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something stirs and something tries

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The Raft is no place for a Hulk. Oh, Ross probably thinks so— Likely has a whole goddamn floor ready for it, triple reinforced holding cells and scientists on call to dissect and catalog and get him the super soldier solution he’s been after from the start. Bryce doesn’t have to stretch her imagination too far to picture it as Steve flies them in, the plane practically skipping over the water to stay undetected by radar until they see the grey walls looming up out of the ocean. A shiver crawls up her spine to be here, to come here willingly, for Christ’s sake, and it’s met with a menacing rumble in the back of her mind. Out of the corner of her eye she can see Steve glance her way and that’s enough to shove down the unease in her stomach and the Hulk in her head. After Siberia, after Wakanda, it’s just the two of them left and Bryce isn’t about to let him down. So she takes a deep breath and closes her eyes, shuts out the bleak behemoth in front of them, turns her focus inward. The Raft is no place for a Hulk despite Ross’s schemes and Hulk’s own insistence to prove the General wrong by tearing the place apart brick by brick.

Not that Bryce doubts Hulk could. Not that Bryce herself doesn’t feel some wild glee at the idea, personally demolishing Thunderbolt’s pet prison and sinking the rubble to the ocean floor. Hulk senses it, tries to latch onto it for an additional push to come out and smash

But no. Bryce’s brow furrows with concentration and she wrangles down the green static in her head. She tells— less in coherent thoughts and more a bundle of tangled together yarn-ball of feelings shoved back and forth —that this will hurt Ross almost as much, that it’s still something, and that it can only happen if she sits down and shuts the hell up for the next few hours. It takes a moment but Hulk slowly subsides and Bryce slowly uncurls the fists in her lap.

Steve waits until she sighs, eyes open again and palms flat in her lap. “You ready?”

Both of them know better than to ask anything else. ‘Okay’ and ‘fine’ flew the coop a long time ago. All that’s left is what they have to do.

“Yeah. Let’s go.”

 


 

Getting in is almost laughable. All prisons are by design focused more on keeping in than keeping out, but still. The amount of money sunk into building this place, the tech to run it, the people trained to guard it... It’s almost shocking how quickly Steve disables the bodies topside and levers open an access door. Then again, they must have figured that most people crazy enough to fly out to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean? Wouldn’t actually have the resources to do so. Couldn’t fault security for banking on that assumption either.

Of course, most people are not Steve Rogers.

Bryce is able to keep pace with him but only just, ignoring the burning stitch in her side— But she does gulp for air when they pause for Steve to punch out another patrol and drag the bodies off the main hallway. But they make swift work of it, the intel and schematics all proving true (and she shuts down any thought as to the source of that intel) until they reach central processing. She jumps onto a computer, an access card swiped off one of the unconscious bodies outside in her hand, and begins searching through intake lists and cell assignments to find the other Avengers. What she finds, though…

“There are others.”

“What?” Steve steps away from his post at the door, leans forward to read over her shoulder, blue eyes widening in the reflection off the screen.

“There’s others,” Bryce repeats as she scrolls through a list of names. “Enhanced, supers, whatever we’re calling them, there’s more than just Sam and the rest. Seems like S.H.I.E.L.D. and Ross have been busier than we knew.” She wishes she could be surprised. Turning away from the screen, she looks up at Steve and waits for him to make the call but she can already guess. Quinjets are built for speed and stealth, not capacity, and they’re running out of time.

Steve’s jaw tightens, eyes flinty and hard as he stands. “This is just getting started. We’ll be back.” When he looks at Bryce, she can see the determination and pain behind that promise. It was the same expression when they lifted off from Birnin Zana, leaving Barnes in a stasis chamber behind them. She doesn’t tell him the odds against this working a second time, doesn’t say what a pipe dream it is, doesn’t say that they haven’t even made it through the first time yet.

Both of them know better.

So all she does is nod and plug in her earpiece, pulling up feeds from the security cameras for the next leg. “They’re being held another six levels down,” she reports and grabs a stray pen off the desk to mark the best route on the floor plan. “I’ll keep up with you from here, give you updates as I get them.”

