1964-07-30 - Blood Stained Fangs
Summary: Agent Coulson and Captain America are dispatched to research an incident in Indiana. What they find is unexpectedly haunting.
Related: If there are no related logs, put 'None', — please don't leave blank!
Theme Song: None
steve-rogers coulson isaiah-bradley 

Birdseye Indiana. It's the home of nothing. You could drive through it and miss it if you blink. It's called Birdseye because the founder stood on the top of the hill where they put the post office and could see everything for miles and miles around. Almost no one lives there, no one stops there, it's just a little dot on the map that people pass on the way to somewhere important. Places like that are perfect to keep your secrets hidden.

An alert from a S.H.I.E.L.D. dry storage facility went off 6 hours ago. Agents were sent to investigate and never reported back. The hidden bunker under the floor of a barn on a retired agent's farm was penetrated by persons unknown. Mostly old paper work, backups and data along with some old Hydra related knick-knacks. Hardly anything to worry about according to the inventory but it set off alarms like there is something in there worth worry about.

When the team and the caretaker failed to report back or deactivate the alarm, they called for the big guns: Agent Phil Coulson, also, you know, Captain America.

Back at the Avengers Mansion, Steve had been doing some reading. History stuff about all that he missed when he was frozen in the Arctic. Lately he's been studying the formation of Israel as he attempts his catchup. Though he does not technically work for SHIELD anymore, Steve has always promised Peggy he would be there for them whenever they needed him. This was one of those times. As he departs the air-vehicle and steps out onto the tarmac, he looks around with a wince on his face. He has absolutely no clue where they are. "I guess if you're going to stash some toys, this place is as good as any."

Piloting one SHIELD helicopter is Senior Agent Coulson. He carries that same old expression that he's always held, ever since the war; professionalism, with a sly touch of whimsical curiosity. "You know, I thought coming back to the states would be a little less exciting," he asides to Steve, voice amplified over the microphone and into Rogers' earphones. "I never imagined I'd be sent to…" He has to lean over to glance at the mission overview that's clipped to a clipboard, hanging nearby. "Birdseye, Indiana." If you don't really know him, it's hard to tell whether Phil is being serious or sarcastic.

The helicopter's blades are undergoing the slow process of winding down when Phil departs with Steve. Given that this is a field operation, he's cast off the suit and tie in favor of a flight suit. "Flyover country, low population, not close to any major industrial centers or transportation highways…" Coulson's agreement is clear. "What concerns me, Cap? Lot of agents don't even know this place exists." He unclips a flashlight from his belt and clicks it to life, shining it toward the barn as they draw near.

The outside of the farm looks perfectly normal. Nothing has exploded, the response team's cars are still there. No signs of struggle. The barn doors are open, the secret hatch leading down into the bunker has been closed and camouflaged itself again. Phil will have to turn the key on the old tractor, put it in reverse then honk the broken horn to get the door to open. Given how perfectly normal everything looks, it's probably a trap.

The door to the bunker opens to a set of stairs that lead down to a narrow hallway. They briefed on the layout on the trip over. It's basically an underground warehouse. One big square at the end of a very narrow hallway small item storage. It doesn't even have a cargo door on the facility. They call it dry storage for a reason. It's mostly papers and old uniforms. Left overs. Very little of interest.

The only place the missing agents could be are in the farm house and in the bunker. Of course, if this is a trap, that two person wide tunnel leading to dry storage would be a good place to spring it.

Steve gives a nod to Coulson. "I'm imagining that the bunker is the spot whoever is here might be hiding in." He gives a look that could write a thousand words, but he settles on just a few. "If it's an ambush, I've got the shield. Let me go first and you can cover me," he replies, hoping the Agent will follow along as he makes his way towards the bunker—small steps echo upon the stone.

"They'll know we're coming, that's for sure," Phil remarks, before climbing upon the tractor and doing the dirty deed. He follows Rogers down and into the bunker, eyes alert and footsteps quiet. The flashlight is swapped over to his left hand, so that he might withdraw the standard issue firearm, clear the safety, and ready it for use. He wisely remains behind Steve and that vibranium shield of his.

The old, dusty bulbs built into the bunker tunnel flicker as the two men walk down the tunnel. There is a slight incline because they built the bunker to be far enough under the farmland that it wouldn't disturb the crop rotation. The smell of stale air and dust is almost too strong. This place hasn't been opened for a long, long time until today.

About halfway down the tunnel things get less normal. Nails have been driven into the cement walls above. Three rows of dog tags hang from their chains on each side. The kind they started issuing just after Pearl Harbor. There are hundreds of them, at least a few hundred, hanging from the walls and the ceiling. All U.S. Army.

It's like walking through a field of ghosts because the tunnel is so cramped. If Cap and Phil have the nerve to walk through them, there is a door at the end of the tunnel with one final security combination Phil has to enter to get into the dry storage.

