RSS

Category Archives: *Le Other Fandoms

The Fear Landscape Series: Bucky Barnes

The Fear Landscape Series: Bucky Barnes

You’d think that after a while the novelty that is pain would have worn off. Well, you’d be wrong. Every second of his handler’s procedures hurt just as much as they had the first day, despite the sensation being as familiar as the back of his one organic hand.
The Asset’s eyes burned as he locked them in position, open and unyielding while his handlers worked on his prosthetic arm at the shoulder. Every muscle screamed in unison telling him to fight back and hurt those who hurt him. But the Asset ignored the urges. He knew better than to fight back now.
As the machines and knives did their work, the Asset experienced a new sensation: the sensation of a memory. The Asset did not have memory.
And yet here was one. Just a quick moment, an instant. A needle being injected into his skin and a voice telling him to overcome his fears and make it through the simulated landscape. And then nothing. The Asset concentrated hard on that moment, willing the rest of that time to surface and the confusion to be made clear. All he knew for sure was that none of this was real. Overcome fear? The Asset wasn’t supposed to have any fears to overcome.
Faintly, the Asset caught a sound, a yell, a voice he recognized. Colors. Red, white, and blue. “Bucky!” the voice shouted. The Asset didn’t know what any of it meant. But he felt like… like that man was a friend. Which shouldn’t be. The Asset had no friend.
He couldn’t remember. Why couldn’t he remember? The pain of the procedure paled in comparison to this, starting to sweat, his mind frantically spinning. He had to remember. Had to remember. Had to. Bucky? Who was Bucky? Red, white, and blue? Why red, white, and blue?
Suddenly the Asset’s thoughts slowed to a crawl as he thought of one thought that slammed all other thoughts to a stop. What if Bucky… was his name? The Asset had never had a name. But Bucky was as close to one as he’d ever gotten.
The voice, Bucky screamed at himself. You know that voice. You know that man. Who is he? Why is he important? Why can’t you remember? What fears do you still need to overcome?
Bucky’s eyes moved for the first time, blinking quickly twice. The gesture was small enough that his handlers didn’t notice, but that motion meant a lot. It meant he’d lost control, at least a little bit. He’d never lost control.
Why was he losing control? Who was the man? What fears did he need to overcome? He had to know. It had to be in there somewhere. That’s how memory worked, right?
Bucky tensed suddenly. Memory. This sensation, the sensation of pain that wasn’t connected to any real pain, had started with the memory. Was that pain… fear?
That made sense. So he was afraid of something. He was afraid of losing the one memory he had.
Okay, so he’d identified his fear. How to overcome it?
Let it go, Bucky realized. He would have to let it go. He’d been through a lot of pain, but somehow none of it compared to the pain of letting go of his one and only memory. But, to overcome the fear, he did. Bucky envisioned the memory as a bullet. A bullet he loaded into a gun. And shot far into the distance. Gone.
Bucky experienced a moment of peace. He’d remembered his name. Good. Even if everything else came crumbling down, that was the one thing Bucky would always have. He’d have a name. Bucky. And in that knowledge Bucky relaxed.
A moment later everything came back. Everything. Apparently overcoming the fear of memory loss was rewardable by memory. Bucky was thrown back in the memory, living it again in full color, everything making sense.
Hydra had captured him again. He was being dragged along, made immobile by a drug, as his best friend Steve ran at full speed behind him, in his Captain America suit. Hydra had slammed him behind the giant, metal doors of their workshop right as Steve had shouted his name.
Once inside, his old handler tied him down to the table he lay on now. “You belong to us,” he hissed into Bucky’s ear. “And we are not finished with you yet.” Stinging in his neck told Bucky that he’d been injected with something. As he blacked out, his handler instructed, “You will wake in a simulated environment that will landscape your fears and force you to move past them. Overcome your fear. Become fearless. Do not disappoint.” And that was where the memory ended.
Bucky’s eyes, still open and devoid of emotion, didn’t move. His muscles, still tensed in every way possible and locked in one position, didn’t move. His mind, working at all the different things that could happen from this moment forward, surged at a tremendous pace. He’d conquered one fear. Which one was next? How many were there? What would happen when he passed?