Steve is halfway out the door before spinning on his heel. “If anybody tries to get in here—” 

She waves him off. “Sooner you go, sooner I’m locking that door. Anybody gets past that…” A smile that’s more grimace than grin. “We’re close enough to topside that I won’t have to break too much to get out. Plus you get a free Hulk-sized distraction. Go.”

Once the control center is secure again, Bryce takes a chair and settles in. As settled as a girl can get aiding and abetting a super-breakout, anyway. She follows along with Steve through the closed circuit footage, warns him for sentry positions and choke points, but he’s seen the map. He knows the way. Hardly needs her to stay perched on his shoulder and so she pulls the inmate profiles back up. Their contact also supplied a thumb drive, packed with a nasty little virus to wipe the entire computer infrastructure of the Raft as a crippling last resort, but Bryce thinks there ought to be enough room left over for these. Even if they can’t bring them along this time, then maybe… Maybe.

At the very least, comes the morbid thought, someone ought to know the faces of the people they’re leaving behind.

Most of them Bryce doesn’t recognize, a few dozen names blurring together as she skims through them all, mugshot after mugshot after— Wait. Overactive fingers had already clicked past and now they shake as she goes back to find him again. The picture is an older one, slick hair and crisp uniform all at attention, nothing like the face she remembers swimming in and out of a tranquilizer haze. Nothing at all like the monster out of the nightmare jumble of memories she has of Harlem. She hadn’t known his name then. That had come later, when she had been able to stay in one place long enough for that particular guilt to catch up with her and she forced herself to ask for it and for everything else that happened after she jumped out of that helicopter.

Blonsky.

Without even thinking about it, she pulls up the feed from his cell and there he is. Sitting on the floor with his back to the plain white wall in a plain white room, wearing plain white scrubs. It’s another different picture from the others, would seem almost harmless if it weren’t for every instinct screaming at her to run as fast and as far away as possible. Which is stupid, Bryce tells herself as she glances back to Steve (skipping the stairs entirely and hopping from one landing to the next), because he is safely locked away down there and she is all the way up here and never the twain shall freaking meet if she has anything to say about it. It’s fine. She’s fine. 

Except.

Except just as Bryce begins running through all the various reasons she’s a hundred percent fine for the third time, Blonsky picks his head up and looks straight at the camera. Stares, unblinking, as he climbs to his feet and walks to the middle of the room as if waiting for something. There’s no way, there’s no fucking way that he can know she’s here, that there’s anything at all to mark this day different than any other that he’s spent locked up in this godforsaken place and logically, rationally, Bryce knows that. Except there he is, eyes locked onto hers as if he could pull her through the screen by force of will alone.

Bryce!

She stumbles back a step at the sudden shout in her ear, tears her eyes away from Blonsky to find where Steve is and kicking herself for dropping the ball. What she finds is he’s not alone. Barton and the bug guy are half-carrying Wanda with Sam on rear guard and Steve in the lead with a sack tossed over his shoulder.

“Crap. Sorry, uh. You’re clear, yeah, same way you came up should be—” And that’s when the alarms go off. “Shit.”

Maybe it’s not for us,” Steve deadpans over her earpiece, not even out of breath, and Bryce can’t help but snort.

“Probably not, no.” She can see soldiers boiling out of rooms, a jack-booted funnel of bodies out for blood and her fingers fly over the keyboard to lock doors, stall elevators, turn on sprinklers, anything at all to slow them down. “I mean. You signed the visitor’s book, right? Places like this, they get tetchy about that stuff.”

Sam says something, eyes rolling and lips moving on camera but too far back for the audio to patch through before Steve answers, still dry as a bone. “Damn. Knew I forgot something today.

“Okay, I’m going to activate the virus. Soon as you hit the emergency stair, end of the next hall. Everything’s going to go, including lights, so be ready.”

Copy. See you at the extraction point.”

The bug will kill all remote access and controls until someone gets into the main servers to reset everything, so Bryce runs over everything one last time to be sure the Raft personnel will stay locked out long enough for them to get where they need to go. She’s two seconds from executing the file and booking it for the landing dock when for some reason, she hesitates. Her eyes are drawn back to the screen where Blonsky is still staring up at her, stock-still but for the fists clenched at his side.

