After pulling the Captain from the river, running on autopilot [procure inconspicuous clothing, stash obvious weapons, assess area, assess threat level], he figured out a few things.
1. People in this town were ridiculously easy to steal from
2. Hydra's handling techniques were painful, inefficient, and nothing he wanted to return to. The Asset couldn't remember if he'd ever been a free agent before, but he had all the skills and didn't need handlers who thought electrical prods were good motivation.
3. Hydra had set him up for failure (for death) on the Helicarrier and on the bridge. He couldn't remember the fight on the bridge, but there was footage playing on televisions in nearly every bar and store he stopped in. There was a teenager, at a table outside a restaurant, watching the footage of the bridge fight on what he called “Youtube”. The kid said to his companion that it was “like totally different than the Captain’s normal style of fighting, dude.” He then proved his point by pulling up another video of the Battle of New York, and discussing the tactics therein loudly enough for the Asset, standing on the sidewalk (two tables and a low fence away) to hear. The Captain, Captain America according to these young people, had clearly been pulling punches when he'd fought The Asset (no one's asset anymore).
Sending him up against such a superior enemy was sending him on a suicide mission, and they'd done it twice. Clearly, they wanted the Asset decommissioned. Dead. Whatever civilians called it. Which was a shitty was to run an organization, really, because he couldn't go on missions if he were dead.
3b. The Internet was fucking amazing.
4. The Asset did not want to die.
5. Recon led him to the exhibit. To the man who shares his face. Resembling a hero's dead childhood friend could have strategic advantages if he ever wanted to ally himself with them, as he'd clearly come out on top of the SHIELD/HYDRA face off. According to the exhibit, Captain America had been the enemy of Hydra since the beginning, so they shared a common enemy. Perhaps he had allies who might help the Asset with maintenance to his arm, if he proved himself a valuable enough ally first.
All of this lead him to one conclusion:
Taking down Hydra would be a good first step. Eliminate a personal enemy who wanted him dead while proving himself to a potential ally, an ally with resources he wanted. Establish a solid reputation as a freelancer.
To do that, he started with the two bases that he knew of in this city. In one location, he found a list of agents uncompromised by SHIELD's data upload and a sufficient stock of weaponry. At the second, he found four agents (eliminated quickly) and what he was looking for: an armored van with defensive capabilities, preloaded with medical supplies, bug-scanning equipment, and uniforms and IDs for various agencies, in addition to cash.
Hydra didn't know how to handle their resources, but they kept well-stocked cars.
He drove the vehicle to an unmonitored parking building farther from the disaster zone. It was sparsely occupied, and by parking on the empty roof, he had good surveillance angles in most directions, while being unremarkable himself. Securing the perimeter, he tried to remember what assets without handlers did. He'd seen agents and civilians eating and drinking, though he can't remember ever doing so himself. He found a box labeled "food" in the back with a case of individual ‘water bottles’. He unwrapped one of the bars, as he'd seen Rumlow do the day before, and ate it quickly, instantly feeling better. So that was why civilians ate food – to fix that empty feeling. He’d thought that was just baseline operating standard. With a shrug, he opened a ‘water bottle’ and took a drink, swallowing on reflex.
This was much closer to optimal functioning conditions. It would take… a lot of those brightly-wrapped granola bars to meet his daily caloric requirements, which he somehow knew was more than the “2000 Calorie Diet” listed on the back. (why did he know that?) Regardless, they would suffice until he could research the nutritional requirements for optimal performance. Maybe all those numbers on the back related to something useful.
After finishing the water, the Asset decided to rest his eyes for a minute, seeing as there was no one around, and he would definitely hear anyone approaching the vehicle.
FOUR HOURS LATER
The Asset blinked back into awareness as the sun was rising. His body had clearly repaired itself somewhat while he was unconscious; perhaps this was how independent agents and civilians performed self-maintenance? He took a very deep, somewhat involuntary breath. Sleep, that was what the Comfortable Repairing Unconsciousness was called. He’d heard of it, of course, but never thought it applied to him. The other way of maintenance he knew of involved the Chair and the cold box and hurt like hell. This, sleep, it felt… good.
Sleep was a thing he wanted to try again, maybe intentionally next time.
No one had disturbed his traps surrounding the vehicle or triggered any of his sensors. Motion-activated video cameras (thank you, Hydra, for your preparedness) showed only birds. He ate another granola bar, drank two bottles of water, and then remembered what urination was. Urgently.
[The men’s room in the parking garage basement was unoccupied when he got in. He figured it out. If he got sprayed by the motion-detecting sink and let out a high-pitched shriek, he was not going to talk about it.]
The first Hydra base on his list was in Maryland. He located and scoped out the base with little effort, then started planning. The mission was simple enough, but who to notify to make sure the Captain saw his handiwork? He decided on the Black Widow, who not only had ties to the Captain, but was also a well-regarded assassin on the international stage for years before working for SHIELD, according to his last mission briefing. Known for professionalism. The Winter Soldier (as he was no one’s asset anymore, he wasn’t) respected that. She’d know how to handle any intel he found. Also, she had a public phone number. Convenient.
He killed the “Hail Hydra”–shouting guards (3), who really needed to learn about subtlety, and the scientists (15) with brutal efficiency, grabbing hard drives and USB sticks from every computer, and paper files of anything that looked important, tossing them into a filing box. (Another skill he couldn’t remember learning, but this one was useful, at least). On a whim, he found a digital camera on one of the desks and took pictures of every target he’d eliminated.
He set the box by the door and went back through, piling ammo into a bag he’d found, while laying explosives through the entire building. In the small parking lot, he set his box of treasures down and labeled the top. He typed in the GPS coordinates on a phone he’d taken from one of the dead guards, addressing a text message to the Widow’s public phone number. He hefted his bag of supplies over one shoulder and pressed “send” as the building blew.
JARVIS called her personal cell phone; she stepped out of the hospital wing to accept the call.
“Ma’am, your public number received a text message with coordinates the exact moment that a building at those coordinates exploded. You may want to investigate.”
And, well, there was a thoroughly demolished building. And a banker’s box, taped shut, in the middle of the deserted parking lot. Her scans showed no explosives, so she approached and burst out laughing.
THANK YOU FOR FIGHTING ME AT A SUB-PAR LEVEL ON THE BRIDGE AND ON THE HELICARRIER. I APPRECIATE NOT DYING.
-THE WINTER SOLDIER
Scanning the box again, she opened it. Just the paper files were shocking – she knew that Hydra wasn’t limited to SHIELD, that they’d had redundancies, but the scope…
This base appeared to have hosted bioweapons. Who the fuck weaponizes polio, anyway?