Captain America: For Whom the Bell Tolls
(© Robert Denham)
Perhaps two dozen Hydra soldiers, featureless and intimidating behind their
esoteric masks and eyepieces and heavy, leather uniform gauntleted gloves,
jackboots and unitard over-suits (it was May, Cap considered; how were they not
sweating to death in there?) were rapidly filing out of one of the buildings,
falling into a skirmish line and dropping behind vehicles.
Cap hefted his Vibranium shield and, drawing one of his .45s, went into a dead
run, toward the enemy. He blasted away with his sidearm, picking off three of
the Hydra troops. He felt the shafts of energy impact against the all-but-indestructible
shield, which handily absorbed their power. The gun emptied and he shoved the
weapon back into its holster just as he reached the Hydra position.
He deftly threw the shield, and it bounced off the building, took out two of
the Hydra men, ricocheted against a nearby truck and impacted two more. As this
was happening, the instant he launched his shield, he leapt among their ranks,
assaulting them with his fists. He snatched the shield out of the air, and
smashed it into one handy, unlucky Hydra operative. He was quickly joined by
several of his men, who gleefully participated in the melee.
Their boots ringing in the vastness of the mine, the pair
descended a flight of metal stairs; dim light, flickering in time with the
impact of numerous explosions on the surface, illuminated their path.
"You are officially dead," Schmidt told Martin Bormann, who flinched at the
explosions coming from above. And the distant gunfire, which was drawing
Schmidt took in the heavyset, wretched figure with a mixture of pity and
revulsion. He had shed his uniform and now wore ridiculously mismatched
civilian clothing. Anything to blend in.
O, how the Mighty have Fallen. A week ago, the man before him was the most
powerful non-entity in Germany, perhaps the world. Now, just another quivering
refugee, looking for a way out.
"What do you mean?" Bormann asked nervously.
"Your body has been found in the rubble of Berlin, dead of cyanide poisoning.
Two days ago."
"How?" Bormann nearly shrieked. "How is this possible?"
They had reached the bottom of the stairs. A vast, inky darkness which was
nearly impenetrable, save for the dim light cast by the last working bulb on
the stairs, two flights up.
In reply to the stocky man’s question, Schmidt calmly flipped a switch, and the
large room was suddenly bathed in steady, bright light; light which did not
flicker with the explosions.
Worktables and stations occupied the space; machinery and instruments of
various levels of complexity.
But Bormann inhaled sharply, and blanched. "M-mein G-gott," he breathed as he
beheld the scene, one shaking hand to his mouth.
In cruel, clear tanks filled with bubbling, viscous liquid, there floated
humans, naked and apparently sleeping. Every crucial ‘VIP’ in Germany was here, even Hitler himself, his trademark toothbrush mustache and unruly
"How is this possible?" Bormann, awed, asked again, yet asking a different
"They are called ‘clones’, Bormann; perfect duplicates, exact duplicates, of
the Nazi party and German military hierarchy. Grown; created by using cell
samples purloined from their subjects. Some happy results of your support of my
research," Schmidt said with a cold, distracted pride, casually removing the
uncomfortable, bothersome mask he wore to placate the rest of the world; the
mask with which he had decided he would no longer bother.
He dropped the mask to the floor and, sneering, stomping his foot, crushed it
under his heel.
Now and forever, he would be the Red Skull, and he would spend the rest of his
life—or however many lifetimes it may take, as he possessed the assets, after
all—carrying on the effort of world domination these crude, short-sighted,
lowbrow "National Socialists" had so ineptly, blunderingly squandered.
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