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All Infinity Stone Sales Are Final (M)

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Offline Aries Jordan

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Although he refused Sam's help, Steve had asked Bucky if he wanted to go.  But his best friend, his eyes still haunted with pain beyond Steve's ability to imagine, and only a hint of the cocky young solider he had been once, declined.  "I don't want to take this version of me back to where it all started, Steve," he said.  "Those memories are the best part of me.  I don't want to ruin them."

So Steve had to say goodbye to him as well as everything else, but at least, he reasoned, he'd get a chance to save some other Bucky and give him the life Stateside that he should have had.  He knew returning the Infinity Stones would not be easy, but after everything they had been through already, he thought there were grounds for optimism.

Except for Tony and for Nat, of course.  Steve was ready for an ordinary life, with ordinary sorrows.  They would be just as heavy as the ones he felt already, but not to his conscience, at least.  So, carrying the case with the six Stones in one hand, Thor's hammer in the other, and his grief on his back where his broken shield should have been, he hit the button on his nanotech glove.  Disappeared from 2023 with the GPS set for 1970, in the woods of the training grounds of Camp Lehigh, NJ, a bare second after he and Tony had vanished.

Indeed, shooting back up to full size, he noticed the summer leaves were still swirling in the breeze that their disappearance had created.  If he'd been a minute sooner, he could have seen Tony again...

Don't go there, Cap.

He'd chosen to do the Stones in chronological order, as it seemed to conserve Pym particles to jump forward rather than back, and he wanted some margin for error.  He set the amazing nanotech suit Tony had designed to look like an army uniform again, but changed the nametag to read Capt. Wilson (since the base's MPs were looking out for a Captain Stevens now).  He was about to walk out into the open when he remembered Mjolnir.  It would look pretty weird to walk around Camp Lehigh with a Norse sledgehammer.  So he set inside the hollow stump of an old tree and kicked some leaves over it.  He didn't have to worry about anyone stealing it but might as well avoid attracting attention anyway.

Then a deep breath, a reminder to "fly casual," and he walked out and headed for the secret SHIELD HQ part of the base, briefcase in hand, once again looking like he knew where he was going.


Offline EvilCopepod

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There wasn't anyone to stop Steve as he walked through the camp and to the doors of the secret bunker, the information about a possible threat inside hadn't reached the outside yet, and they were focused on keeping people from leaving rather than having them come in. There were security cameras at the base, of course, but they weren't able to record, only able to have a live person monitoring them, and as there had been nothing out of the ordinary in the way that Steve had moved or acted while walking, no one had pointed him out, not to mention the quality of the camera wasn't the best.

Attached to each of these cameras was a much smaller one, difficult to notice unless someone was looking for them, and unlike their less advanced cousin, they were able to record for short periods of time as well as give a better image quality to whoever was reviewing them. Arnim Zola had them placed by several HYDRA Agents that were working within the camp, but only he was able to access and watch them on one of the many computer monitors he had been given to work with by the US government.

He didn't have the leadership and mad tyranny that the Red Skull had, he hadn't been one of the masterminds behind HYDRA and he had even given up their information with very little resistance. He wasn't at all intimidating, but he had seniority, he had been at their fallen leader's side, and while Schmidt would have laughed at the idea that anyone would consider them being close to equal, he didn't argue with the new recruits that suggested it, because it meant that they would listen to him. He had started in creating machinery and he had enjoyed it, then Schmidt had him working on more than just machines, on living creatures, on humans, and he had gotten a taste for bioengineering that he would never have even considered if HYDRA hadn't recruited him. He had gone back to working with machines, that's what the Americans wanted from him, advanced weapons, many using the strange cube that had so enchanted Schmidt.

Howard wasn't the only one disappointed that they had found the Tesseract but not Captain America, Zola could see now how potent Erskine's formula was, how powerful it was, he could make an army of unstoppable soldiers if they had only found his frozen body with the otherworldly object. So he was shocked to see on his cameras that the man, who should be dead, strolling through the base like he had only been out sick for a week. The only way he could have survived that crash was-- the super soldier serum was far more powerful than he had anticipated, and now it was within his grasp. Surely, he could get the US government to agree on recreating it, they would want it for themselves, but he knew that Captain Rogers would never allow it, especially since he was clearly trying to stay hidden.

He called up one of the security guards, one he knew worked for HYDRA, "I have found the intruder. Bring him to me, and use the hounds." Not long after, there were several security guards moving down the hall with a pair of German shepherds on strong leads, the dogs were dressed in their own uniform to match the government's and large metal muzzles on, they were sniffing the ground as they dragged the guards forward and after Steve.

