Nobody spent days rotating between what she believed to be a hypnotist, a training room, and the chair that numbed her mind. She felt drained and run down. Command stopped by often, asking to see her progress was beginning to lose what little flashes of memory she held. All she knew were the code words and the training she received from a man called Rumlow.
A tremor would run through her when the hypnotist brought out his book. The worm black leather bound by a string held between his thin hands. The soldiers would strap her into a chair and leave her for hours.
91, Jericho, kingdom, suffering, soldier, lost, 23, Troy, insomnia, mother.
She learned quickly that Command expected endless power from her, but she found herself empty without much effort. Exhaustion weighed on her when she expelled the energy. A pain would embed in her mind, stabbing the already damaged brain. Tears would rush down her face as the black liquid released onto her victims. Rumlow would respond with time in the hole. She wasn't supposed to cry. She wasn't supposed to be weak. The hole hammered that into her, but the pain could be so overwhelming. The tears would spill before she could stop them.
The Doctor's surmised that disease remained in a latent form attacking when she used her powers. The collar they placed around her neck worsened the effects by shutting down her abilities when she was left alone. The weight was a constant reminder of her position in the world. A weapon that didn't quite work.
Nobody's head tilted up at the sound of the metal hatch opening. She had cried the night before during training. Above she could see Rumlow with the hypnotist. The lowered a rope ladder and waited for her to climb to the top. The hunger pains had grown dull, she had begun vomiting stomach acid. As she reached the top, she crawled her way towards the men's feet.
"You're ready," the hypnotist said.
Nobody's head drooped to the side; eyes bloodshot a dried out from the night before. Her throat was raw from screaming for help that never came.
Familiar hands grabbed her arms and brought her to a standing position.
"Time to introduce you to an old friend."
Winter had gone weeks without seeing Helena. He figured by now that Command had decided he would keep Helena away from Winter. They wouldn't kill her, not yet. Command erased her mind which involved the use of resources that they did not easily spare.
Winter had tried to keep his feelings to himself. Command sent Winter after Helena for a reason. The young woman didn't require such extensive surveillance.
He brought his hands through his hair. Over the years he had gotten too reckless. He saw the opportunity to see a world outside of being tortured and he didn't hesitate. The small interactions, the occasional individual that acknowledged him when he walked down the street.
His fingers wrapped around a few strands. Even a small smile from a stranger had made him feel…less empty. He followed orders. He endured the freezing, the brutal training…all he wanted was to experience the world they dropped him in.
That was fair, right? He didn't ask questions. He didn't argue. The consequences for doing so had been engraved into his mind. There were nights he woke in a cold sweat and all he could see was the cell he had been dreaming of. The cell he still lived in.
Now he dreamt of Helena. Of going back and saving her. He was confused when he was told to watch her. He found comfort in her routines. Now he understood that reporting those routines gave Command the information a double required.
He wanted to apologize to Helena, but she was gone now. Nobody wouldn't understand his words. They meant nothing to her.
She was being turned into the thing he hated most about himself. He wanted control over his mind, he looked at Helena and wanted freedom.
In his rage, Winter's fist collided into the wall closest to him, denting the metal. He raised his arm to again to feel a hand clasp his bicep. His face froze over.
He turned. The man he knew as Rumlow held a shaking Helena. She looked distraught and terrified. Winter moved closer and Rumlow shoved her into his arms.
"Think of her as incentive," Rumlow said. "Get too bold and we take her away. No more little side trips."
Winter gripped Helena, fingers digging into her flesh. The muscles had toned in her arms, yet he could feel the bones in her limbs. He waited for them to leave before meeting her gaze. Those stunning brown eyes were now empty.
"Do you know me?" He asked.
She shook her head.
"I'm Winter. Call me Winter," he said.
She gave a sharp nod. His heart ached. He examined her form. She was dressed in a thin black uniform. There were bloodied bandages around her left thigh and right bicep. She'd been conditioned. Around her neck, a metal collar set around her neck. He heard Command say before that the collar cut off her powers. Something about an Ice Box.
Winter guided her over to her cot. She settled into the thin mattress, eyes remaining on the floor.
"I will protect you," he said.
"Protect me?" She asked.
Winter stumbled for words. He hadn't expected a response. He was surprised she had the strength to speak to him. Many who under went the training became subservient and unable to make responses outside of 'yes, sir.' His statement was empty anyway. They both knew he wouldn't be able to. He could see the emptiness resting behind her eyes. They had hollowed her out.
"As much as I can," he said.
"Why are we here?" She asked. "Why did they do this to us?"
Winter paused. The crack in her voice left him flinching. All he knew was what Command told him. They were to make a better world with their abilities, but now Winter wasn't sure that was the truth.
He couldn't tell her that, though. Command would take her again. He needed to make up for the torture he had put her through.
"Command saved us and we must return the favor," he said.
"Saved us from what?"
Winter's brows furrowed. He never spent much time contemplating his rescue. He had taken the words at face value. He hadn't been a position to question them having woken up in a cell with a metal arm and no knowledge of who he was.
There were always memories far from reach. Like someone passing on a sidewalk that he just couldn't place. An image of snow and a train car ran through his mind. The feeling of falling was overwhelming. He let out a gasp, running a hand over his face.
"Dying," he said. "Go to sleep."
Winter walked to his own bed. As he looked back, she had buried into the wool blanket facing away from him.
Helena had already died.
Nick had taken to watching Helena's house. The woman wearing his niece's face was good. She kept up the routine aside from receiving visitors. She even seemed to have fooled Tony. Now he stood in front of the high-tech door, debating if he was doing the right thing or if he put her more at risk by confronting the double.
He looked down at the woman. Her smile was so bright. She wore one of Helena's favorite sundresses. Her eyes had a light that Nick had not seen since before her symptoms began to appear.
"Where is my niece?"
Her smile dropped. She rolled her eyes and let him inside. Nick pushed past her, fighting the urge to strangle the imposter.
"Not very sneaky to come right out and ask," she said.
"Pierce has her, I need to know where," he said. "He knows that I know and me confronting you isn't going to change anything."
"Either way this little meeting won't sit well," she said. "You want to see your favorite little niece? Here."
The woman picked up a remote and turned on the TV. Security footage came up. Helena was pacing in a room. Her curls were a mess. She wore ragged and dirty clothing. Aside from that, he couldn't see any wounds.
"She's fine as long as you keep up appearances. You're pushing your luck by being here."
Nick clenched his jaw. Staying away wasn't much of an option. She wouldn't be giving up information and attempting to garner any would risk Helena.
"Of course, of course," he said. "Just consider this an uncle visiting his niece and no one needs to say otherwise."
"You know where the door is."
Nick gave a sharp nod and headed back out the front door. He paused, watching the cars rush past. Behind him he felt the door slam shut. He reached for his phone. He needed to contact Hill.