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Turnabout is Fair Play

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*****

The scent of harsh chemicals had faded to the point where his poor sense of smell couldn’t pick it up anymore. His scalp itched, as did what was left of his eyebrows, but that was pretty typical these days as the area around his eyes often tingled with the urge to itch. He didn’t scratch though as it was all a matter of wasted energy and motions, and there was something oddly familiar about it. He collected the familiar sensations and horded them away like treasure. Those were all he really had anymore, wasn’t it?

Sometimes it was his brain that itched, like the tingle of a thought worming through his grey matter. Sometimes it really needed to be scratched and other times, it was a distracting annoyance. Sometimes it was nothing he could correctly fathom in terms he recognized.

His handlers knew when he was having one of the big urges to scratch because he apparently took on a particular expression on his face. He didn’t know what it was, but as soon as it was recognized by those who put him to work, there were fingers snapping in front of his face and a call to attention. He was to be in the here and the now, to live for the mission and the details therein. If he strayed, innocent and skilled people could die.

They didn’t want that. He didn’t want that. At least, he was under the impression he didn’t want that.

He pushed around the food on the tray resting on his knees, and he had eaten enough calories that he knew there would be no fuss over what he left behind. Corn mush, bland mashed potatoes, and some kind of watery meatloaf. There were no added spices save perhaps a little salt, but he had a poor sense of taste as well. Most things bore the illusion of cement dust anyway, and he wasted as little time eating as he could.

Odd, he didn’t know why. Outside of training and those days where he geared up, eating was about the only activity he was given on a regular basis. Something always seemed to be missing.

A lot was missing.

The scarring pulled as his blond eyebrows knit together, his fork stopping on his metal lunch tray. His memories were missing, he knew. The most he had was cold. Wet cold. Acrid wet cold and then…

His head snapped up from staring at nothing in particular as the metal door to his small room was opened. His handler stood there looking at him with the usual flicker of disgust before it was gone and a bright smile came to the dark-haired man’s face. The illusion wasn’t lost on him; he couldn’t remember anything before he had woke up warm and assured of his purpose, but he wasn’t stupid.

People hated him. He was used to the looks of disgust and hate; he was actually used to being spit on too. He had forced himself to stand for when he was sometimes struck, though a part of him itched to retaliate, to wrap his fingers around their miserable lowly throats and just squeeze. A part of him knew that the struggle would be the best part. The scratching fingers, the wheezing breathing, the bash of legs, the reddening and then purpling tint of skin the longer that the event went on. Their mockery and dislike deserved...

“Whoa, someone needs their medication,” his handler said gamely, drawing him from his straying thoughts. Both of those things happened around this time of day; they said he was squirrelly.

“Yessir,” he replied and set his tray aside on his small bunk. He could smash the man in the face with it, wipe that fake smile off. “Wandering a bit.”

His handler spoke to a white coated doctor that lingered by the doorway and his pills were produced. The battle-hardened man - what was his name anyway? - stepped into the room with him and offered the three small white pills, the little stamped on number of twenty-five mocking him. He still obediently took them even as the surge of dislike reached his expression. He didn’t like this man, but he had to obey. No one else was around to give him direction, and the sensation of being lost was far worse than chewing down his loathing in isolation.

“Take your medication,” his handler ordered firmly. Something must have continued to show on his face because there soon came the added, “no pills, no op.”

There was no hesitation of slipping the three little pills into his mouth and swallowing them dry. He took the small dixie cup full of water and drank it down, washing away any remnant taste that might have eventually reached him. At the single hand gesture, he opened his mouth and moved his tongue around to prove that there were no pills hiding to be spat when no one was looking. He received a near-mocking slap on his cheek as praise.

Like he had done well. Like he had an option.

His handler took a small flexible collar from the white coat, offered a superior smile that was supposed to comfort him and affixed it around his throat. It was smooth and thick like leather, but the material was more like how webbed kevlar felt. It was tight around his throat, constant contact was the point, but he still had to flex his jaw and crane his neck to settle it comfortably.

