They should have seen it coming.
The Avengers, that is.
But the factions remained divided, even after the defeat of Thanos.
Team Science never had a choice in the matter, really. Tony controlled their grant money. To stay on Earth, they either toed the Accords party line or starved. Jane resented every second under Tony’s thumb and Darcy resented Jane for choosing to stay. They could have ridden out the cosmic shit storm on Asgard, safe and sound, and away from all the death and drama, Darcy’s sensible side reasoned.
The other side, however…
It’s said every person has a fight going on inside them between two wolves. One is evil—anger, resentment, sorrow, envy, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, lies, false pride, ego, superiority, regret, greed, and inferiority. The other wolf is good—joy, peace, hope, love, truth, compassion, faith, generosity, benevolence, empathy, kindness, humility, and serenity.
The wolf you feed is the one who wins.
But what happens when there is no good wolf? What happens when there is only the evil wolf subsuming everything else for its dark purpose?
Who would know to look for the battle between the beasts in an otherwise smiling face and apparently happy demeanor?
Left to his own devices, Bucky Barnes would have won the fight between two wolves. He fed the good wolf and did everything in his power to make amends for the beast’s terrible deeds against mankind.
What he failed to notice were the well-meaning friends feeding the evil wolf seconds and thirds behind his back — feeding their own evil wolves, too—glutting the beast until it doubled in size and easily overtook the good wolf, pushing it aside, stamping it out until no trace of the good remained.
It started with good intentions.
(Doesn’t it always?)
Steve wanted his pal, his buddy, his Bucky back.
Stark wanted to contain the Asset.
The Avengers were agreed: the Asset was a wild card.
It ended with an experiment. Cloning. A project well within Tony Stark’s wheelhouse. Unfortunately, Tony forgot to account for the real wild card—Darcy Lewis, Agent of Chaos.
Always said with a laugh and smile, for darling Darcy tasered gods and went toe to toe with jack-booted thugs on behalf of her boss, and flirted outrageously with the plucky sidekicks, the dark and dangerous assassins prowling the halls in deepest shadow.
Darcy Lewis, Chaos personified.
On a good day, Darcy Lewis could pull off true Chaotic Good. The benevolent personal assistant to the brilliant astrophysicist.
On the outside.
On an average day, admittedly, she fell more on the mid-range Chaotic Neutral part of the spectrum. Darcy meant well, but she didn’t get where she was and with whom by not looking out for number one. When Jane’s needs aligned with hers, Darcy’s compass pointed due north, straight and true.
On a bad day, though…
And Darcy Lewis had bad days.
Unfortunately, for Darcy and Bucky, Tony missed the cloning target—a blank corporeal mass comprised of tissue genetically identical to James Barnes—by this much.
But don’t point fingers!
Steve and Bucky were both on board with the plan. The plan to free Bucky Barnes of the Asset required splitting the personalities completely and forever in two, cleaving one off and forcing it into the blank slate created to contain its otherwise noncorporeal personality. The Asset was a creation, after all, an Agent of Evil, designed and brought to the fore by Hydra.
No one would miss it when it was gone.
The Asset personality would be removed to the prepared, separate, corporeal entity, contained harmlessly in cryofreeze for everyone’s safety. The science looked good on paper.
A lot of things look good on paper.
In reality, the light of the Tesseract battery faded and two pairs of clones stood in the middle of the lab.
Bucky Barnes and the Asset, both upright and fully aware.
Opposite them, stood Darcy Lewis and her identical clone, Chaos, the mercenary who arranged the whole thing, the Asset’s inside man.
Or woman, as the case may be.
“They’re going to lock you in cryo,” Chaos hissed seconds before shots rang out and bodies fell. The blood of the well-meaning but ultimately misguided innocent flowed in rivers as the Asset relieved the body of Bucky Barnes of weapons he’d never need again and put another dozen bullets in Steve Rogers’ head before turning on Stark and unloading the clip from the gun in its other hand.
One by one, the Avengers fell. Darcy Lewis, mostly good person, fell too, just another victim to the wolf she fed, by accident or by design.
None of them really stood a chance.
“Are we done here?” Chaos demanded, hands on hips, surveying all its efforts had wrought.
“Ready to comply.” The Asset waited.