SHIELD fell on a beautiful spring day in the year 2014. Anyone tuned in to media outlets or on the internet was pretty much glued to the coverage and the data that had been leaked. Shocks from the fall rippled across the world. People within SHIELD itself found themselves fighting for their lives, struggling to understand who was with them and who against. A few SHIELD bases and facilities stayed secure, but due to the element of surprise, most fell to Hydra and most SHIELD agents scattered to other agencies, or into the private sector. Hydra personnel, unlike those truly dedicated to SHIELD, had known that a time might come when Hydra’s continued existence was forced into the light of day. They planned accordingly.
When Darcy Lewis turned on her phone for the first time in three days, the text alarm sounded and she cursed as she saw that the most recent messages were from Ian, trying to make up with her after their last ‘fucking-fight.’ She was done with him. Why wouldn't he take ‘go fuck yourself’ as an answer? She had totally unplugged, and sulked her way through the past few days, alternating between watching DVD rom-coms and action flicks while binging Chinese food and ice cream, completely cutting herself off from the world while she hit the reset button on her feelings. Yesterday, she began to realize that she was mostly upset that she hadn't found the right guy yet, less so that things had gone south with Ian. She’d spent the day reviewing her dating history in its sad lack of glory, despairing of ever finding the right guy. Today, she woke and decided to write Ian off completely, and get on with her life. And now he was sending her messages desperately begging her to get back together with him, acting like he thought her world had ended or something. Terrified? Why would he think she was terrified now? As if! She put her foot down on the gas angrily as the signal light changed and she continued on her way to visit Erik.
She had finished her classes at Oxford. She could now go anywhere she wanted. One of the best things about never knowing where she’d live next was the ability to get away from things that had gone sour, like stupid dating choices. Okay, so Ian had saved her from being vaporized by Dark Elves… that didn't mean she owed him the kisses she’d laid on him. It definitely didn't mean she owed him anything more.
She put her phone in her pocket without looking at any of the other messages or feeds that had piled up, totally unwilling to die to text with her newly-ex. She pulled into the car park of Erik’s latest funny farm, found a spot as close to the door as she could, and got out... balancing Erik’s home-brewed hot chocolate and her coffee while tucking a few scientific journals under her arm to take inside for him. She usually would have gotten a newspaper so they could do puzzles together, but that errand would have taken her near Ian’s place, so she skipped it. Her sparkling company and razor wit would have to do the cheer-up trick today.
Poor Erik! After that psycho Loki was through with him, he’d gone off the deep end in spectacular fashion. While his last naked rant made for great TV, it did little to convince people of his sanity. Darcy and Ian helped him ‘escape’ one crazy hospital to help against the Dark Elves (and thank the gods for that!), but couldn't care for him long-term after that. No one could really go from taking EVERY med out there to none, no matter how brilliant they were. For now, he was being looked after by the good old jack-booted thugs of SHIELD, and trying to sort out exactly which of his meds were helpful and which were not. Few Docs had experience in post-god-possession psychiatric care. She and Jane wanted to provide for him, but psychiatric care and meds cost money, and science didn't bring enough of it in... and Jane was off with Thor, no doubt in a bed somewhere crying out his name again and again. She wondered where Jane and Thor would decide to live when they were done with their extended shag-fest vacation.
Darcy was still bummed that she hadn't gotten to go to Asgard, if only to taze Odin when he called Jane a goat. Could Odin be tazed? For that matter, would a Taser affect Thor now that he was all godly again? She shook her head, laughing to herself as she wished she could taze Loki, the dead son-of-a-bitch --- Whoops! Sorry, dead Frigga! Oh, wait, it was okay. She could curse Loki’s biological mom without getting lightning struck. His bio-mom was a frost giantess, or something? Darcy pushed thoughts of tazing assorted Asgardians and other space deities from her mind and entered the SHIELD hospital.
She slowed as she reached the desk, signed in, and flashed her ID as usual, noting that some of the people working there looked unfamiliar. She smiled at them anyway, hoping that the wary feeling she had inside didn't mean shit was about to hit the fan again. She quickened her pace. If trouble was coming, Erik would need help.
She frowned to herself as she walked down the hallway. No patients were in the common room, where they usually gathered to watch game shows and the news, or look at each other awkwardly, or sleep off drugs. It looked like the TV in there was showing an action movie… there was footage of a big flying ship crashing into a building in Washington, DC. The smell of urine coming from patient rooms was stronger than usual, not a sign of good care. Someone screamed somewhere down the hall. That never failed to creep her out. For some reason it bugged her even more than usual today.