Within five minutes, the nerves that seemed to pick at him settled down again. He flexed his shoulders and rose from his bunk to the balls of his feet, shaking out his arms and getting comfortable in his own skin. There was a moment when the bubble of warning that wanted to rise in his brain, the worm that slithered across his streamline thoughts came up and then… just like that, the bubble burst and the worm dried up in the heat of drug-focused clarity.

His expression cleared, and his world came to sharp focus again, all those little annoying details fading away as nothing but background noise. He flexed his hands and slapped them on his thighs before he reached up to sweep some of his bleach-blond hair from falling into his eyes. He looked at his handler and nodded his readiness.

“Thadda boy, Frag. Let’s gear up and move out,” his handler said, clapping him on the shoulder. Like he was one of the old boys. Like he wasn’t an amnesic prisoner of opportunity. Like he wasn’t the most expendable member of the team.

There was just focus. It was time to fake his way to convincing himself that acceptance wasn’t what he was looking for in the confused haze he otherwise lived in. The operation was everything.

*****

He was called a HYDRA specialist, the team member that always performed the initial and final sweep of any little spider hole that was suspected to contain even a small fragment of the terrorist organization. He was the agent that put their foot on the door first to kick it down and sweep inside. He was the man who found all those little nooks and crannies that could hide a roach just waiting for the exterminators to leave. He was the one that instinctively knew the layout of most of the buildings that they were set loose into, zeroing in on the most important details which limited the escape of rogue agents that were either killed or captured.

A part of him knew it had to be because he had been to those places before. He couldn’t remember the circumstances, but he wasn’t stupid. Once, it was good blueprints. Twice, it was luck. Third time, it was a trend. Fourth, it was edging towards impossibility. Fifth, it was because he had a previous working knowledge of the places they were sent into.

When he questioned, they took him off of the operations. He was dosed up high to keep the headaches down, the questions locked up in his brain, but the punishment of his isolate fresh and clear in his mind. Then, when enough time passed, they would reintroduce him to training, planning and then grace him with an operation when he voiced no questions as to how he knew. He had begun to swallow his questions with his pills. Being inactive was far worse than wondering how he knew the layouts because the truth was something that he apparently had no right to.

Pay-back. He understood that. That’s what it was, wasn’t it?

If he performed, good things or at least an end of the daily monotony would occur. If he was bad, he was left alone and set into one of the nightmare waking places. He might not remember those places, but they were always worse than being isolated away. They edged at him like a phobia, a deeply ingrained terror which sometimes woke him in the night.

There were no questions worth those places which were deemed sequestered to a fugue state. If he didn’t know they existed, he didn’t have to be frightened of them until they appeared.

Frag had learned quickly to not question. He performed loyally and admirably. He did as ordered.

*****

“Man down!”

“Ambus--!”

“Jesus fuck they’re everywhere! Request back-up, a-sap!”

“Someone bring the heat!”

“I’m hit! I’m hit! I’m…!”

He looked down at his handler as the radios buzzed with activity, sometimes voices yelling something, other times just bursts of gunfire or explosions. He sat with his Steyr AUG across his legs, immobile as his eyes drank in the sight of the dark-haired man bleeding out at his booted feet, his breath making no noise as it passed through the custom-made half mask. The white teeth of a skeleton’s mouth leered down at the dying man gasping like a fish. It must have looked like death, he thought, which was probably fitting given the gut wound his handler was sporting. There was no amount of critical support in the field for that. His handler was lucky to have been dragged out in the first place, and he had long ago began to ignore the blood that had soaked into his tactical vest. Watching his handler fade away was far more important to him.

The radio technician, the only non-combatant on the team, was madly trying to keep track of the movements of team, but he could tell that chaos reigned. The operation was well and truly fubar, and something about that felt right in his brain. His blood stirred in his veins even as he sat calmly, the straps holding on the mask tugging at his blond hair, as good a hold order as ever. Whoever was in that building was tearing into the SHIELD team, and if he flicked his eyes just so, he could catch the little lights indicating agent lifesigns cutting out. So this was a HYDRA special team, was it? He was almost thrilled to think of standing against them.

