The genie was aware that humans existed in the same way he was aware that ants existed. They both crawled on the earth, living their lives under the sun and the moon, and they both had the same impact on his life: none. Unlike some of his kind, he bore them no particular malevolence nor any particular good will. He didn't find them fascinating nor view them as a scourge to be wiped out. He...disregarded them.
Until the day he was travelling through the frozen north of the world and came to the attention of a great magician.
Until the day he—who had always disregarded humans, never interfered with them, never taken physical form to engage them in cruel games—was lashed tight in chains of silver and ice, unfamiliar magic he didn't know and couldn't fight. Was captured and shoved into a magic bottle.
It was often the fate of his kind: the malevolent ones, the ones who acted against humanity. It should not, he raged as his mind screamed in horror, have been his.
Moments later, he felt an irresistible pull, was dragged back into the physical world, into a physical body with a human shape. When he tried to strike out at the magician he found he could not. Even with all his mustered will, he was forced to bow his head. "Master."
He was bound to the bottle, bound to whoever held it and summoned him, bound for the duration of three wishes, then banished back.
He couldn't harm his Masters, but the granting of three wishes took precedence over the compulsion not to harm. And, as he soon discovered, humanity was stupid and greedy and vile and he was bound to give them exactly what they wished for.
After a thousand years, his bottle came to rest in a monastery in a small town called Tønsberg, a town that would come to be occupied by Germany in a war that would cover the world. The monastery was home to more than one artefact, and an obsidian bottle, coated in dust, was hardly the most interesting. When Johann Schmidt and Dr Arnim Zola came to claim the Tesseract they stumbled over the bottle and, inspired by who knows what sinister influence, they took it.
And so they found themselves in possession of a genie and three wishes. For all that they were evil, and there was no doubt they were truly evil, he could see it coating them like slime, they were not stupid.
Tales of tricksters and demons and, yes, even genies, were part of the common consciousness; they knew three wishes were a snake that would turn and bite them. But they had the Tesseract, an unlimited and otherworldly source of power, and Dr Zola, whose expertise roved sideways into the occult. They took the Tesseract and the genie, the genie who could not protect himself, who was bound to never harm his Master, and they twisted the power of the wishes.
He was bound to a physical body, so they carved off part of his flesh. They severed his left arm at the shoulder—the left side, the sinister side—and rendered flesh and bone and blood to use in their magic. With the power of the Tesseract they forged a metal arm that took the infinite potential of the wishes and mutated it, remade it into something they could control.
Inside the metal arm were complex runes, inscribed in the blood and ash that were all that was left of the flesh and bone they had cut from his body. They bound him first to never act against a servant of HYDRA. Second, to obey his Master. Third, they gave his Master the power to repudiate him at will, to banish him Masterless back to the bottle. The Tesseract let them create an immortal slave, much reduced in power from an uncorrupted genie, but still far beyond that of any human.
When they cut off his arm his screams echoed through the building and the rats fled in terror. When they affixed their abomination in its place, driving its metal into his flesh and bone and its magic into everything he was, his screams were such that pigeons roosting in the rafters dropped dead from their perches.
He no longer had infinite power, the ability to twist the world on its axis, to alter the fabric of reality itself to grant the wishes of his Master. Instead, his power was muted, lessened, but it was no longer limited by any amount of wishes; his neutered power would remain at the command of his Master forever.
His bottle changed, too, a chunk of obsidian transmuting into metal, as if it had broken and been crudely repaired.
Throughout it all he was helpless to protect himself. A genie cannot turn on his Master.
They named him Buchanan, after the scotch, one inebriated celebration after he'd unleashed his muted powers on prisoners at a place called Azzano. "Because you come out of a bottle too," one HYDRA servant had said, obviously finding it hilarious. The name had stuck.
Before they'd mutilated him, twisted him, his bottle had been his respite. He was bound to it, it was a symbol of his capture, but inside had been a kind of solace, away from humans. Now it was dark and cold, like being frozen, every second spent inside an eternity. Once he was sent back to it, he could not leave until his Master once more called him forth.
The only thing he feared was the bottle. Genies could not die, but he thought the bottle must be like dying.
He was passed from one HYDRA servant to the next. Some were ordered to repudiate him to be passed to another Master; some died or were killed. It didn't affect him; one human Master was much like another, all good and loyal servants of HYDRA, differing only in their peculiarities.
He fought back the only way he could, with a sly tongue and a quick mind, until he was forced to silence.
HYDRA's tentacles flowed through the world like ink through water into every facet of humanity. Slow, measured, careful. It was easy to infiltrate even the most alert of organisations when you had a genie who could make it seem as if your servant had always been there.
As technology advanced, it became more difficult. Human minds were weak. Computers had much more definite ideas about the shape of the universe. More and more they sent him out to kill, to terrorise.
He was their Asset and he could reach into a human body and stop a heart, stop the brain, send a vehicle spinning into destruction, create explosions from nothing. He could simply appear in a locked room, on top of a building, in the deepest jungle or the remotest desert. More and more this was what they used him for. HYDRA prized order, but order, it seemed, was often bought with the price of a little chaos.
He was a rumour, a ghost, a whisper of death in the darkness and he could not be stopped.
Even the most long-sighted of organisations can fall victim to bad luck. Buchanan's bottle was being transported to a new Master when the plane's engine failed over the ocean. The pilot was very good at her job, but there's only so much human skill can do against physics and chemistry and the greedy pull of gravity.
The plane exploded, littering debris across the ocean's surface. Including the bottle. The indestructible bottle.
The waves soon carried it to shore. Dirty, coated in mud, it came to rest in the shadow of a rock, hidden from sight.