Man Out of Time: Chap. 34, The Star Spangled Man
Third Person POV:
Charlie, Bucky, and Sam each watch John Walker's first interview as Captain America. Each one with different emotions. Sam is just confused and hurt. Charlie is scared with what could become of this. Bucky is pissed. Everything about John Walker seems off and wrong. If Sam didn't want that shield, he should have passed it on to someone else. Steve trusted him, believed in him. Sam has a funny way of showing it, Bucky thinks to himself.
The band plays a version of "The Star-Spangled Man" for John's intro. He runs out on the field sure of himself. He greets the host, Sarah. He's playing the part well. His voice oozes of arrogance. Steve was never like that. He was humble, which is why he was so loved.
This display is a mockery to Steve's legacy. Too much show, and he's done nothing to prove himself.
"Thank you so much for coming. This has gotta be fun coming back to your high school after so much has changed?" She asks starting the interview.
"Oh, it's great. We're...Oh!" He acknowledges all the screaming fans. Grinning and smiling like this is a concert.
"John, I think the first thing everyone wants to know is what is it like being Captain America? Do eagles fly overhead wherever you go?"
He laughs, continuing on his act of being the perfect boy next door. "Uh, yes. Yeah, that and flags tend to start majestically waving in the wind."
"And how's the tour been? I know they did a big rollout for you, right?"
"It's the greatest honor of my life. Um, but I'm just a little shocked, I think. How did a guy like me end up here?"
"Oh, wait, wait, wait...'A guy like me'? Somebody's being a bit too humble. For those of you who aren't familiar with his resume, 'John Walker, first person in American history to receive three Medals of Honor, ran RS-One missions in counterterrorism and hostage rescue. The government did a study of your body at MIT, and you tested off the charts in every measurable category. Speed, endurance, intelligence..."
"Look, here's the thing, uh, I'm not Tony Stark, I'm not Dr. Banner, okay? I don't have the flashiest gadgets; I don't have super strength. But what I do have is guts. Something Captain America always had, always needs to have, and I'm gonna need every ounce of it. Because I got big shoes to fill." Bucky watches his television confused about everything that's transpiring.
"Did you know Steve Rogers?"
"I was two years out of West Point when Steve came back on the scene. I followed his career very closely as an Avenger. I like to think that I modeled my work after his."
"So, you've always wanted to be a hero?"
"I liked that what I was doing would make people feel safe. Steve Rogers was the kind of guy who could do that, he gave me hope. Even though I never met him, he feels like a brother. I even got to meet his wife and daughter. They are more than pleased about me taking up the mantle." Bucky clenches his fists and teeth. It was bad enough he had the audacity to speak about Steve as if he had met him, and now he's bringing up Charlie and Maggie. Charlie and Steve neither one wanted Maggie's existence out to the public. Not to mention Charlie and Steve were never actually married. How did this information get out?
"Wow...I didn't even know Steve was married or had children."
"When they heard about what I was doing, they were more than eager to meet me, and give me their blessings."
Sam looks at the tv horrified. He knows that Charlie did nothing of the sort. He can't dwell on it too much. If Charlie needs to, she can call him, he has to get to the bottom of the Flag Smashers, and Torres was able to locate their whereabouts.
Charlie is pissed. She can't think straight. Before she can react, Peter Parker calls her, "Charlie, remember that thing you asked me to hack into?"
"Okay, well we got a location. You ready for this?"
"No, but send me the info though. I can decide whether I want to pursue or not."
"Sent. You got everything you need in case you go? Which we know you will. You haven't turned anything down yet."
"This is different Peter. It's a bit more personal. Thanks for helping me."
"I'm just glad you're being more productive. It would be a waste. Talk to you later."
I angrily walk in to see Sam, how could he? Now there's even more issues. Even though Charlie has moved on, I still feel the need to protect her, and defend her honor. Posters of John are everywhere. You can't go anywhere without seeing his stupid face.
"Shouldn't have given up the shield." Once I spot Sam, I walk right up to him.
"Good to see you too, Buck." He answers, clearly, he's not in the mood to see me. He walks right past me, barely acknowledging me.
"This is wrong." And it is, everything about it just feels wrong.