He probably shouldn’t have taken those pills in his handler’s pocket. There had been no order not to, but neither had he asked for permission. He wanted the clarity, the focus. Now he had this.

Slowly, he lifted his foot and set it on his handler’s throat, gentle and subtle as the man held tight to the welling blood from the abdomen. He applied pressure, but the his handler was too out of it to really notice at first, only the widening of eyes that flicked around searching for the source of the new discomfort.

“Withdraw! Withdraw!”

“...need an evac…”

“Where the fuck are they?”

“Sonuva…!”

“Report! Report! Can someone clarify the current status of the mission objectives?” The technician sitting at the controls was looking at the flickering lights of life and how they went out one-by-one. People were obviously out of position, scattered and uncoordinated. Not many team members left now.

Suddenly, there was a phone call, which took attention away from the morbid screaming match playing out over the comms. “No sir, I’m losing contact with Echo squad. All of Delta squad is dead. We require immediate back-up or evacuation!”

His foot continued with its gradual pressure as the communication technician floundered with a lack of personnel to deploy or a way to withdraw the team safely. His handler gave a little thrash and then lay still, growing glassy eyed and blood still pooling on the truck floor. He shifted his foot to the floor again, sitting quiet. He wasn’t allowed to engage without a direct order, and his handler was dead. It was mercy, not disobedience.

“Please oh God please…”

“Wallins is down! In pursuit...” Static.

“Enemy agent neutralized....!”

“No sir, I don’t have anyone left. Riggins is dead,” the radio operator said, an edge of hysteria slipping into the man’s tone. “How do I know? He’s laying in a pool of his own blood at the end of the truck! I… yes, he’s here.”

He turned his head slightly, watching the three little lights still on the playing field. His own device was off because he was outside of the active combat zone, as ordered by his dead handler. Interesting that the man’s name had been Riggins; he would have to remember that, not that it mattered. He’d probably be given another handler after this fuck-up was over. Why did that name feel familiar though?

“Frag.”

He lifted his eyes from the lights to stare at the communication technician. The phone was still held up to the balding man’s ear, and they stared at each other for a long moment. He inclined his head slightly, a silent inquiry.

“I’m sending you back in to recover the team, Frag.”

He rose to his feet in a single smooth motion, his Steyr AUG coming to be tucked over his elbow as he pulled on his black tactical gloves and turned on his life beacon. He shuffled his shoulders and stepped over the stiffening body of his handler, shoving open the door to the van and stepping down. The thrill of adrenaline began to stir his blood, and he glanced back, looking like death with his grinning half-skull on the lower half of his face.

“The enemy agents?”

The communication technician was staring at him like the man had just let go of the leash from a dangerous pitbull in a park full of school-age children. The man didn’t even warrant the necessary ‘sir’ to acknowledge rank. The smell of fear and discomfort brought a smile to his lips. Like old times. Huh, that was a strange thing to think.

He paused in moving off back to the cement factory. “Orders on the enemy agents?”

“Kill them,” the technician said softly. “Kill them all, Frag. Don’t hesitate.”

He nodded his head and shifted his Steyr to his hands and then headed off into the darkness. He had his orders to pick up three little lights and dispatch any enemy agents that happened to be left alive. If he was an enemy agent, where would he hide?

*****

The name Frag was clearly a shortening of the word fragment. He had no idea how it had come to be applied to him, let alone be used permanently as the name that he was called. He had to have had a name before he had woken up in the hospital, but no one called him by anything but Frag anymore. There were times that he didn’t warrant anything but the words ‘hey you’, but that was generally early on when he had been released into SHIELD’s care and their rehabilitation program.

There had been others like him, agents who had been injured in the fighting of the Triskelion. Many were in varying stages of rehabilitation and reassignment to various jobs. They didn’t interact much, but there was a general distribution of the people in that small school room. Those that were given many options for where they could go and those of them who were given one option and trained for that occupation only.

For some reason, he was the only candidate in the program called ‘pure’. The other one-job-only people wore distant expressions more often than he did, weren’t able to pick up or recall skills easily, and some after private rehab sessions came back drooling and only able to piss themselves. His private rehabilitation involved questions and fugue blanked areas.