When she reached Erik’s room, she nervously took a deep breath and knocked. He invited her inside quietly. When she closed the door behind her, she did a double take at the worried expression on his face. She looked around for danger, but didn't see anything. Still, she set the drinks and journals down on his hospital table, and slid her hand inside her pocket and grasped her Taser. His eyes followed her hand, and he continued to stare at her pocket for a long time. She pulled her hand out, snapped her fingers in front of his face, and offered, “Hey! I brought you hot chocolate. Want some?” She saw that he still had her Valentine’s card sitting on his bedside table. She would need to get him something new to look at if he thought of that as a good decoration.
He nodded and muttered. “Sure, sure.” He gestured to the door. “Let’s take it to the garden. I’d like fresh air, and that looks like it will help keep us warm for a minute or two.” Springtime in London was still cold, but to their Americanized sensibilities it seemed as though warmth ought to be on the way soon.
Darcy had grown accustomed to Erik’s vacant manner. His sudden calm unnerved her. She grabbed his jacket from the closet. “Do you have a scarf?”
He snorted and grinned. “Hardly!” He slipped into a pair of loafers and put the coat on. None of the patients in the psychiatric facility were allowed belts, scarves, shoe laces, etc.
She smiled back at him. “Oops!”
Her nervousness grew as she felt the number of eyes on them as they walked to the garden. She smiled more to cover her unease. The jack-booted SHIELD-thug thing was feeling less jokey today. A chill ran up her spine. Erik was faking silliness, like he wanted to seem harmless, too. She half expected him to take off his pants, given the way he was acting. They moved slowly through the garden, Erik leaning against her as though he was weak. He was shaking.
As they neared the side closest to the car park, he suddenly threw his hot chocolate in a guard’s face. “Taze him, Darcy! Taze him!”
So, she did. She fumbled with the weapon as she pulled it out of her pocket. She took aim at the hot-chocolate covered man and pulled the trigger, only stopping to wonder after she'd done it if she ought to hurt someone because her certifiably crazy friend demanded it. The guard fell to the ground by Erik’s cup, yelling an alarm before he passed out. Erik ran towards her sad-looking car quickly, and she turned to run after him. But, she didn't move fast enough and was dragged down by an unfamiliar woman dressed in some sort of dark green coat. Darcy turned her head, and found herself eye to eye with a patch that had some sort of squiggly legs around a skull head. Erik stopped and looked back, terrified. Darcy elbowed her attacker hard and threw her car keys towards Erik. He scrambled to grab them and reach the car.
He shouted, “I’ll send Thor!” and drove away wildly. Disbelievingly, Darcy continued to fight the woman who’d jumped her until she felt pain at her head and everything went black.
When she came to, she was tied to a chair, back in Erik’s room inside the hospital, judging from the bland walls, hard floors, antiseptic odors, and the sight of her Valentine to Erik on the bedside table. Her coat was gone, Taser too... of course. She cussed, wondering what was happening. Was SHIELD evil? Or, had she screwed up when she listened to Erik? She froze, puzzled. There was a guy dressed in scrubs on the other side of the room, leaning against a gurney or something and ignoring her! He seemed bored, not even bothering to look at her. He looked at his phone as though he tied people up and stood over them on a regular basis. When another person, a tough-looking man dressed all in black, entered the room and slapped her across the face, she wondered how long it would take Erik to find Thor.
She’d never been slapped like that before, and it frightened her like crazy. She tasted blood. Her heart was pounding hard, and she struggled not to cry.
He growled roughly, “you cost us a prisoner with great potential, Miss Lewis.”
Her vision swam, and she blinked rapidly. She stared at the man in front of her, dumbfounded. Her voice shook. “Since when does SHIELD act like this?”
Much as she’d resented the loss of her iPod (along with all of Jane’s research) in New Mexico, the SHIELD agents she’d met there had been professional and courteous, maddeningly so. She suddenly missed that Agent ‘pain-in-the-ass’ Coulson a lot, her iPod and ALL of her songs be damned.
Another man, one who looked like an old-school scientist, even wearing a bow tie, slipped into the room. He sat quietly in a chair by the wall without really acknowledging any of the room’s occupants. He muttered something about just getting off a flight from the States as he set up a laptop on the table and began to type and set up his things, just so.
The man who’d slapped her smiled coldly. “I'm not with SHIELD. My real loyalty can finally be proclaimed. Hail Hydra!” She half-expected him to do some sort of salute. She blinked at him, disbelieving.
The scientist by the wall smirked. After a moment, he turned his laptop so that it faced her. Before she turned her attention back to the guy talking to her, she glimpsed herself on the screen. The scientist was taking video of her.