"What in the world?" Steve says under his breath as he slowly approaches the hanging dog tags. After he stops partway in, he reaches up to get a better look at one, but stops abruptly, hoping they aren't trapped of some sort. Nevertheless, he begins to inspect some of the names of the people who the tags presumably belonged to. "What is this, Agent Coulson?"

Normally, it takes a great deal to rattle Coulson. The thing is, he was an Army Ranger in the Pacific. This isn't just disturbing… it's insulting. His normally placid expression has become bent into a frown of distaste, and his eyes are now pinched with a very subtle touch of anger. "It's a graveyard," he remarks with a slightly hoarse tone. Vets don't just give up their tags easily, but… they're often laid to rest with them, especially when there are no family members to claim such possessions.

He doesn't need to clarify that this sort of thing is not standard practice for SHIELD dry storage facilities. His adams apple visibly moves with a heavy swallow, and he sidles past Steve in order to flatten himself against the wall by that door. The combination lock is spun with a carefully, almost painfully slow pace; he doesn't want to be in this hallway longer than anyone else, but he's also doing everything he can to keep from alerting whomever might be beyond that door to their presence. Once the combination is plugged in, he looks over toward Steve to check on his readiness. Then, with a short nod, he pulls the door open, using it for cover. Steve will be first in, but Coulson will be close behind, gun drawn and ready to provide cover fire if need be.

The names mostly have a certain ethnicity to them. They are from the 'special' units of all black soldiers who were often expected to charge at the front of the lines while the white soldiers hid in fox holes. No one ever forced them to, it was just expected and if you didn't, well bad things happen to cowards.

As the security door peals itself back it reveals the warehouse proper. The missing agents are there, right on the other side of the door. Bound and gagged, blind folded, some of them have been roughed up but nothing serious. The only one missing is the caretaker. The lights are on, the rows and rows of boxes are still mostly intact and there seems to be no enemy in sight.

There is one small problem. The lights in the rest of the warehouse, just past the entrance have been broken so if they step out to free the agents there is no telling what could be there waiting for them in the dark.

Steve looks for any sign of immediate tampering or booby trapping. He holds his shield up to Coulson, trying to prevent him from going for his comrades; though knowing that Coulson is a professional he is probably thinking the same thing. Better safe than sorry. Once and if he is satisfied that it is safe, he will give Coulson the go ahead to free the men and cover them.

Professional indeed, Coulson does not rush in. Instead, he quickly takes stock of what he can see of the prisoners, then, of the facility itself. Echoing in the back of his mind are a number of surnames… Smith, Jones, Freeman, and the like. Common names, made more common following emancipation.

"Wait," he says, and lifts the flashlight toward the darkened area. At this range, it may not provide much additional illumination, but simply pointing it in that area he hopes Steve will follow with his eyes. A nod is given to Steve, and he lowers the flashlight, clipping it to his belt so that he can better grasp that pistol.

The agents who are awake perk up at the sound of whispers. They don't say anything but Coulson can tell they are aware. One of them, then another, then another make a hand sign for 'Single target' and one of them signs in ASL, The senior agent, Kerganski "Single combatant, enhanced, black, six foot four, bald, mid 40's. Unarmed. Identified himself with the caretaker's id code. Lured in close quarters. Location unknown."

Don't you love well trained agents?

Steve looks to Coulson and nods. "We have to clear the bunker before anything else," he whispers quietly as he begins to unravel the bonds that hold some of the agents. He's a bit slower than normal given that he's doing it with one hand and his eyes out in front of them, defensively.

Coulson follows closely behind Steve, but his eyes are locked upon the agent using ASL. "One," he whispers to Steve. "Enhanced." Now he begins similarly working to unbind the prisoners, one-handed, pistol ready and eyes scanning. He's quietly betting that this move will draw the single target out, but if not… well, he's always got a plan.

Once the agents are untied they discover that they have been disarmed. Some of them are injured. The senior agent has a whopper of a black eye. One has a sprained ankle and can't walk on his own. One them has a giant bruise on his face like someone hit him with a hamhock.

Overall not as bad as they could have been hurt someone took it easy on them, relatively speaking. The lead agent gives an injury report, explains in ASL, "Speed, reflexes, strength, physical, up close type. Stun didn't work. Keep distance."

Some of them are going to get a lot of flack for being tied up using their own cuffs. Who ever it was left them only one flashlight between them. Maybe he missed it?

The rest of the warehouse is as silent as the grave. They go on to report, "We heard him going through files talking about finding the proof. The names. Then some kind of metallic sound like small chains. He was walking back and forth past us for hours. He talked to himself. Said it would be worth it. That this was the time. It was finally the time." then he makes the universal sign for Kookoo swirling his finger next to his temple.