Three of the people who were like him that had been shot and killed returning to their rooms one day. Suddenly the classroom was no longer available and he was separated out to finish his rehabilitation in the room that he later was assigned as ‘home’. He was put into the field under a twelve-man team as soon as he was cleared for combat. That’s when he became Frag most because there was a lack of anything else to call him.

He was little more of a fragment of his former self. The name was fitting. It was like slipping on an old personal glove, the fit perfect in all the right places. Now if only they didn’t make him wear a collar like a dog every day of his life.

*****

Frag stepped over the corpse of a fallen SHIELD agent, his boots moving soundlessly as he traveled down the hallway, ignoring the cement silos on either side of his travels. There were lights blinking as if some emergency had cleared the building, but this place had long ago been condemned and the activities moved to a state-of-the-art plant miles from here. The place had gathered a thin layer of cement dust that stirred when he walked, swirling around his boots but also allowing him to know where others had traveled before him.

However, the fact that there were lights meant that this was owned by the terrorist organization called HYDRA. He had been told that they owned a lot of places that people wouldn’t expect, and that was why it was so important that he go in first. He had a knack for knowing where to go. Someone had turned on the power here as a sign that it was a nest of terrorism. That was the way of things; he didn’t question it.

He moved down one hallway carefully and stopped in a cross-section, his eyes sweeping the area to spot an agent - HYDRA by the civvies - dead on the gangplank two stories up. Blood dripped down and hit the cement floor making soft ‘pit, drip, pit’ sounds, and he simply turned his head and closed his eyes for a few seconds, getting a feel for the place.

Deciding on his course, he moved across the corridor and down the lefthand hallway, sticking to what shadows there were. He approached the two bodies that there were down on his side of the hallway, two SHIELD agents, one clearly having been trying to assist the other out. They had been dead early enough that their limbs were stiffening up, and he took two grenades from them and hooked them on his tactical vest.

He remained crouched as he tilted his head at the sound of whispers. Down the hallway two people rushed passed, heading beyond him and not even glancing to where he was. One was limping badly, doing a soldierly crow hop with each hitch to the step and hissing like an angry bee at the other agent.

He reached up a finger to press on the call-out button on his ear communicator and stopped. There was nothing to report. He had found dead SHIELD agents and about to be dead HYDRA ones. The communication technician had nothing for him, no orders to bind him, no mewling to do more than raise a headache, no calls to return.

Frag was on his own. For some reason, this bore a sensation of rightness. Here was Frag, an amnesic who was going to take on the world. Or at least the part of world that was contained in an shut-down cement factory. It was better than an interrogation room.

Slowly, he rose to a half-crouch and began to pick his way down the hallway after the two agents, his ears pricked for sound as he maneuvered to the end and pressed his back against a steel stairwell that led to the upper level. He waited a moment and then craned his neck down the hallway, but there was no sign of where the two HYDRA agents had gone. Those might have been the only two left.

He eased around the corner, picking up his pace as he ghosted down the hallway, stepping over another body that was making one of those soft death-rattles. He stopped and peered into the woman’s face, one of the SHIELD Echo squad, but her eyes were set straight ahead of her. She would die any minute.

He extracted his knife from his boot and pressed the tip against her fluttering jugular. She had never been particularly cruel to him; she had taken the stance that he was a piece of equipment for the operation and so long as he did what he was ordered to do, she left him to his own devices. She had been a good agent, he decided. She knew her way around a knife better than most.

He slit her throat quietly, wiping the blood on her uniform before he tucked the blade away and rose. He left her there, cold and dead as the rest of the people in this place. That was as close to mercy as he would bother to give.

Down the hallway he went, pausing at each intersection before simply continuing on the straight deeper and deeper into the factory until there was a faint bloom of light at the far end of the hallway. He switched the side of his approach so that he was coming down on the same side as the doorway, keeping his motions silent even as voices filtered out as he began to get closer. He paused just to listen in order to get a sense for how many agents were inside.