(( >> you can have them catch up to him wherever you'd like


Offline Aries Jordan

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Briefcase in hand, Steve entered the wrongly-placed "ordinance depot" and proceeded to the concealed elevator, returning the salutes of lower ranks with practiced ease.  There was no one else in it this time, thankfully, as the woman who had reported him and Tony as suspicious last time would certainly have recognized him again, so soon after the event.  He knew the code from the time Natasha had figured it out in 2014, shortly before the Zola program had destroyed the whole bunker with a guided missile from SHIELD, and he remembered which floor to go to from when he and Tony had been here.

Apparently, the alarm hadn't extended to this floor, where Tony had walked out without anyone questioning him just because he'd been with Howard.  Unfortunately, Steve didn't know where on this floor the Tesseract was supposed to be kept.  He picked his way through the quiet dark laboratory rooms, avoiding the direct line of the obvious cameras (but not the smaller ones that he didn't know about) and looking for a safe or cabinet that looked like someone had forcibly opened it. 

He was about as far from the elevator as he could get when he heard it open again.  Multiple booted feet on the vintage linoleum -- and the clacking of blunt claws.  Dogs.  Coming fast.

Why would they use dogs? he wondered.  How would the dogs know what the intruder smelled like?  Steve didn't know that Zola had spotted him on his first trip through and had been able to provide the dog handlers with items he had touched and left his scent on.

 It seemed simplest for him to just avoid them.  Since they were going to search everywhere a normal man might be, he would just have to hide somewhere a normal man could not.  He found a dark, narrow hallway with a high ceiling and lot of equipment and file cabinets in it, climbed up a few of them and braced himself between the walls with his back against the ceiling. He could do it one-handed, which was good because he needed the other arm to hold the briefcase up against his chest.  Meanwhile, he counted the number of MPs by their voices and boots and hoped he wouldn't have to clobber a bunch of regular guys who were just doing their job.


Offline EvilCopepod

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Soon Steve wouldn't need to worry about the regular cameras, as they were now being tampered with to show the same image of the normally empty laboratory area that he was going through. In order to maintain this facade, the team locked down the elevators so no unexpected scientists looking to get in a bit of extra time would come down. Zola himself was down here, he rarely left the lab, even if he had wanted to make friends with Americans, he knew that he would never be accepted after what he'd done, no matter how many weapons or technological feats he performed for them. He only needed to communicate with loyal agents of HYDRA, and even that was brief enough to allow him to continue working.

He hadn't let on that they weren't searching for a normal man, and they wouldn't have thought to look up at where Steve had hidden if it weren't for the dogs. The animals didn't budge as their handlers tried to tug them away from what seemed to be nothing. They got on their hind legs, paws up against the file cabinet Steve had scaled like they were treeing a bear. They didn't bark or even growl, instead a loud hiss came from the thin slits in their heavy duty muzzles as if they were of feline descent instead of canine. The men aimed their weapons at the top of the cabinet, though none of them actually spotted Steve, one of them was fiddling with the collars on the dogs as they stared up at Steve with slit eyes.

"You are trespassing on military property. Come out with your hands in the air or we'll fire!" One of them shouted.


Offline Aries Jordan

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Those are not normal dogs.  Steve normally liked dogs -- even German Shepherds, despite a few painful encounters with them during the war.  These animals made the hair stand up on his arms and neck.  Why would they be here?

Since the MPs -- if they were MPs -- still couldn't see him and weren't even pointing their guns with any accuracy, he didn't bother answering.  Instead, he slid his feet and one hand delicately along the wall, moving out from his position over the dogs and more into a position directly over the men.  They might as well be between him and those teeth when the muzzles came off.  Then he dropped directly into their midst. 

Two men got their heads banged together before the others even realized their quarry was among them.  A third, a little faster to react than the rest, got the butt of his own gun in the face, then Steve was already throwing a punch at the next one -- but also keeping a careful eye on the dogs, who he expected to react viciously.


Offline EvilCopepod

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The dogs turned their heads as Steve moved, which gave the men a bit of warning before they were attacked, but they weren't exactly prepared for an aerial attack from Captain America. Several guns went off, though they mostly hit the wall and some of the various containers surrounding them. The dogs went wild, thrashing free from their handlers, their large collars and muzzles coming off.

The creatures hissed loudly, there were patches of fur missing around their face and neck, but instead of skin there were hard scales. A forked tongue came out from beneath their mix of canine and serpentine teeth, lips peeling back in a silent snarl as venom oozed from their hollow fangs that were jammed unnaturally between the larger, more solid teeth. They both lunged at Steve, trying to get their teeth into his flesh as well as their venomous fangs.