"Names of who?" Steve asks, clearly unsettled still by all of the dog tags. Even so he's now stepping out into the unknown, almost rather drawing an attack on him rather than the rest of the agents, by design. He is wary, recognizing that an attack could come from everywhere. His head is on a swivel.

"The tags," he tells Steve, before turning to the senior agent and forming a few motions in ASL. "Evacuate. Pattern W." No need for the NATO phonetic while using sign language. He then motions for the hallway. None of those agents are enhanced. Steve is. Of course, Phil won't be going with them, because two is always better than one. He does, however, crouch down to reclaim his secondary sidearm from a leg holster, and tosses it to one of the agents whom he judges to have the most use of his faculties.

As Cap move through the isles of the warehouse the dark, cool air is nice and dry, perfect for storage of .. wait.. What was that? It sounded like a kind of flapping or fluttering sound, like something brushing lightly against something else? To lite to be a human made sound, rats maybe? No Steve's keen senses would detect that. It seems to be coming from the furthest row on the side of the warehouse but straining to listen he is sure that it's coming from that far row. It's just hard to make out what the sound is. He and Phil will have to go around the edge of the row and see. Again though, they'll be trapped in a small space, this time in the dark against a cement wall and a shelf full of heavy boxes.

The agents take the side arm and the wounded and move out to the vehicles outside and wait. There is a faint, "Oh, God." as one of them sees the tags. Who ever did it must have put them up after the agents had been subdued.

Captain America tilts his head towards Coulson and signs to him that he wants to flank the area where the sound came from. If they're about to be ambushed it will be harder to do so from each side. Additionally, since whoever did this has the upper hand of being hidden, Steve decides to cut through that as best he can by calling out in a normal, conversation-level voice. "Whoever you are," he begins, his voice echoing out throughout the chamber, "You seem to have put this together for a reason. Tell us why."

With a simple nod of acknowledgement, Phil moves away from Steve and toward the opposing end of that aisle. His weapon is now leveled and at the ready, moving with the purposeful grace that hasn't been lost since the war. Steve can do the talking; he's busy racking through memories, trying to piece together some sort of connection with the few names he glimpsed, the dog tags, and what he knows of this particular facility and what's stored here.

Looking around the edge of the row the two men see nothing strange. There is a faint flashlight at the far end of the row pointing up into the bottom of a chair. The caretaker is tied to that chair but to get to him they will have to walk down the row. Once their lights focus on the isle it becomes clear what the fluttering sound was.

The aisle is full of sins. Pictures have been taped with a single piece of tape to various boxes all the way down the length. They flutter lightly in the cool air. Each one a picture of soldiers. Some of friendship, some of people being tested in medical, some of soldiers being beaten, some of soldiers being forced at gunpoint into a machine that especially Steve will find most familiar.

Mass graves are intermingled with pictures of the soldiers sharing drinks before the horrors. Some of the men are deformed, some look like their muscles have melted yet they still live. One looks like his bones simple vanished but he can not die. There are pictures of U.S. soldiers using flame to destroy the evidence.

The men all have one thing in common. They are all black soldiers.

Steve can't help it. His cautious pose generally becomes more and more lackadaisical as the horrors of the photographs take him more and more by surprise. "Coulson, what the hell is this?" he says, losing some of the normal strength his voice has. "What happened to these men?" Somewhere in there is a frustration. A seed of something not often seen from Steve Rogers: anger.

It all begins to click moments after he lays eyes on the photographs. Yes. He's seen these files before. Coulson's face pales just slightly, and his gun drops a couple degrees. "A mistake," he answers drily. "A… horrible, unforgivable mistake."

Phil turns away from the caretaker, his eyes darting around the facility now. "I think someone wants to undo what the Army tried to cover up." Worse than that, he has a sinking feeling that the single target isn't, actually, in this room, which would mean the men they just freed might be in considerable danger.

Attached to the caretaker's shirt is a handwritten note that reads.

"A man on my TV said to me, "There comes a time, there even comes a moment in the affairs of men when they sense that their lives are being altered forever — that an old order is dying and a new one is being born. That Moment comes sooner for some and for others it comes later; for some the moment arrives when a deed of new dimensions sets the hour apart; for other than familiar words are spoken more sharply. Later, but still suddenly it seems, men are saying things and doing things that they've never said or done before. And then we know we are experiencing a revolution."

"This is that time." the note goes on, "We can not heal if there are bleeding wounds. These men do not deserve to be forgotten by history. You will give them the honors befitting a soldier or I will show the world your sins. You have two months."

The only crate of gear opened in the warehouse stands in the light behind the Caretaker with it's contents missing. There is the shape of a uniform and a shield cut empty in packing paper. The lid to the crate lays on the floor simply marked in old, faded letters. Classified Project: C.A.2.