“...gotta go…”

“Is Jenson stabilized?”

“...not yet…”

“Then we aren’t leaving. Tend your wounds, get a count on our ammunition, and force down something to eat. We move out as soon as it’s safe to move her.”

There was a shift of people in the room, and he counted at least two separate foot falls. Both sounded heavy and one with a clear hitch to the step. He suspected there was at least three, possibly four, enemy agents in the room, given that whoever Jenson was, she had to be tended by someone. That left hitch-step, the commander, and whoever had been running with hitch-step down the hallway as viable fighting agents.

Frag eased closer to the door, careful so that none of his uniform equipment made contact with the wall. He settled just outside of it and peeked to one side, but outside of the door hanging on its hinges indicating that this was a staff room, he couldn’t tell the layout. Of course, he somehow instinctively knew that he had to go left as soon as he stepped in, it was the kind of gut reaction that he was used to by now. Survival instincts he had started to call them.

“What about these two?” Ah, that would be the fourth member of the group. A man.

“They are the last of their team. We shoot them before we leave, and if they are good boys, I’ll even keep it to one bullet.” That was the commander. Guy knew how to make an impression.

“They’ll send another team soon, you realize?”

“Shut your hole, Martinez.”

“Just sayin’.”

“And when I want to value your opinion on our situation, I’ll let you know. Until then, try not to bleed out on the floor.”

He shifted, feeling for the readiness of his Steyr and deeply decided to consider just rolling in a grenade. It would be quick and easy, and he could follow it up. He wasn’t allowed grenades in case he got it in his head to blow up himself and his team. There was a distinct lack of trust where he was concerned, which was hilarious since they gave him bullets and a knife.

He pulled a fragmentation grenade and rolled it in his palm, feeling the weight and rightness of it as he slowly lowered himself to a crouch. He set his thumb on the pin to pull it but froze when someone inside issued a soft gurgled laugh.

“They’ll send him in.” Was that a SHIELD agent?

“I’ll pull out the rest of your fingernails if you don’t shut up,” Martinez grumbled.

“Send who in?”

“Rollins, don’t listen to his oogie-boogie nonsense.” There was a hiss of pain and then silence. It was poignant, and he knew this was the perfect opportunity to roll his grenade in. He hesitated.

“Answer me. Who are they going to send in?”

“Frag,” the SHIELD agent said. “They could care less if he lives or dies, so I bet he’s on his way. Higher ups love when he sniffs out HYDRA agents. He’s an expert…”

There was a fit of coughing. He couldn’t tell who it was from, but it seemed to come from the left hand side of the room. Good, he was going to be moving in that direction soon enough.

He shifted, gently pulling the pin on the grenade and then setting it on the floor, rolling it into the room at an angle. He moved away from the doorway and took up his Steyr AUG as he counted down the three seconds.

“Riley, finish there and make another sweep,” the commander ordered.

“HOLY SH--!”

There was a rocking explosion, dust and wood shards blowing from the doorway. The door itself slammed into the wall on which it had been tentatively leaning and then broke off its hinges to fall to the floor. He took in a deep breath and then rolled around the corner to enter the room in order to sweep it despite the limited visibility.

He almost tripped over a body on the floor, too cut up to even identify. He could tell based on that where hs grenade had settled and moved beyond it deeper into the room. It was probably large, but any tables or chairs that might have been here were either long gone or stacked against a wall he had yet to find. There was debris to move around, mostly equipment or chunks from the walls that scattered on the floor.

The next two corpses came out of the dusty smoke clouds like driftwood through fog. He paused to make certain they were dead and would have moved on if that one face didn't stare up at him. She had been pretty, he decided, though not particularly feminine. Tough, he thought. She bore a look of someone who was no-nonsense and able and willing to play with the big boys without ever backing down, efficient and shrewd in her workings.

This was Jensen, wasn't it? He noted the bleeding gut wound, but the grenade had obviously had the final role to play in her demise.