"Hey, hey, look, I'm working, alright? So, all this outrage is gonna have to wait."
"You didn't know that was gonna happen?" He had to have known something would happen like that. The shield would have been better in storage.
"No, of course I didn't know that was gonna happen. Nobody did. Charlie only found out after the fact."
"Why are you bringing her into this?" His eyes narrow at me, knowing he's struck a nerve.
"Walker went to Charlie's work, telling her he was the new Captain America. He made a comment about Maggie and then told her she didn't want him as an enemy." What? Before I can add anything to that comment about him threatening her, he continues. "You think it didn't break my heart to see them march him out there and call him the new Captain America?"
"He threatened Charlie?" My voice is laced in hatred for John.
"You know if you actually picked up your phone, you would have known this. After he left her office, you were the first one she called." Sam's voice is growing agitated.
"This isn't what Steve wanted." He wanted Sam to have the shield and he damn sure didn't want someone threatening Charlie or Maggie.
"Oh, my God. So, what do you want me to do? Call America and tell 'em I change my mind? Huh?" He chuckles. "Yeah, right. It's a great reunion, buddy, be well." He slaps my arm, and walks off, trying to end the conversation.
"You had no right to give up the shield, Sam."
"Hey. This is what you're not gonna do. You're not gonna come here in your overextended life and tell me about my rights. It's over Bucky. Besides, I have bigger things to deal with now."
"What could be bigger than this?" Between the shield and the threats to Charlie, these are the most pressing matters.
He pulls out his phone, showing me a photo. "This guy. His connections with rebel organizations all over Eastern and Central Europe, and he's strong. Too strong."
How is this more important, "And?"
"Well, he's been connected to this online group call the Flag Smashers. Now, Redwing traced them to a building somewhere outside of Munich. So, that's where I'm going."
"Well, I don't trust Redwing." It's a stupid flying robot. Why should I? He begins to walk away, "Hold on a minute."
"You don't have to trust Redwing, but I'm gonna see if he's right. And Charlie thinks he's cute." He smiles at me, making sure I hear her name again. "And I have a feeling they might be part of the Big Three."
I sigh, not giving into his constant mentions of her. "What Big Three?"
"The Big Three." Clears things up.
"What Big Three?" This is ridiculous.
"Androids, aliens, and wizards."
I squint at him. He's serious. "That's not a thing."
"That's definitely a thing."
"No, it's not." My eyes are still squinted at him, because I clearly see an idiot in front of me.
"Every time we fight, it's one of the three."
"So, who are you fighting now, Gandalf?" Idiot.
"How do you know about Gandalf?"
"I read The Hobbit in 1937 when it first came out."
"So, you see my point?" Imbecile.
"No, I don't. There are no wizards."
"Doctor Strange." Moron.
"Is a sorcerer."
"Ahh!" He chuckles, actually smiling. "A sorcerer is a wizard without a hat." Fool. "Think about it. Right? I'm right. I just came up with that. It's crazy. Look, look, that's not the point. These guys aren't magical. Alright, they use brute force like you, the incredibly annoying guy, who won't call a girl back that's in front of me with the staring problem." Her again. He turns to walk away.
"I'm coming with you."
"No, you're not."
"Yes, I am."
"Fine, I'll make you a deal. You can come with me, but you have to talk to Charlie." He gets in the plane sitting smiling at me. I huff as I sit down. Shaking my head, "Get out. You're not coming then."
"She doesn't want to see me."
"What?" Now, I'm curious.
"At the shield ceremony I found her and Maggie in the exhibit."
"To see pictures of Steve, for Maggie." I don't feel I should tell him about Steve's visits to Maggie.
"No. They were standing in front of a picture of you. She was crying." I look at him, narrowing my eyes, trying to decipher exactly what he's telling me. "Look, I don't know the details of what happened between the two of you, but she for whatever reason, still loves you." I chuckle, "What?"
"She went on a date."
"Maybe she should. Wait...what makes you think she went on a date?" The plane readies for take-off. Ha, I'm going.
"I saw her in Brooklyn and I might have followed her."
"And she met some man at a restaurant." He laughs, and I raise my eyebrows at him.
