T’Challa collapsed in the leather sofa of the office Ross had provided for him, running a hand along the back of his head, and looking around the CIA workstation.
Rogers and Wilson stood in another room, arms folded, clearly speaking in hushed tones.
The blonde woman, Carter, sped around the office with measured efficiency, checking files, desktops, and occasionally glancing over at Rogers, her face creased with concern. He fiddled with his necklace, and paced hurriedly around the office.
It felt too open, too exposed. And the thought of Barnes made his blood boil. He dropped his hand and drummed it against his chest, then went for his phone, partly out of habit, and also to distract himself. He clicked a button to activate it.
He was just about to unlock the phone when he remembered his wallpaper.
Him and his father, standing outside St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, in their suits. T’Challa had his hands jammed into his pockets, smiling, while his father stood proud, arms behind his back. He smiled, remembering the brief respite he’d allowed him from briefings and readings of the Accords, to go out and enjoy the Viennese culture.
Then he remembered the sudden blinding flash of the explosion.
Being flung across the room, unable to help his father.
Scrabbling through the rubble to his body.
Searching for a pulse he knew he couldn’t find.
His world spun slightly, and he put a hand out to the table beside him to steady himself for a moment, his hand over his heart, muttering a prayer under his breath.
He glanced over at Rogers again, and felt the muscles in his hand tighten. Barnes.
T’Challa cracked his knuckles absently, then left the room. Trying to find something to distract himself from meditating on revenge for hours. He ran into Carter as he left, as she hurried past, distractedly flicking through a manila folder.
“Your Highness.” She said quickly, back to cool and professional. “Agent Carter.” He said, inclining his head slightly. “May I check on my gear?” he asked politely. “Of course.” She nodded, signaling a CIA lackey over his shoulder.
“Please show King T’Challa to the armoury.” King. T’Challa nodded his thanks and followed the other agent, the word still unfamiliar to his ears.
He entered the armoury, stocked with weapons cages and gun racks across the walls. The quartermaster looked up, her eyes widening as he approached, attempting his best diplomat smile. “I wish to inspect my weaponry.” He said politely.
She stammered her assent, and pulled out a large tray from behind the desk. At the same time, another agent opened the door and came in, holding Rogers’ and Wilson’s gear, folded neatly. “Tagged.” They said simply, dropping it on the desk.
“Now we just gotta enter it.” They continued, looking at Wilson’s peculiar equipment. “What the hell is this?” they asked, holding up the goggles to the quartermaster.
T’Challa glanced over his shoulder, and pursed his lips. Wilson had meant no harm, but he had disrespected the mantle of the Black Panther in his mocking. “
So you like cats?”
“A bird costume.” T’Challa said evenly, not taking his eyes off inspecting his gear, checking for marks or damage.
The two agents paused and glanced over, then, when it became clear he wasn’t pursuing the point, left, leaving T’Challa with his equipment. Satisfied, he went to place it back in the tray, then stopped, noticing what it had been on top of.
The one he’d grabbed and held onto all through the chase in Bucharest.
It must’ve been placed here accidentally, he thought, his hands hovering over it, then pulling it out and unzipping it.
There had to be something in here. He needed to understand this man, the one called the Winter Soldier in hushed tones. T’Challa was unsure what he was looking for.
An admission of guilt, perhaps? A detailed journal, methodically planning out the details of the strike on his father?
No, Barnes was a professional. He wouldn’t do that. He rummaged inside, and found a large series of waterproof bags, sealed tightly against the elements. Made sense for a go bag.
He opened the first, and reached inside.
His hand met something soft, and he pulled out a black knit cap.
Frowning, he upended the bag on the table. A number of clothes fell out, including another knit cap (this one was blue), two baseball caps, and a pair of leather gloves. A shemagh was rolled up tightly at the bottom.
His hand hit something metal in the second bag, and he drew out a small pistol.
FNP 45. tactical, his brain supplied. Ambidextrous. Made sense for a killer to be good with each hand.
Three spare magazines, all fully loaded and clipped together.
A small set of knives, including a punch dagger, a kukri, and a tanto knife, all razor sharp and matte black.
Barnes clearly took care of his weaponry.
The second bag yielded another essential item: food. Tins of soup, dried fruit, nuts. A man of simple tastes. His hand met something crinkly, and he withdrew a small packet of Rom chocolate bars.
No surprise; chocolate was a lightweight energy source, any good go bag had a bar or two. He looked closer at the wrapping. Caramel. Clearly a sweet tooth then. Odd that a killer would go so far as to have his preference.
The final bag was packed tighter and smaller than the others, sharp, angular shapes sticking out of the waterproof material. Opening the bag, T’Challa found a small set of notebooks.
Small, simple, leather notebooks. Selecting one at random, he flipped it open, and found pages covered in Barnes’ slanting handwriting, notes scribbled in shorthand.
Some were practically indecipherable, reading: LZ 2330 NW OBJ 2 E&E 6 PAX.
Others were slightly longer notes, about…anything, really:
Left arm stiffening during CQC. Pay attention when striking w/ elbow.
Always have two sightlines and exfil routes.
Dum Dum, Gabe, Falsworth, Morita, Dernier.
Backup Zola files in Moscow-find and destroy.
Rumlow identified in Argentina.
A series of small sketches of small, nonsensical things.
A mug, steam rising from it.
A street from an upstairs window, large, deft pencil strokes mapping out every discernible detail.
A black and white picture of Rogers took up one page, with small notes beneath.
T’Challa frowned, then closed the notebook again, and replaced the rucksack and its contents as he’d found them.
Leaving the armoury, he mulled over what he knew, and one major thing: Barnes is more than a murderer.
He just needed to know what else the man was.