The young man next to her had clearly been the one trying to stabilize her condition. He had taken a piece of shrapnel to the eye as a mortal wounding, though the man was torn up in other places. A kid to his eyes. A dead kid, and Frag wasted no time on the dead.

He moved off and found a wall, his Steyr in his right hand as he followed the wall with his left until he found the two men of the SHIELD team. Both had bound hands and feet, and one was very clearly dead. The other he had to move around to and drop into a crouch to feel for a pulse. It was there, slow and thready. Normally, he would check over the room for remaining bodies, but he was confident with the placement of his grenade given the damage already caused.

Frag checked his 'teammate' over for injury and found many defensive wounds and obvious torture ones. There wasn't enough blood to indicate why the pulse was the way it was, which indicated to him a head injury. He kept the man upright and and rose to his feet to secure the rest of the room, able and grudgingly willing to haul one guy out. It would provide information on which HYDRA cell they had been dealing with and what had gone wrong on the operation to lead to this many casualties. That was all very standard protocol.

He turned his head at a soft scraping sound on his nine o'clock. His hand tightened on his Steyr as he slowly turned and settled his back against the wall.

Suddenly his ear piece came to life. "Frag, status report."

What an absolute itch to his ass! The buzz of static to follow sounded unbearably loud in his ear, especially when his hearing had been straining to catch wind of any other sound. Aside from particles falling from the damaged walls to settle on the floor, there was nothing. The clouds of dusts were too intense for him to see clearly any shapes, and he forcibly turned his attention back to the ear piece.

Goddamn technician! They knew better than to inquire, which meant that this had been an order from higher in the military and political food chain. He reached up to press the earpiece deeper into his canal despite the horrid sound of static that abruptly cut off as he shifted his finger to transmit.

"One ally alive but barely, multiple hostiles dead," he reported in a terse voice. "Still sweeping, sir. Shall I continue or be recalled, over?"

There was a small burst of static as he released the transmit button. He figured it was all the interference being in a cement building and in a room he had literally just blown to bits just minutes before. It wasn't like he could expect any more being the last functional team member.

"Continue the sweep," came the reply from the radio technician. "Remove all hostiles above all other objectives, over."

"Copy that," he replied, not bothering to question why he was to kill all the HYDRA agents and sweep the entire building at the risk of the injured team member. The objective freed him from any obligation to the man in question, and so he stepped away to continue his sweep.

He followed the wall and located a mess of overturned chairs and tables that had fallen over in the concussive force of the blast. He had to gingerly pick his way around and sometimes over, but the debris shifted under his boots dangerously. He paused several times for sound which seemed unrelated to his own motions, and that alone forced him to leave his little scramble to follow the wall, instead sending him out on the floor.

It also put him in the middle of the room by the time he had began to skirt the mess, but he followed it knowing that the wall was to his left. By his count, he had already found all the bodies based on the voices that he had counted before rolling his grenade.

Perhaps that was why it came as a bit of a surprise when a huge hulking body tackled him over as he swept passed the last of the chair and table stacked debris. Large arms curled around his own and locked them to his sides as he was taken right off of his feet with a grunt. He landed hard on his side, but he managed to keep a hold of his Steyr despite the heavy weight that landed purposefully on top of him.

They twisted and squirmed against each other, his feet kicking both floor and the legs of his assailant. He received an elbow to his face, nearly dislodging his mask and for certain tearing out some of his bleach blond hair. However, in doing that, it freed one of his arms which he used to punch at the other man's head. It connected, but it was a glancing blow.

The HYDRA agent snarled and looked down at him, and damn, that guy was ugly. The new and now drying blood notwithstanding, the man had a scar down the left side of the face from nose to mouth and a sloping forehead that did nothing to make this bruiser pretty. Like his face has been beaten with a shovel, he thought as they continued to struggle on the ground for the upper hand and a killing blow.

He managed to get his legs wrapped around his opponents hips and twist hard while slamming with his palm on the opposite shoulder to jam on how opposite the motion of the spine it was. He received a punch to the face just above his eye that snapped his head to the side, but it wasn't as hard as it could have been thanks to the brief spasm that locked the man's spine slightly. He dropped his hand to the Steyr and twisted it, but there was no shot except a glancing one. It wasn’t worth the wasted bullets.