"This about two weeks ago?" I nod my head. She must have told him about the date. "That wasn't a date."
"Clearly, it was. She met him for dinner, and she was laughing and smiling at him."
"If you bothered to talk to the woman, you would know that wasn't a date."
"What was it then?" His smile hasn't faltered.
"He's a lawyer." Again, I narrow my eyes. So, she's dating a lawyer. "Maggie is Steve's daughter. Do you really think he would leave Charlie raising a daughter without help?"
"He kind of did, yeah." He rolls his eyes at me.
"Him and Peggy set up a trust fund for Maggie and child support for Charlie." I look off into the distance taking this information in. "Not to mention that Tony set aside a trust fund for Maggie and left a sizable portion of Stark Industries to Charlie. And a small portion of Tony's billions was left to Charlie in his will. She met Murdock to go over all the fine details and sign papers."
"So, it wasn't a date."
"No, she's still single. Waiting on an idiot. Like I said, pick up your damn phone."
Before I can respond Torres comes down, "One minute to drop off, Sam."
This conversation has given me hope, and then also, pissed me off. I have possibly wasted all this time. My gaze doesn't leave Sam's. He called me an idiot, and he knows more about Charlie than me. He returns my stare. Sharply keeping my glares. I always knew how protective he was of Charlie. And right now, he's viewing me as the enemy. He leans forward and I give him a cocky grin, turning my neck, not backing down.
With a jolt he stands up, gathering his gear for the mission. I follow. "So, what's our plan?" Silently he places his earpiece in. "Great. So, no plan."
"Thirty seconds!" Torres screams.
"Enjoy your ride, Buck."
"No, you can't call me that."
"Why not? That's what Steve called you."
"Steve knew me longer, and Steve had a plan."
"Fifteen seconds to drop."
"Fine then, James." He smiles at me as he walks away, knowing that Charlie called me James, but mostly in our more intimate moments. I huff at him. "I have a plan."
"Really? What is it?" I stand walking towards him, as he places himself at the door. He smiles again, before jumping out. Dammit. "Great. Where's the chute?"
"We're at 200 feet. It's too low for a chute." Torres calls back. Alright, the hard way it is.
I stalk up to the door. "I don't need it anyway." We both look out the window.
"You sure about that? Would she want you to do that?" I turn scowling at him. What does he know about Charlie?
I look down at the landscape below. Trees, they'll help me. "Yeah." I don't know if I'm answering whether I'm sure or if she would want me to do that. After how cold I've been towards her I'm sure she would want me to jump. I look over at my arm. I've spent so much time covering this stupid thing up. I'm on a mission, I can show it. Let's rip this stupid thing off.
I jump out with a scream. Quickly I'm attacked by the tree branches. They hit and smack at my face. I deserve this. Landing on my back with a thump, I look up. What the hell was that? That was dumb. I close my eyes with a groan. Thank God, no one was there to witness that.
"I have all of that on camera. You know that, right?" Redwing buzzes towards me, hovering above my head.
"Get out of my face, Sam, or I'll break it."
"Okay, head north. Come on."
I run towards the building Sam guides me to. Stopping because I think I see a figure. I watch closely. "What are you doing?"
"I thought I saw someone."
Rolling my eyes I continue my trek to Sam, only to stop and look to the left when I hear something. All this talk about Charlie has got me seeing things. Redwing flies into a building that I enter. Sam controls the stupid thing to fly around me, and I swat at it savagely. "Oh-ho-ho. Don't hurt him." God, I hate him.
I finally spot Sam and walk over towards him, brows furrowed. Stupid wings. He can fly. I glance out the door. "You're doing the staring thing again." My gaze turns back to him. He just continues to look at his arm band. At least if Charlie was here, I would have something pretty to look at. "They're in there."
"Where's the guy?" I look down at his arm band. Seeing what Redwing is seeing.
"I don't know. I think they're smuggling weapons, though." I look back up at him. Obviously.
"Well, I think you could be right. But there's only one way to find out. I see a clear path. I say we take it."
"We're not assassins." I mean, I kind of am.
My eyes narrow back at him. "I'll see you inside or not." Let's finish this mission so we can move on to more important things. I turn leaving him. Gaining on these people.
