“Um, excuse me, miss?” Ari looked up from her computer screen, sitting behind the resource desk. The man standing across the desk from her was tall, with dark hair and broad shoulders. He had a kind smile on his face, but something about him set Ari on edge.
“How can I help you?” She asked, plastering her perfected customer service smile on her face, and straightening in her office chair.
“I’m just trying to figure out where the reference section is? I’m looking for books on Arnim Zola.” The man replied. Ari jolted a tad, her smile faltering a little bit, and the man backpedaled. “I’m a history major. I’m doing a report on him.” He assured her hurriedly. “I’m not like some crazy Hydra sympathizer or anything.” He joked, causing Ari to huff a small laugh.
“Of course. Here.” She scribbled the aisle on a piece of paper and passed it over the desk to him.
“Thank you,” His eyes darted to the placard on her desk, “Arianna.” She nodded, smiling, and wishing him a good day as he strode away. Once he was out of ear shot, he pressed a finger to the comm in his ear. “I got the scan. Everything there is to know, you’ve got.” There was a few seconds of silence before a response.
“Good job, Muskgraves. Return to base.” The voice praised. The man smiled and headed towards the entrance of the library, crumpling the small note in his hand, and dropping it on the floor as he did so.
The ‘base’ was actually an abandoned warehouse on the outskirts of Brooklyn. Twig sat at his computer, pulling up files on the unknown girl that had been caught hanging around the Winter Soldier.
“She’s a nobody.” Twig laughed, shaking his head. “Pretty normal. She’s got a family in California, moved out here a few years ago. Probably to get away from her parents.” He scrolled through her high school transcripts. “She’s a fuckin’ genius. Look at these damn grades.” He muttered, shaking his head.
“I don’t care about her high school transcripts, Twig.” The man standing behind him snapped, losing his patience. “I want to know why the hell the Winter Soldier is hanging around her. What can he gain from her?”
“You should care. We should try to recruit her. She could do some real good things here.” Twig replied, glancing over his shoulder at Lee. “Imagine if we had this brain power behind Hydra. We’d be fuckin’ unstoppable.” Twig laughed, scrolling through some of her social media posts. “As for why he’s around her, there’s nothing. She’s perfectly normal. Not at all like the freakshows he lives with.” Twig frowned. “No dirt. This bitch has never even gotten a ticket. She’s like an angel on crack.” He spun in his chair to face Lee. The man standing groaned, running his hand through cropped blond hair, and closing his eyes.
“Fuck!” He shouted, clenching his teeth.
“I’m tellin’ you man, we’ve got to try and get this chick on our side.” Twig pressed on.
“She’ll never come willingly.” Alara stepped out of the shadows, strolling towards the two of them in her black tac-suit. “And she won’t join us. Not when she’s spending that much time with the Asset; when she knows what we’ve done to him.” She glanced at the screen, at the picture of Arianna Dawson, and scoffed. “God, she’s not even pretty. What do those idiots see in her?” She asked, more to herself than anyone else.
“I scoped out her apartment.” Muskgraves entered the warehouse, dropping his gun on the foldout table by the door that they’d set up when they’d first taken up residence in the warehouse. “Practically no security. She’s got locks on her door, but the window lock opens if you jiggle it the right way.” He reported, smiling proudly.
“Get off your damn high horse, Muskgraves. We’re not just going to steal this girl out from under the noses of the Avengers.” Lee snapped angrily. “That’s a great way to get us all killed.”
“What if she trusted one of us?” Twig suddenly asked, perking in his chair. “Maybe Alara? Another woman?” He suggested. The woman in question laughed loudly, and coldly.
“Hard fucking pass. I’d snap her neck in two fucking seconds. I can tell just by looking at her that I hate her.” She replied in disgust, rolling her eyes. “Send the newbie.” She gestured to Muskgraves. “She’s already seen his face once. And that was a quick lie you came up with.” She praised. “She thinks you’re doing a report. Just keep going to her library. Become her friend. Then, when she doesn’t suspect anything, we’ll snatch her up.”
“We’re not kidnapping anybody.” Lee snapped.
“You want the Asset back, right? What better way than to get his best girl?” Alara asked. “We’ve been here way too fucking long. I want to go home.” She thought longingly of her villa in Italy. Lee seemed to contemplate it, eyebrows furrowing. Alara walked up to him, putting a hand on his chest and leaning up to give him a loving kiss. “We could go home, babe.” She whispered softly.
“No.” Lee snapped rigidly, suddenly thinking better of it and backing away from the woman. Alara sighed and shook her head, turning around and striding away with her hips swinging. “We’ll continue with the scouting until we find something. There’s got to be. Twig, keep looking.” He commanded before storming after Alara, his tac pants having tightened considerably.
“You may want to put some headphones on.” Twig warned Muskgraves. “They get pretty loud.”
“There was someone in my apartment.” The first thing Arianna had done when she’d gotten home, was notice a few of her things out of place. Every one of her belongings had a place, and a particular way she liked them to face. Her cat statue on her bedside table was facing forward, when previously it had been facing the corner of the table. The book that she’d left on her bed that morning was on the left pillow, when it had previously laid just below the pillow. They were small things, but she noticed, nonetheless.
“Fuck.” That one word conveyed all of Steve’s emotions. “Don’t move. We’re coming.” He promised. Arianna gave her affirmative and hung up, spinning in a slow circle in her bedroom with a shuddering breath before taking a careful seat on her bed.
“Shit! I knew I should’ve sent Alara!” Lee shouted as they rushed to the car, a nondescript, black SUV. He was still zipping his tac pants, hair wild and mussed. The three of them dove into the car as Twig spoke in their ear.
“The Avengers have mobilized. I fucking told you to be careful, asshat.” He chided Muskgraves. “I’m sending the fastest route to your phone and I’ve hacked all of the streetlights in the neighborhood. We should get there first if you drive fast.” He informed. Alara gave a slow, predatory smile over to Lee, who returned it.
“Drive it like you stole it.”
Ari heard a knock at her door, heard the heavy boot falls that sounded like Bucky. She rushed to the door, flinging it open without looking to see who it was. She should’ve looked.
“Hey, pretty lady.” Ari had no time to scream before there was a hard knock to her head, and then she was falling, her vision graying as someone swung her into their arms.
“Bucky. Steve.” She whispered before her world went terrifyingly black.