Then, from history lectures, the name Hydra rang a bell with her. She blinked harder. “What? You’re like Nazis? Are you kidding me?”
Hail-Hydra guy punched her in the gut, and she cried out in pain and fear. His punch shocked her even more than the slap. While the man was nowhere near as big as Thor, he was muscle-y, all hard lines. His punch made her feel like she’d belly-flopped and lost all air, and it HURT. The word ‘oof’ no longer seemed funny.
Hail-Hydra guy’s voice rang out, “Hydra is more than that. Hydra is everywhere. We are in the desert, by the sea, even at the foot of the very throne of the galaxies.” That sounded so crazy to Darcy that she wondered if she was hallucinating, what with the pain and all. She closed her eyes, helpless and overwhelmed as fear coursed through her. She wished she could taze THIS guy, for sure.
He grumbled, “we planned to use Dr. Selvig, at least what was left of his mind. But, you helped him flee. Reports tell us, though, that you also work with Dr. Foster.” She eyed him warily, as he continued monologuing, “we’ll see what you can tell us about her work...”
She started to protest and stopped when he raised his fist again and glared down at her. “I hope, for your sake, that you have been paying attention.”
Darcy paled, certain that they wanted more than she had to give, definitely more than she wanted them to know. Her mind flew back to weird tortures she’d seen in movies like ‘SAW’, and she wondered how else they would hurt her. This was a mental hospital. Electric shock therapy? Shit. She’d be crazier than Erik! For a split second she resented that he’d left her, but then she was grateful that he was safe. He’d been through too much already, thanks to that bastard Loki.
Her concern for Erik became secondary to concern for herself as she heard the sound of water splashing. She turned her head, and saw the orderly at the sink, soaking a towel in the water. Beside him was the gurney that he’d been leaning against before. She saw now that one end was lowered. With a cold chill, Darcy realized they were going to water-board her.
Her heart pounded faster, and she felt like she was struggling for breath already. She was no soldier, not a SHIELD agent. She had no training or preparation for a situation like this. She barely had preparation for anything, even life after grad school, but sure as hell not torture. Eyes wide with fear, she was shaking and gasping, and it made her angry.
She tried to tell herself to remember it wasn't real. It was just a towel, for God’s sake! ‘Self’ wasn't buying it, though, not at all. Orderly guy crossed past her, and took the standard-issue water pitcher over to the gurney. Her eyes tracked his movements.
Shit! Shit! Shit!
She was going to be tortured with a fucking hospital water pitcher and a towel! A hysterical sound burst from her.
Hail-Hydra guy grinned. “Tell us what Dr. Foster is working on.” The scientist looked up expectantly. He seemed to see her for the first time. His expression was creepy. He didn't exactly smirk or grin, but looked oddly excited by her fear, shifting in his seat in a manner she didn't want to consider.
She fought the urge to babble incoherently, and replied with a quick, “space stuff, like always.” She shook her head in response to the interrogator’s forbidding expression. “I don’t know anything good. I fetch Pop Tarts. I make her remember to bathe and stuff. I don’t know from science!”
She started to mention that Jane wasn't working right now, but was studying the effects of mind-blowing sex with a Norse god… but, then she would start talking about Thor… and no good could come from that. She swore to herself that she wouldn't tell these guys anything about Asgard.
He chuckled, “and you type up notes to be shared with SHIELD scientists. We no longer have access to those, so your memory will have to do.”
Hail-Hydra guy gestured to the orderly, and they both moved in close. The sight of a knife in the orderly’s hand made her gasp with fear, and she started to weep. Her abuser held her still while the orderly cut the ropes that secured her to the chair.
She struggled futilely against the men, but they easily moved her to the gurney, Hail-Hydra guy held her down, while the orderly strapped her to the frame. She was completely immobile, with her head angled down.
Hail-Hydra guy brushed her hair back out of her eyes, and smiled. She wanted to recoil, but couldn't do more than turn her head a little. His smile was creepy as fuck. He offered, “don’t you want to go ahead and talk? Why don’t you tell us all about Dr. Foster’s work so we don’t have to drown you?”
She shook her head, and then screamed until the wet towel was pressed and held over her mouth and nose, the water trickling into her nose steadily. She coughed, and then held her breath from sheer reflex. She heard and felt pouring, and struggled against the straps and ropes wildly as the water poured into her more and more. When she couldn't hold her breath anymore, she began to gag and choke, breathing in the water. She struggled to count so she had something to hold onto, some notion of time and wouldn't believe it to be an eternity. It took all of her efforts to keep track of the count. Her thoughts ran in all directions, scattering away from what was happening, and running away in terror like she wished she could. She couldn't believe when they pulled the towels off after a count of thirty, just how eternal that felt.