Instead he heaved his entire body and tried to roll, but he was back wrapped in a bear hug. He issued a low growl as they stared down at each other, and he set his shoulders so that he could slam his forehead into the HYDRA agent’s nose, once then twice.

Blood spattered across his face and mask, and he twisted his legs to roll them so that he was on top, this time succeeding. With a flip of his arm, the barrel of his Steyr came to rest under the HYDRA agent’s jaw, and the big man froze for a moment.

His finger locked on the trigger, his head turning slightly to the side and his earpiece dangling down his neck. His bleach-blond eyebrows knit as his finger paused from ending this scumbag’s life; there was something… familiar about that face. What was it?

He hissed when a knife blade slammed into his gut, forcing him away even as his Steyr jumped with the sudden force of his finger on the trigger. There was a loud tat and the HYDRA agent yelled even as the knife swung up in a defensive flailing motion to slice the corner of his jaw all the way up the right side of his face - the less scarred side. It caught on the strap of his mask and was torn away with him as he stumbled backwards.

The HYDRA agent was very still on the ground, and he was certain he’d blown the asshole’s face off. He jumped to his feet, his gloved fingers feeling the knife wound, which bled freely. His grinning skull mask hung on his face by a few threads, and he tore it off of his face, breathing in the sharp horrible scent of cement dust. In infiltrated his brain and forced him to shake his head in an attempt to clear it. He instead focused on the fact that his face and neck were already slick with blood. He’d definitely need some sutures.

Still, Frag had a mission to complete and it involved killing every hostile in this place. He stepped forward to examine the blooded HYDRA agent, noting the growing dusty pool of the stuff. The man’s eyes were open, fixed and staring up at him, not quite glassy but almost at that point. He leaned down and reached out to check for a pulse.

He twisted as the metal bar of a table leg swung up at him, but it caught him in the side of the face. He stumbled away, the knife wound opening more and bleeding copiously. His bell had been rung, causing him to sway and almost lose his grip on his Steyr. Instead, he found himself flat on his back as he was tackled and came face to bloody face with the HYDRA agent.

That mean look turned to shock as he blinked his eyes to focus his vision. Then, “...Rumlow?”

He grunted, turning his half burnt and the rest bleeding face to look at the HYDRA agent. “Who?”

“Jesus Christ, you were one of them,” the ugly agent said, gripping his jaw with a hand. “I thought you were dead.”

“You’re going to be in a few seconds,” he growled back, baring his teeth and swinging an arm in a lame punch. It hit the enemy agent’s shoulder and did little to sway the hulking weight off of him. He jerked on his Steyr rifle, which was firmly pinned against the ground.

Blood dripped on his face, mingling with the vast amount coming from his own. The agent leaned down to examine him closely, though just out of range of a headbutt. “Look at you,” the ugly shit breathed at him. “They’ve got you collared like a dog. Did they mind wipe you? I heard they got their hands on the tech. You’re involved in clearing out HYDRA, huh?”

He remained mute and still struggling, but it was clear that this HYDRA asshole wasn’t even talking to him and expecting a response. For some reason, he thought it odd the man was speaking so much in the first place. It didn’t feel right.

“You killed your old team,” the agent finally settled on, throwing the words at him.

“I kill HYDRA agents,” he snarled back.

“You are a HYDRA agent.” The agent looked down at him with no pity, only calculation. “The great Brock Rumlow switched to the position of the very weapon he had once guided.”

He squirmed, but the other man’s grip only tightened. They struggled against each other, and his comm came to life between them with the technicians inquiry as to his status. The big agent pressed an arm across shoulders to pin him and picked up the comm, issuing only a throaty chuckle before ripping it off of his ear and tossing it aside.

“You’re coming with me.”

“Fuck you,” he snarled, making another attempt at a headbutt. It didn’t work.

His eloquent reply was only met with silence before he was punched in the side of the head until unconscious. Why did that name stir the thought worms? They couldn’t move around with the collar on. So why…?

*****