – it was just another mission; fight, hack, kill, murder. Slicing throats and puncturing hearts.
It took at least ten minutes to clear a carriage and disconnect it – twenty if the enemy was being especially crafty. It takes some time to unhook the carriages from one another; it takes a while to fight with the pin keeping them locked, but the carriage automatically dislodges from the next waggon once it's removed. The angry red marks in my palms disappear nearly as soon as I let the pin fall onto the snow.
It's just the second carriage before the engine; unlike all the rest, no shouts, footfalls and clicking of guns floated through the open windows. I entertain the thought that maybe they were prepared to shoot us full of holes, but discard the idea once I peak through the windows.
"Hey," Dum Dum calls from above. "Bucky and Steve are stuck in the carriage. Could you help us down? I remember that there's gonna be a tunnel soon." The HYDRA train blueprints didn't include ladders reaching the roof, but they also designed it so even a normal human could step from one roof to another.
Victor unhappily accepts his future career as a human ladder, scowl deepening as Gabe accidently hitting his face with his shoe. Finally, us four were crowded onto the little ledge, Victor and I standing as close to the snow in case something happened and we two could survive the fall.
"Alright," I say, "I saw Bucky hiding behind a couple of boxes and a HYDRA sycophant on the opposite. I could also see one of those flamethrowers hiding behind the next door."
"Damn Lyall," Gabe states as he peeks through the door. "I can barely see a shadow on the other side – I can't even see the next door." He turns around to grin.
"So what do we do?" Victor asks. He leans to the side of the train and quickly draws back in. "I can see the tunnel closing in, but it doesn't look that long. Only about 5 seconds of darkness."
"Do we want to break in while they can't see anything?" Dum Dum asks and they look to me.
"Make sure it's as soon as the darkness envelops them, ok? Don't want the HYDRA guy to start attacking Bucky in the darkness." I nod and peek out. "Get ready,"
You could already hear the echoing growl of the engine entering the tunnel, the tiny circle in the mountain quickly engulfing the train. Victor immediately kicks the door at the handle, the lock breaking under the force.
Gabe yells, calling Bucky's name. I run straight for the HYDRA agent, finding him from the smell of smoke emitting from the gun in his hands. He quickly falls to the ground, dead.
Seconds pass, and the weak sunlight falls through the minimal window. Bucky chats with his teammates, but the moment quickly passes, the five of us pressing up to the next door. The flamethrower is gone, the next door slightly open. I quickly flick the lock on the next door and stumble out to the little ledges between the carriages. Bucky, Dum Dum and Gabe soon step onto the next ledge, casting looks through the windows.
I start to unpick the locks connecting the carriages together.
"Wait," Gabe says. "You two go ahead; you can fight the flamethrower better than me." He starts to untie the communication lines and cutting thicker ones with his Swiss Army Knife. Dum Dum gets down and helps Gabe. Here, the cable lines were thicker than before because there had to be a certain amount of lines for every other carriage after it and technology hadn't adapted far for one single line to be enough for twenty plus cars.
Bucky doesn't get down to help out. Faintly, a voice suggested that I could demand him to help Gabe and Dum Dum; it would, after all, save him. I ignore it.
(His death was important to the plot. I couldn't get my stupid attachments destroy it.)
The fight, at first, was going well. It was easy to hold the man off, although Victor and I couldn't get close enough to attack him as he vomited flames in moving walls, keeping us trapped in a corner.
From the other side of the carriage, Captain America flew in, shield flying. Finally, with the added ally, the flame thrower was slowly losing.
I couldn't see what happened next, as the man spat orange in our direction, keeping Victor and I up against the wall. Besides the roar of the flames, I could hear Bucky laughing and Steve's low voice.
Steve shouts. The train rocks as something hits the opposite side and tears a massive hole, the metal peeling back. Victor and I rush over, spotting the dark smudge that was the HYDRA man falling into the swirling mist. Suddenly it doesn't feel like calm, smooth frozen water. Suddenly it looks like the mouth of a monster.
For the first time in ages my heart races when I spot Bucky holding onto a bar on the exposed train. Steve tries to reach out but I can see the screw loosening.
My heart is in my throat, and at the same time the roar of the engine – so close – is beaten by the thumping of my heartbeat. I can't draw on my absent voice, and it felt like my healing ability failed as my muscles locked into place.
I should let him fall. Steve would find him in the future, and suddenly he wouldn't be so lonely in the twenty-first century. The plot.
But my mind races, thinking up plans – I could save Steve the flight to Antarctica, and it would be Bucky as the one alone in the future.
I couldn't handle it. I couldn't handle my addled brain. I took too long.
Steve screams when the screw gives out, plunging Bucky to his supposed death. It was too late –
Steve starts destroying the black cases inside the train. Multiple HYDRA prototypes are reduced to nothing. We pass a mountain. Gabe and Dum Dum finally make it into the carriage, faces falling when they can't spot Bucky and see Steve punching holes into the floor of the train.
But it was never too late.
I take a deep breath and launch myself off the train, falling after Bucky.
I could still save him.
It was too late.