Author's Note: I don't have a way to write in Cyrillic, so I'll use italics to denote when Russian is spoken. Those italics will be within quotes, while direct thoughts will be in italics but not inside quotes.

Audio copy: You can listen to this story on my podcast: There Are Three of Me. It is read in Ep63 S4E10. You can find There Are Three of Me on Spotify, Google Podcasts, and .

Falcon and the Winter Soldier
The Next Stage

by Gabrielle Lawson

The first time he went into the icy cold of the cryostasis chamber, he thought he would die. There was no particular feeling about it. No anguish anyway. Maybe a tiny bit of hope. It would be an end.

But he hadn't died. And, when they thawed him out and he fell loosely to the floor, fear returned. And anger.

"Now we will begin again." His voice. Zola.

A memory dropped into his mind. Zola next to a man with a bright red skull for a face. A strong man. As strong as Steve. He remembered Steve.

Steve who didn't want him. No, that was a fake. Wasn't it? But Steve hadn't come.

"Bring him."

Strong arms lifted him from the floor. But by lying still after he fell, some of his strength had returned to him. He got his legs under himself and push up, shoving at the two men trying to pick him up. They were both surprised by this movement. They released him. But the one on the right recovered and grabbed his arm again, holding him tighter. The one on his left screamed. And so he learned that the metal arm was strong even when he wasn't.

One arm wasn't enough, though. More men entered the room, holding the damn prods. "Asset! Stand still."

He stood, his legs shaking from the effort after being locked in the chamber, so cold, so still.

"He doesn't like you."

His eyes darted between his handler and Zola. His handler looked different. There were gray streaks in his hair under his cap, lines at the corners of his eyes. Zola, too, looked older, balder.

"I thought he was pliable," Zola replied. "We cannot continue like this. He remembers too much. And that makes him a liability. Not an asset. But I have a remedy for that."

"It could kill him."

He doesn't know if he should be afraid. He's afraid of Zola. He fears his handler. Death, though? Not that. The remedy was an unknown. Nothing unknown was good here.

"A one hundred twenty meter fall could not."

He tried to walk with them when they grabbed his arms again. But his legs hadn't regained all their strength back yet and he fell behind. They didn't stop, so his legs just got dragged on the cold floor.

They dragged him to another room. There was a large chair in it. Like a dentist's chair, his mind supplied. There was some sort of bowl above it. Like the dryers in the salon when his mother had her hair done. He'd be coloring on one of the chairs in the waiting area.

They pushed him into the chair and strapped his arms to it.

"Open your mouth," the handler ordered.

He watched Zola as he went to a tall metal box to the right of the chair.

The handler grabbed his chin and squeezed hard. "Open!"

He opened his mouth. A rubber something was placed inside. It didn't taste good and it felt strange on his tongue.

"Close."

He closed his mouth. It felt even stranger and was now sandwiched between his teeth.

The metal box where Zola was started making noises. It hummed and beeped. The bowl started to lower toward him. His hair wasn't wet per se. He didn't need a dryer. He looked up at it. It didn't look like a dryer, not that he'd ever looked up into one at the salon. But they never put anything in his mom's mouth.

Someone behind him grabbed his head on both sides and forced it back down so he was looking straight ahead. The bowl kept lowering until he felt it at the top of his head. It was too narrow and he thought it would burn him. The hands left him, but something clicked in the bowl and it became very tight around his forehead. It half-covered his eyes now. He saw his handler's legs move to the right. But he couldn't turn his head to see what Zola was doing.

The bowl started to hum itself. He could feel it, hear it grow louder. It didn't feel good. There was a snap and a thousand bursts of lightning exploded in his head. He screamed until he had no breath. He mindlessly pulled at the restraints. His whole body arched and spasmed. His lungs sucked in another breath so he could scream again.

Over and over. Scream, breathe, scream. Until finally, it stopped. The room grew quiet.

Something loosened and lifted off his head. His head fell forward to his chest as his whole body released a spasm. Fingers touched his neck, found his racing pulse. A fist in his hair lifted his head from where it had fallen.

A faced moved into his sight. "Do you know my name?"

It was a round face, balding, with two round lenses in front of his eyes. He spoke with an accent. He thought maybe he should know the man, but nothing came to mind when he tried to place him. His brow furrowed in confusion.

Another man pushed the spectacled man away. "Open your mouth." Different language, but he understood. He opened his mouth. Someone else pulled something from between his teeth.

He looked around in confusion. He didn't know where he was or why he was there. His throat felt raw, his jaw hurt, and one of his arms was made of metal. How strange?

"Very good, Asset. You've done well."

He feels maybe he should be proud but he can't think what it was he'd had done well.

"Very good! Very good!" The bald man was smiling. "Now we can make you strong."


The End
© 2021 Gabrielle Lawson