"Hey, come on, man. I'm just messing with you. Come back."
I stalk down the hallway, needing to get closer to these pricks. "Look at you. All stealthy. A little time in Wakanda and you come out White Panther."
"It's actually White Wolf." Charlie was always fond of that name; even told me I was the Alpha. Shut up about Charlie!
"Huh?" Sam mumbles, clearly confused.
I hide behind some shelves. I see them, "Alright, I'm inside. Therefore, way ahead of you. It's not great, but very doable." Turning to the side I spot Sam. How the hell? "Huh? Hello. How are you?" I keep glancing back. How did he do that?
"Good. What did I miss? Nothing."
I will not admit defeat. "Alright, let's go." I turn to leave.
"I got a vibranium arm. I can take them." I wiggle my fingers at him, in case he forgot.
"And I can fly. Who gives a shit? Wait. I want to see where they're going."
"There's two people." I don't want to stand here. We're wasting time.
"You only see two?" Sam asks arrogantly.
"That's what I saw."
"Let me see what Redwing sees." That stupid thing.
"Let's see what Redwing...Oh, look at that. How many people you see now?" He continues to look down at his arm band, as I watch as more people walk in, "One, two...oh, here it comes again."
"Four. Five." I hate when he's right.
"Yeah, five. Yeah."
"So, they're strong. Whatever." They lift up impossibly to carry containers with ease. "Alright, let's go." Still wasting time.
"No, no, wait." Infuriating. He pulls at my arm and we hit the shelves. "Shit." They glance over to where we are. They obviously didn't see us, because they move out. Their eyes suck. I would have seen us. Sam taps on his arm band. "There's an eighth person. I think they have a hostage."
Okay, that's enough. I bolt off. Running towards the truck that has the hostage. Sam flies up behind me. Stupid wings. I jump onto the back of the truck and waste no time in opening the hatch. If there is a hostage they will get out of there.
Once in the back I also look at what exactly they have in here. It's not weapons. Large crates full, "They're stealing medicine. Vaccines." I continue looking around until movement catches my eyes. There she is. Scared she backs behind one of the crates in the shadows. "Hi." Be nice, smile, be comfort. She comes back out of the shadows.
"Bucky, talk to me. What's goin' on?"
I turn answering Sam. "I found the hostage." Attention back on the girl, "You, okay?" She gives me a maniacal grin. Oh, shit. I don't think she's a hostage. Before I can react she leans back, kicking me in the chest. My body slings out of the back of the truck and onto the windshield of the truck behind us. Not a hostage. "Shit."
Her form comes to the back of the truck as she places on a black mask. Flag Smasher. I turn to pull myself of the truck, but my hands are met with four arms pulling me. This isn't good. On top of the truck, they hold me in place as the girl jumps up onto the truck. She runs back to me, jumping up and punching me in the face. The other two continue to hold onto me.
Redwing comes up from behind shooting at the girl, and she jumps up, grabbing him. Hitting Redwing on her knee she breaks the stupid machine in half. I'm not mad about it. "I always wanted to do that."
One of the men holding me turns and punches me in the face. Sam flies in knocking the girl down as he begins fighting her, "Good of you to join the fight, Sam!"
I kick at the shin of one of my opponents, and before I can take care of the other, another person flies at my other opponent, slinging him back and off of me. She's dressed in a full black suit. The material looks as if it was poured on her body. Clinging to every curve and the deepest inky black. A mask covers her face.
While Sam is being fought, and held by other members of the Flag Smashers, she continues to fight off one of my foes as I attend to the other. And then, the shield. It flies down, bouncing off one of their chests. The woman in black and I both glance up, seeing a helicopter with the one and only John Walker jumping out.
Another man jumps out of the helicopter, but swings down knocking the first girl off the truck. She catches herself on the side and pulls up. John continues throwing the shield at our rivals. He throws the shield right at the girl, and thankfully she ducks before it hits the man behind her. She turns looking at him, and I swear I hear her growl.
The two men do a weird forearm shake, "Sam. John Walker, Captain America."
"Lamar Hoskins." The other man salutes. With a huff the woman in black flies away. John looks at her with disdain before bringing his attention back to us. "Looks like you guys can use some help."