Hail-Hydra guy's loud voice echoed through the room. “What can you tell us about Dr. Foster’s current research?”
The cloth lifted off of her face. She blinked against the light and the blurry shapes around her.
Another voice, higher and reedier, added, “and how did she open the portals in Greenwich? How did she send the Asgardian to other worlds? How did she transport the fighters from place to place in London?”
She choked and gagged, struggling for air. The scientist repeated his questions, the sound of his voice sounding closer to her. She was terrified when answers formed in her mind. Her poor brain wanted oxygen so badly! But she shook her head, croaking, “No! I don’t know!”
She felt one of the men rip her shirt-front open, leaving her exposed. She cried out fearfully, too scared to form words. She heard muttering, and a cold stab of terror cut through her as she wondered what they would do to her next. The wet towel was placed over her face again. It felt like a heavy bag as it pressed close. More water poured in as she struggled. She counted to twenty nine, struggling to gather her thoughts enough to do so.
When they lifted the towel, she turned her head to the side and vomited. A cold hand trailed across her breasts, grasping, sliding into her bra and out again as she shuddered with blind panic, feeling even sicker and struggling helplessly. The word ‘rape’ skittered through her mind, and she felt as though something was breaking inside her thoughts. She shook her head over and over, refusing to let the many facts that came to mind spill.
The next time she lost count after twenty two. Hysteria began to overwhelm and dominate her. She thought of Jane, of Thor. She continued to shake her head as they lifted the towel off her face again.
The reedy voice was close by her ear now, so close she felt the air move with each word. He began to murmur questions about formulae, like things she knew from Jane. He asked her questions about which value should be applied and the answers formed in her mind. She felt the cold hand still moving over her breasts, violating. She cried out brokenly, “Pop Tarts!”
The towel was put back in place, and she was wet down again for at least forty, during which she blacked out for a second or two. When she came to, the questions were still there, as was the slithering cold hand, but the towel had been lifted from her face and she could breathe some. Blurry light shone into her eyes as she blinked away the water droplets. She couldn't let herself speak. She just shook her head and whimpered in horror, tears streaming from her eyes and her weak sobs rending the air.
Hail-Hydra guy laughed darkly, “OK, toots. We've got other people to get back to right now. You lay there and think about the water, about drowning. And think about what you’re going to tell us so we don’t do it to you again. We’ll be back soon and record your answers... or wet you down longer and longer.”
She stifled screams, barely. If she started to scream again, she might never stop. She thought of her Mamaw and Pawpaw, of being safe in their arms. She thought of sitting in Jane’s mom’s kitchen, eating eggs with Jane and Erik while they laughed at her bad jokes, of Thor’s open smile lighting up that safe space, and the bemused way he so often looked at her.
As they turned to leave, the orderly rasped, “you had the right idea there, Doc. I’m definitely fucking this one while you pour next time. I’ll tie the ankles together under the board. Her struggles’ll make for a great fuck!” Her head whipped to the side at his words, and a whimper of terror escaped her lips. She watched the men leave, her vision beginning to clear again.
Bow-tie science guy, the man with the reedier voice, leered. “Do as you will, so long as I get the answers I need. If she does not give in after more water and your fun, I have my knives.”
The men laughed as the door closed behind them. Darcy shuddered and cried from cold and fear, the thoughts of her Mamaw and Pawpaw dissolving as darker imaginings filled her mind.
She choked out, “Oh, shit! Thor! I can’t! Please… help me.” Her scattered thoughts seemed to get the tiniest bit less murky. She struggled vainly against her bonds, wondering where the real SHIELD was when she needed them.
They’d left her angled down, and water droplets still rolled lazily into her nose. She tried to defend it with her tongue, but every now and then another droplet would roll in and her terror would grow. Crying didn't help the situation at all. Tears and mucus did nothing to help her breathe better. But, she couldn't help crying.
Nazi torturers were going to rape her and make her breathe more water and do things to her with knives. She would tell them everything eventually, probably soon. And, then... they would kill her. She hoped? Maybe they’d just keep raping and drowning and cutting her for the hell of it. Or maybe they’d practice other torture techniques. Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition bit seemed un-funny all of a sudden. ‘Fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency.’ How did it go? Her mind was racing and she was losing her battle against hysteria.
She closed her eyes and prayed that Erik would find Thor. Despite her resolve not to talk of Thor, she began to murmur his name to herself, like a mantra.
to be continued