He’s insane. A monster. Killed people who’d done nothing more than be on the wrong street the wrong night. He’s everything Bryce is on her worst days, everything she hates about herself and what she’s become, another consequence of her decisions and mistakes that she can never take back.

And yet, says a quietly calm voice in the back of her mind, you get the chance to walk out of here.

Gnawing on her lip, Bryce can see Steve getting closer to the stairs. Can hear shouting and pounding outside the control center’s doors. No time left, not unless she wants to Code Green her way out of here and then swim two thousand miles for shore. Before she can talk herself out of it, Bryce overrides all the security protocols on Blonsky’s level and leaves a single path clear to topside before uploading the virus. Three seconds is all it takes for it to take hold and plunge the Raft into darkness.

Three seconds, but it was long enough to look back and see Blonsky still staring at the camera, teeth now bared in a feral grin. Long enough for an unsettling something within her to almost answer in kind before the screen shut down along with everything else.

It takes another too-long second to shake off the lingering what the hell before Bryce can move, startled into movement by the sound of something large and metal slamming into the door. Whatever they’re using to try and get in, she’s sure she doesn’t want to stick around and find out. There’s a maintenance hatch at the rear Steve pried open earlier that’ll lead to a now inactive ventilation shaft straight to the surface. Pocketing the thumb drive, Bryce squeezes herself through and starts to climb.

 


 

When Bryce pops the hatch, a newborn storm welcomes her up by lashing her with wind and water. Two steps into it and she’s soaked already, with a stray thought pointing out this is what you get for setting off all those sprinklers inside. Talk about your instant karma. She has to shield her eyes from the rain, looking through the dark and trying to reorient herself for— There!

The quinjet’s landing lights flicker on in the distance and Bryce slips and slides her way across the tarmac. Not the most dashing entrance: looking like a drowned rat as she skids to a stop, arms windmilling frantically to keep from falling on her face, and she can hear Barton bark a laugh as she staggers up the ramp. Not that he looks much better once she’s able to get her hair out of her eyes. None of them do, thin prison scrubs plastered to their skin and dripping puddles onto the floor.

“Bryce, everybody in?” Steve calls back from the pilot’s seat, prepping all systems for takeoff.

“Y-” Her voice dies in her throat as she remembers white teeth in a white room. “Yeah,” she lies instead, slapping the release to close the hatch behind her. “Let’s get the hell out of here.”

Wringing out her hair before twisting it up into a messy bun, Bryce edges past where Barton and Wanda are huddled together and working on some kind of— is that a collar? —while bug boy paws through the sack to pull out a metal helmet. Sam is right where she expects, right behind Steve’s chair with one hand on his shoulder and murmuring something in his ear. He leaves off as she approaches, flashing a smile her way as she flops into the copilot’s seat. 

“Good thing you were here,” he says and Bryce marvels that he can still joke after everything that’s happened in the last couple weeks. “‘Cause just one person breaking into the highest security prison on the planet would’ve just been the craziest goddamn thing I’ve ever heard of, but two? Nah, two makes it practical.”

Steve cracks a smile of his own but it’s only half as bright as Sam’s, and leaves as soon as it comes. Bryce knows where it’s gone— back to Siberia, to Wakanda, to the cells still occupied behind them as they fly away into the night.

Well. All the cells still occupied, minus one.

“You know me.” Bryce does her best to chuckle but it’s weak, tied down between her aching arms and the growing knot in her gut. Reaching for the dashboard, she pulls a vid panel towards her and activates the rear view camera. “I’m Mrs. Practical.”

Sam coughs something that sounds suspiciously like bullshit and leaves it at that, and Bryce raises the magnification as high as it’ll go to watch the Raft shrink and disappear between the waves. But before it’s gone, before the rain and wind drown it down into the ocean, she thinks she sees another set of lights rise into the sky and fly away.

She doesn’t realize she’s holding her breath until the air rushes in a sigh and she pushes the panel back in place. Course there’s no guarantee she just saw what she thinks she saw. Could have just been imagination. Lightning reflecting off of something. Who knows. But there’s a slim chance it was.

Just a chance.