The first girl comes up behind John hitting him. He blocks her with the shield and uses it to sling her back. He throws it at one of the men, and as it bounces off, I grab it. I wish the woman in black were here to fly away with it, but he grabs it out of my hand. So close.
Multiple men gang up on Sam and I jump over to the other truck to help. During the scuffle I jump back over to the first truck and don't succeed. I use my metal arm to scrape down the side, slowing me down. Tucking myself under the truck, I use the foot rails to hold me up. Which would be perfect, but one of the Flag Smashers comes down, trying to knock me off. I'm suspended in the air and trapped. The woman in black could be handy at this moment.
And as if she heard my thoughts, she flies up. I see a glint of navy as a sound wave pauses the man. She grunts as she flies up against him. Dumping him up onto the truck as she flies off again. That couldn't be...because she can't fly. I hang from the bottom of the truck, trying to figure out exactly how I'm going to get off this truck. I see Sam's wings as he screams, "That little girl kicked your ass."
I grunt at him. A little help from my position would be nice. The railing falls down. And to keep my body up off the road I use my metal arm, the metal makes a sickening screeching sound as it runs over the road. Sam flies under the trucks, grabbing my body as we propel into a field on the side of the road. We roll on the ground before stopping. My body lies on top of Sam's, "We could have used that shield." I groan down at him.
"Get off of me."
I roll off of him. Staring at the sky. "Those were all super soldiers, Sam."
"I know. You're welcome, by the way."
"Who was the woman in black?"
Sam laughs, sitting up looking at the edge of the field and she lands. Her tiny frame pauses, staring at us, well mostly me. She salutes as she walks away. I must be imagining things, because her suit was full on black now. "I have no idea who that is."
We start our walk on the road. I guess it's time to get back. "Sorry about Redwing."
"No, you're not." Sam answers. No, no I'm not. "What's going on in that big cyborg brain of yours?"
"It's computing." It's thinking. I had that shield. If she wouldn't have flown off, she could have flown off with it. She seemed like she wanted to help us.
"You know what? I can actually see it. I can see the gears turning. Oh, they're malfunctioning, shutting down. Yep, they're on fire."
"We gotta figure out where the serum's coming from." I hate him.
"Yeah. And how in the hell after eighty years are there eight super soldiers runnin' loose?" Not to mention who's the woman in black. We need her. She could be of use. She was fast, she was strong, she can fly without wings, and she didn't like John Walker.
I'm taken out of my thinking as a jeep drives by with the very ass hole I was thinking about. "So, that didn't go as planned, huh?" I really hate him. He doesn't deserve that shield. And he threatened Charlie and Maggie. He opens up a door, wanting us to get in. No. "Okay. Let's keep going." He closes the door and they slowly drive in front of us. "Look, at least we know what we're up against now, huh?" I don't like the sound of his voice. "And we're pretty sure it's one of the Big Three, so..." Him too?
"Aliens, Androids, or wizards." Hoskins says.
"Pretty sure, yeah." John responds.
"There's no such thing as wizards." I grit out of my teeth. My eyes stay locked on the road.
"Alright, then it's aliens or androids..." John responds.
"Or super soldiers." Sam looks at him as he answers. John is an ass.
"Shit. Super soldiers, for real?" Hoskins asks. Who are these people?
"Yeah." Sam responds.
"Wow. Alright, well, then we gotta work together." Is he kidding me?
"That's not happening." My voice is flat, and I can't give him any respect, so I don't bother to look at him.
"I think we stand a much better chance if we all just..."
I've had it. "Just because you carry that shield, it doesn't mean you're Captain America."
"Look, I've done the work, okay?" I finally look over at his smug face. I want to hit him.
"You ever jump on top of a grenade?" One of Steve's more stupid ideas.
"Yeah. Actually, I have. Four times. It's a thing I do with my helmet. It's a reinforced helmet. It's a long story, but, anywho. I even got Charlie's approval."
"No, you didn't." Sam answers before I can respond, placing a hand on my chest.
"I did, her daughter wants to meet me."
I inhale deeply. "Do you not think we don't talk to her?" Sam responds.
"Okay, maybe I didn't, but she's thinking about it."
