When Steve Rogers ran out into Times Square, he recognized it, no matter how different it was with flashing lights and swarms more people than he remembered. In one world, he stopped, looking around, confused and disoriented. This allowed Colonel Fury to explain what was going on with a simple sentence, “You’ve been asleep a long time, Captain.”
In another world, he was only spurned on by the disorientation, knowing if Hydra caught him again he’d never get out. He had to get away, lose the tails, and maybe, just maybe, he’d have time to figure out where he was and what the hell had happened to Times Square.
Sliding over the hood of a taxi, he plunged into an alleyway and dodged around trashcans and the homeless. These alleys had changed from his childhood though and he ended up staring at a former speak-easy that was now a brick wall.
“Blast,” Steve swore, pursuit’s shouts faint even to his hearing but still present.
“Hey!” a voice whispered, Steve whipping around to stare at large dumpster in surprise. The black lid opened and a surprisingly clean head poked out, the flyaway red hair giving him a boyish look. “Who you running from?”
“Hydra,” Steve said bluntly.
The boy blinked, “Who’s that?”
“Shit! Those guys are still around?! Why are they after you, you look like the Aryan dream, no offen—you know what, never mind. Hop in, I can hide you. But just so you know, I’m Jewish.”
“I’m not a Nazi,” Steve said indignantly, not looking a gift horse in the mouth and climbing in the dumpster. Surprisingly, everything was bagged and his host let the lid drop down on them, a really bright flashlight turning on and revealing that there was a hatch in the back of the dumpster which opened up into the building it had been pushed against.
“Huh,” Steve said, crawling through after the other man, letting him latch it behind them. “That’s a good idea. Covers up the smell for any dogs.”
“Thanks!” the redhead grinned, “Buddy of mine is in Waste Management, makes sure no one takes my dumpster. Come on, let’s get to a more secure area and we can see about these Nazis.”
“We are in New York, right?” Steve asked, following the flashlight wielding man through the warehouse, steel beams and rotting containers giving away that this place had been abandoned a long time.
“Course we are,” he replied, “Where’d they get you?”
“Last I remember they I was flying crashing a plane filled with bombs into the ocean,” Steve said bleakly. “What’s the date?”
“…The date?” the redhead turned and flashed his light in Steve’s eyes, Steve throwing up a hand and wincing at the sudden brightness, “Wait…you crashed into an ocean? Dude, are you telling me the story of Captain America? Seriously? Where is your respect?”
“What?” Steve asked, bewildered, “The story of Captain America?”
“Yeah! Fought Nazis, got stuck on a plane filled with bombs heading for New York, crashed the plane into the ocean to save the day, no one ever found the body, come on man! You’re the one who tried to sell me this like it wasn’t something we all learned in history class over and over again!”
“…History class?” Steve echoed weakly. “I swear, I don’t know—I mean, I know Captain America, but…what day is it?”
“Wednesday, 3rd of June, 2011,” Steve couldn’t see well with the light shining in his eyes, but he could hear the suspicion and confusion easily enough.
Steve froze, the year registering at last. “2000…2011?” he said quietly, “But I—I had a date.”
“Okay woah, what the hell did you say your name was?”
“Steve, Steve Rogers,” Steve could clearly sense the incredulous disbelief and he hastily said, “I swear I’m not lying! I crashed the plane and…and drowned and then woke up in this room that looked like a hospital room and the radio was playing a game I’d seen myself and this nurse came in and then I had to escape, they were keeping me prisoner, I had to—had to get away! Please just don’t let them get to me again!”
“Okay, okay,” the man agreed hastily, apparently hearing the desperate panic starting to enter Steve’s voice, “Come on, let’s—let’s sit down. I have some coffee, we’ll—we’ll figure this out, okay? No one’s handing you over to the—to the Nazis. Christ,” Steve guessed he wasn’t supposed to hear the last bit, “How do I get into this shit?”
They got to one of the metal containers and the redhead struggled open the door, waving Steve in impatiently and shutting it, flipping a switch for some bright overhead lights.
Steve’s eyes adjusted pretty quickly and he looked around. There were newspapers scattered around, marked up with pens. A slat of wood on cinderblocks held a bizarre machine with coffee cups lined up next to it, a small refrigerator underneath, with cables going into a hole drilled through the metal and the concrete. There was a broken in couch along the other side of the container and shelves filled with books and small plastic cases. On the far end there were lots of panels of various sizes that looked kind of like thin televisions, with numbers and videos and pictures and huge amounts of text on different ones.
“Wow, what are these?” he asked, coming closer and staring at one of them. One with a video—it was Times Square! “Hey! I was there!” Steve pointed at it, “Can you reverse it to see what happened earlier? Can you do that with these? Then you can see the people that are after me!”
“You don’t know—dude. It’s a computer.”
“A what?” Steve blinked, “A computer? What’s that, some sort of advanced calculator? How do calculators play videos? It looks like a television!”
