They say that the United States Army's unofficial motto is hurry up and wait, but they forgot to mention that sometimes you have to do both at once.
Isaiah Bradley has only been a member of the Army for a little more than a year, but he's seen things, oh, Lord, he's seen things. Long before he ever set foot on European soil, Isaiah learned that war was an ugly thing, a right ugly thing, like nothin' they ain't ever showed on the newsreels. Men who were like his brothers, injected with concoctions that tore their insides clear out or starved their muscles or twisted their bodies into savage imitations of the Lord's creations. Lord, he's seen things all right. Things nobody who's seen 'em can ever forget. Things nobody, soldier or doctor, should ever forget.
Isaiah Bradley knows exactly what they injected into him. Serum # 715: Polycarbonene steroids, hormonal reduction therapies, vita-ray infused complex megaproteins, 0.5 molar hydrochloric acid, rattlesnake venom and pitviper venom in minute doses, eleven micronutrients bartered from the ancient African kingdom of Wakanda, a tiny ground chip from a crystal skull, and five mystery ingredients whose provenance he can only guess at, stolen at great expense of life from Dr. Koch's laboratory in the dark heart of Germany. The truth is that nobody still lives who knows exactly what they injected in him. The serum is an ugly thing coursing through his veins like a curse. He can feel it whispering to him when the lights are out in the barracks and the only sounds he can hear are an unfamiliar bird chiming in the French night sky, a supply lorry beginning its dangerous drive back to the coast, and bombs exploding in the distance. He can feel it murmuring to him when the shit is about to hit the fan. It calls on the proud African warrior he knows was buried somewhere deep in his bones and urges him to come out and fight. With the serum in his blood, he knows no fear. It is deep magic. It could only come from the Old Country. Every scientist who tries to create it gives his life for it, and knows it was a good bargain. Baron Samadi grins wide, and Isaiah doesn't care that he promised Faith he would never again bring offerings to the loas of his chldhood. How can he uphold the bargain anymore, when he has been made into a sacrifice?
It's a suicide mission, they've told him. He doesn't really know why they told him. They could have just ordered him into combat, alone on a solo mission into the belly of the Wehrmacht, and he would have known it was a suicide mission without them formalizing the relationship. But they told him: We are sending you out to die. Maybe some part of them really do respect him for his combat ability. Maybe they're thinking to themselves that they know he's a spook, but he's a good soldier anyway and he deserves the truth. Maybe they're just afraid of him. He can work with fear. With the serum in his blood, he knows no fear. They think they've talked him into the mission by threatening Faith and Sarah Gail, but they haven't been enhanced by the Gods the way he has. He's smarter than they realize. He knows why they want to destroy the base, and he understands. There cannot be any more abominations like him. There can't be any more unnatural hulking beasts fueled by the power of their sacrifice. He has to destroy the serum. Even #715. Especially #715. The serum courses through his veins and tells him that he's ready to die. He knows it to be the truth. When Isaiah goes, he's taking a mighty offering of blood with him.
And so he stands in the doorway of Nick Fury's office. Nick Fury is an authentic American badass, eight feet tall and all of it swagger. So when a nine foot tall authentic American badass walks into his office it's a banner headline day.
"I'm sorry, son," he finds himself saying, regretting every word out of his mouth. "There's always room in the Howlers for a man with your fighting skills, but we can't join you tonight You have a different war to fight."
"It's the same war," Isaiah mutters, "Only with a different enemy."
Fury snarls, knowing its truth and hating Isaiah anyway for insulting America. He sucks in a breath, pulling the alcoholic vapors a little further down his throat, and gives Bradley a smile. Not a regular person smile. A Nick Fury smile. It is crafty and scheming and conniving and shirtless. It intimates to Isaiah that he has a plan. A plan he shouldn't go around shouting about, but a plan nonetheless. And from the strange way his lip is curling, it appears Fury thinks his plan is a clever one.
Isaiah regards him coolly. Fury's a rebel, and Gabe sings his praises as a fighter and leader, but he's still a white sergeant, and Isaiah has met far too many of those in this war. They're the ones who make him clean up white soldiers' dirty uniforms, make him run extra laps for finishing second in the drill instead of first, make everything harder for him to remind him that he might be one of Uncle Sam's nephews, but he's the bastard son that nobody in the family really wants to acknowledge. Isaiah doesn't trust white sergeants, even after they prove themselves.
"Tell you what, son. My lieutenant has orders for us to do a raid in Munich tonight. They want us luring attention away from Schwarzebitte. But our pilot doesn't have the greatest sense of direction in the world, if you know what I mean. If he got lost and dropped us off near Schwarzebitte..."
"Two hundred miles off course?"
"Bigger fubars happen every day. Did you hear about the Lancaster jockey who airdropped a bay full of dolls on Leipzig? Donations for children displaced by the Blitz that somehow ended up in his bomb bay."
Isaiah snorts. "I heard about it, all right. I heard it was your Howlers playing a prank on the limeys."
Fury gets solemn. His eyes narrow, his lips purse, his cheeks crease. "The investigation is still ongoing."
Isaiah goes silent for a moment, making calculations. Finally, he nods his head up and down once, quickly. "Do your raid in Munich." His own eyes go narrow, too. "I'll handle Schwarzebitte."