"You stay away from her." I growl up at him.
"Okay, okay...Fine. Look, it's twenty miles to the airport. You guys need a ride. I'm trying to make peace here. Guys." He opens the door. "Gary, stop. Get in."
Sam and I look at one another. Silently we agree to use them, just for a ride. He needs to shut up before I hit him. "Okay, so we've got eight super soldiers on a bulk supply run. Why?" He asks. We're too close back here. I don't like it.
"They say their mission is to get things back to the way it was during The Blip. Maybe they're just trying to help." Sam is calm. I can't look at them, so I keep my eyes on my hands.
"They had a funny way of showing it." I look over to Sam.
"That serum doesn't exactly have a great track record. No offense." John looks over at me. My eyes finally meet his and I want to burn a hole in his head.
"We need to figure out where they're going. How'd you track 'em here? The Flag Smashers?" Sam asks.
"Uh, no, we didn't track them, we tracked you, uh, through Redwing." Hoskins says as he awkwardly scratches his head. That's actually funny. Couldn't trust Redwing. I knew it.
"You hacked my tech?"
"Sorry. It's not exactly hacking. It's government property." God, he's so cocky. I'm still determined to burn a hole in his head. "Kind of the government." He motions between him and Hoskins. "Does he always just stare like that?" Only when I want you to die a fiery death.
"You get used to it."
"How did you get the Nighthawk on your side?" John asks.
"Who?" I finally speak.
"The Nighthawk. Normally she works alone." Hoskins responds. "She's very...efficient."
"Who is she?" I need to know these answers.
"Wait, she wasn't with you?" John looks between us.
"She just showed up." Sam answers, seeming uninterested.
"But she fought alongside you." John motions his head over towards me. She didn't leave my side. She never went to help Sam, "So I just thought she was a partner or..."
"I don't know her." I flatly answer.
"Okay, look, you know things have gotten kind of, uh..." John changes the subject.
"Chaotic." Hoskins finishes.
"Yeah. The GRC, they're doing the best they can to get things up and running smoothly, post Blip." These two finish each other's sentences. So cute.
"Reactivating citizenship, social security, healthcare. Basically, just managing resources for the refugees who were displaced by the return." Again, Hoskin finishes.
"The Global Repatriation Council does all that. I get that. So, why exactly are you two here?" Sam is trying to figure out they're part. Glad he can be level headed.
"Well, they provide the resources and we keep things stable." Hoskins responds.
"Yeah, violent revolutionaries aren't usually good for anyone's cause." John adds.
"Usually said by the people with resources." Sam's not wrong.
"Well, we got a lot of resources." John is an ass. "If you guys, if you joined up with us, we could..." Here he goes again.
"No." I quickly respond.
"But if you joined us, we could get Charlie..."
"No." Again, he's not getting.
"She could be an asset for us." His eyes look at me.
"No, for you. She would be an asset to you. She won't do it." My voice becomes more agitated as Sam puts a warning hand on my arm. John continues looking at me. Daring me to tell him why Charlie is so important to me.
"I got mad respect for both of y'all. But you were getting your asses kicked till we showed up. Well and before the Nighthawk." My eyes narrow at Hoskins.
"Who are you?" I ask.
"Look, I see a guy hanging out of a helicopter in tactical gear, I need a lot more than Lemar Hoskins." Sam responds.
"I'm Battlestar. John's partner."
"Battlestar?" I've had enough. "Stop the car!"
"Look, I...I get it, okay? I get the attitude, I do." I get out, slamming the back, trying to walk away. "You didn't think that the shield was gonna end up here. I get it, Bucky. You have an allegiance to Charlie, because that's Steve's girl, and you feel the need to protect her..."
My body reacts as I turn to face him. "She isn't his girl! You have no idea what you're talking about. I was...we were there. Leave her out of this!" Sam holds my arm back and keeps me away from John as I fully walk away, but still able to hear Sam. She was never Steve's girl. She was...my girl.
"What's his problem when I talk about Charlie?" John asks.
"Leave her and her daughter out of it. Like Bucky said, you don't know what you're talking about. And if you refer to her as Steve's wife again, talk about her daughter, or threaten them again, you'll have to deal with me."
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