Captain America is shaking his head. "No, this person doesn't want to hurt anyone. He could have killed these men. He could have killed us if he'd wanted to. No." He approaches the caretaker and the note, peering at it. "This person has something to say."

Captain America reads the letter and then looks over his shoulder at Coulson. Gone is the wariness and the apprehension. "I think whoever was here has left." He leans down to begin to undo the caretaker's bonds.

"Perhaps," answers Coulson. He's got an eye on the caretaker and Steve, but his ears are focused on the hallway. Even as Steve moves to finish, Phil is moving toward that hallway. "But he might still be on site."

The farmstead.

Once ungagged the Caretaker tells the story. A big black man came to the farm. Identified himself as an agent, said he was sent to get an old backup file. He knew agent verification codes, had I.D. " the Caretaker says in his defense, "Then we got down here and he pulled the blasted alarm! Kept apologizing. Tied me up, made me wait. Let me go to the bathroom first at least. Nice of him. Blatter ain't what it use to be." the old man rambles, "He started digging through the files asking me where the microfilm was. Course I didn't tell him. Not sure if he found it. He started hanging those photos up. Not sure why he was doing arts and crafts. He took my glasses. Said he would put them in the house. Said I would be glad. Just to wait and someone would come for me. Didn't turn the blasted alarm off though. Then he vanished for a while, came back pretty ticked. Ran around for what seemed like hours I couldn't tell what he was doing then you showed up. Seemed nice enough fella. Wish he would have kidnapped me after breakfast. You fella want some breakfast? "

A sweep will verify there is no one in the place. The glasses are in the house and the old man's breakfast is very cold. One of the men will have to help the old half-blind man out of the bunker till he gets back to his glasses but that doesn't solve the real problem.

Captain America goes quiet both as the Caretaker goes over his story and gets quieter still as the time wears on. He helps the old man around and to get his breakfast, assists in the searching of the glasses, and afterwards, makes several attempts at searching the grounds in hopes of finding the man. Sure, he would like to apprehend him. That's the mission, right? But more, Captain America just wants to talk to him. Steve has taken some of the photos from the bunker down and shows them to the caretaker. "Do you mind if I have a couple of these?"

Once outside, Coulson regroups with the other agents, and begins collecting information from then one at a time. He's curious to know; if the target departed from this place, is he on foot? Or, perhaps, was there some other method of retreat?

The old man practically snorts when Captain America asks his permission to take the photos. "You're Captain America, son. I'd give you my teeth of you asked for em!" then he does that one trick all grandpa's know where he pops out of false teeth smiles overly wide with upper lip vanishing into his lower one so he looks like a living version of Popeye the Sailor.

The agents in recovery report there were two vehicles, one that is still here, the old man's farm truck no doubt and one a station wagon, wood side panels, green paint, blue trim. They could put out an APB on it if Coulson wanted. It's not like he's driving away in a flying rocket-car. He can't have gotten very far. It's kind of a horrible escape plan actually, unless he was counting on not being chased.

"Thanks," Captain America replies with a smile. The APB and the chase and all of that: Steve doesn't think much will come of it. When they find him, and they will, he imagines he'll come without a fight. "Agent Coulson," Steve says when they have a quiet moment. "When you bring him in, may I talk to him?" Steve has already put the folded photographs in one of his pouches. He's not going back to New York. He's going to head to Washington.

Coulson is quick to get on the horn with local assets and county law enforcement. The APB will go out at once. "You bet, Cap," he tells Steve. "In fact? I'll give you first crack at the bat."

They'll have time to at least do a few sweeps from the air, before Phil will need to fly himself back to New York.

On his way back to New York, Phil can check up on the most likely suspect. The last surviving member of the experiments. His family reported him missing a few days ago. Said he was acting strange. Said the TV was talking to him. That he was starting to forget his unit and he couldn't let them be forgotten. He's been having increasing bouts of confusion for a long time now according to his reports. Forgetting people, past experiences, his wife reported that he went on a walk once for 4 days to clear his head so he might be doing that. She seems to have no idea what he is up to. He did take the family car. A station wagon that is the exact match.

How much of this he shares with Steve is up to him. Does Steve even know there was a second Captain America? How does one broach such a question while flying a helicoptor?

There is only enough time to make a few sweeps of the countryside before Phil is forced to divert course for the nearest airbase; Wright Patterson, Dayton Ohio. From there, he'll be on a flight to New York, while Steve heads to Washington.

The site is locked down. Names will be collected, files tabulated, and everything will be sent to SHIELD HQ. Unfortunately, Coulson has a date to discuss developments in the Asian Pacific with one Carol Danvers; developments from his long term field assignment that may pose a threat to the world. As it is, this one will have to wait, at least for a little while.

That, of course, doesn't mean it bothers him any less. The trip back is filled with old memories, from the Pacific engagement in the war. Memories Phil Coulson has tried to leave rest. Well… they won't be resting any time soon.

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