“…Wow. Either you are trying way too hard, or there really are Nazis after you. Here, have a coffee,” the redhead, now that Steve could see him clearly it was clear he was around his age, certainly no older than twenty-five, handed him a large mug with a question mark on it half filled with coffee. “Need another pot to get that mug filled up, it’s brewing. All right, sit on the couch and let me check out this Times Square feed. I heard there was something weird on the chatboards and found you running through on the outside feeds, so figured I’d invite you in. Didn’t think I’d end up with a crazy claiming to be Captain freaking America though, gotta say,” the last descended into a mutter that Steve, again, suspected he wasn’t supposed to hear. He didn’t say anything, not mentioning that this guy’s story sounded equally crazy to him.
Steve just drank the coffee—delicious and hot, but it definitely made him realize how hungry he was getting. With the skill of hard experience he shoved it aside and forced himself to focus on something else, right now, on his host.
Thin, almost scrawny, but taller than Steve had been, he was at Steve’s nose now. He seemed to be built like a runner, wiry muscle visible on his arms. Bright red hair and the pale skin that went with, freckles scattered across his skin. So he didn’t just live in this metal cube then, he did see sunshine regularly.
The pants he wore were that strange denim material he only ever saw on farmers, but he didn’t look like a farmer—he was far too pale for that. Maybe he just was hard on his clothes? The shirt was a dress-shirt like office workers would wear, but with sleeves rolled-up and wrinkled.
The shoes made him feel at home though—they were Chucks! Bright red high-top Chucks, just like he and Bucky had drooled over. As much as it probably shouldn’t have mattered so much, just seeing those classic shoes put him at ease. Probably the fond memories.
“Holy shit,” the redhead swore absently, staring at the screen with the Times Square video feed, fingers flying across a board, clicking sounds meeting each tap of his finger. “You really were chased through Times Square—is that a gun? Holy crap! That guy has a high powered rifle, who the hell is after you?!”
“Hydra!” Steve insisted, “They’re the only reasonable explanation!”
“Look man, I buy that people are after you, but a Nazi organization seventy years after the war started? Not that far yet. But I do buy that there’s some seriously scary people after you,” the man assured him. “Let me work for a moment.”
Steve watched quietly, sipping at his coffee and trying to think of a way to prove himself to this guy. He had to get this kid to believe him, at least that he was Captain America, really Steve Rogers from the 1940s, otherwise this would never work. He could work with the enemy not being called ‘Hydra’. He knew who was after him, that would be enough.
“Right,” the redhead sighed, sitting back in his chair and cracking his knuckles. “We’ll let the cyberworld take that and run with it for a bit. Let’s get back to this Steve Rogers thing, yeah?”
“Anything I can say or do that’ll convince you?” Steve asked, “I don’t know what you want to hear. All I can tell you is that I really am Steve Rogers.”
“And you look freakishly like him too,” the man muttered, before speaking up again, “Look, I may not buy it completely—cloning, brainwashing, plenty of more plausible options but hey, I’ve believed weirder things than a man not aging for seventy years in a coma—and I need something to call you, so Steve it is. We’ll have to drop the Rogers for the IDs though.”
“IDs? You can get me papers?” Steve asked hopefully.
The redhead just smirked, “Course I can. I know people. I’m Richard by the way, call me Rick.”
“Thank you Rick. I—God, just thank you,” Steve said, feeling a sudden weight just drop from his shoulders as he realized that there was actually someone who would be helping him with this, even if he was skeptical of his story. Hells bells, he’d be skeptical too. He was skeptical, but there wasn’t any other explanation, unless he was dreaming or something.
“Woah hey, no problem man. Good karma and all, right? Need more coffee?”
Steve’s stomach growled loudly in response and he flushed, “Ah, sorry.”
Richard just looked amused, “Nah, no problem. Guess you wouldn’t have eaten in a while, no matter which story it ends up being. I think I have some leftover takeout and protein bars, you can have those.”
“I’ll pay you back, somehow,” Steve swore, and Richard looked at him with a raised eyebrow as he pulled boxes out of the fridge.
“Seriously, stop worrying about it. Unless you’re one of those people who can’t stand the idea of even vaguely owing someone else, in which case, whatever helps yeah? But you don’t owe me anything. Hell, this is kind of exciting! A real life conspiracy, with Nazis! The guys you really don’t have to feel guilty about ruining!”
“Well heck, seems you really don’t know anything about the years you missed. Guess that debunks osmosis or something,” Rick mumbed, placing cartons and a fork in front of him. “Have at it man, oh we’ll have to do a history pop-culture crash course, otherwise I’ll have to make you Amish and those kinds of communities are difficult to get an in to.”
“I think I understood about a quarter of that. And this is amazing! What is it?” Steve asked, swallowing a forkful of noodles—but not like Italian noodles, this was excellent!
“…Is that Japanese?”
“Oh Jesus. How the hell do I get myself into these things?”