His handler stepped forth again, a large syringe in hand and filled with a dark blue liquid. He walked nonchalantly up and placed the cold tip of the needle against Bucky’s neck.
No. No, not another one. Never, ever again. The last time he’d seen that liquid—well, suffice it to say that wasn’t a moment he wanted to relive. As the tip of the needle rested against his skin in preparation for the injection, Bucky recognized this for what it was. His second fear.
And he was going to get past it. Bucky’s mind went into overdrive and everything surrounding him disappeared except for the metal bindings around him, the metal needle on his neck, and the human eyes staring into him. Bucky ripped off the bindings on his arms in one great motion and immediately rolled off the table and under it, where he had more protection. His handler, not expecting a fight, hastily drew a small concealed pistol from his coat pocket and aimed it right where Bucky had wanted to attack next.
“Try it,” taunted his handler. This was meant to dissuade him, make him think his handler was winning. But cheap tricks didn’t work on Hydra’s secret asset. Bucky rolled to the other side of the table, picked it up by the legs, turned it into a shield, and slammed it against his handler. The gun went off and dented the table, but didn’t get through to Bucky.
His handler was down. Bucky took his time stepping onto the bottom of the table that now trapped his handler against the floor. He positioned his feet to be approximately where his handler’s head would be and pressed ever so slightly down. He heard a satisfying groan in response. Bucky smiled.
But then the smile faded. He was still here. He’d won the fight. Didn’t that mean he’d conquered his fear? If his fear was of needles, then didn’t defeating the needle mean he’d defeated his fear?
Wait. Bucky recalled the memory he’d just remembered. “Become fearless,” his real-life handler had said. Winning one fight against a needle only meant that he’d bought more time before facing the fear again. It didn’t mean the fear was conquered. Bucky allowed emotion to show on his face by slowly closing and opening his eyes. He’d got it wrong. He knew what he had to do.
Bucky stepped to the side of the table and pulled it away. He picked his handler off the floor, stood him up, brushed off his lab coat, and laid down on the floor beneath him.
His handler was confused by this gesture. “I designed a super soldier. One who would win every fight. Why is it that he now gives up after he has already won?” Bucky didn’t respond. He had slipped back into Asset mode, silently awaiting whatever torture came next. His handler shook his head and picked up the syringe again. “It is because my creation answers only to one. Me.” With that, in went the syringe. And away went the landscape.
Instead Bucky found himself at the top of a towering cliff, overlooking desolate, snowy peaks. Bucky knew this mountain. This was where he had died. Or, well, should have died, anyway. This was where Steve had watched him fall to his death, and where Hydra had picked him up out of the snow and forced him to live their nightmare.
Bucky looked down and shivered. Not the tingling shiver of being in the snow too long, but the deeper, more encompassing shiver of fright. His third fear was seemingly of heights, and honestly, it was worse than Bucky was afraid it’d be.
The bottom was a long way away.
But if this fear was anything like the others, there was only one thing to do. One thing he could do. Bucky stepped off the cliff.
And fell. Quite a way’s down. He thought he’d seen enough of the mountain to appreciate just how far it was to the bottom; he was wrong. Time moved much more slowly when one was falling to one’s doom. As Bucky hit the ground, he expected pain. It never came. He blacked out just before he made contact.
Only to wake in a modern, American bed with red sheets and a blue comforter. Even though Bucky realized that there shouldn’t be anything left to shock him after everything he’d been though, the total and complete morphing of his surroundings did in fact baffle him. He laid there limply for a few seconds before standing up and opening the door on the opposite side of the room.
On the other side of the door was Steve, wearing a white tee-shirt and jeans and looking pretty normal, considering all that super-soldier packed inside of him. “You’re awake!” he said happily, shutting off whatever program he’d been watching on the television and moving towards Bucky. As he got closer Bucky made one small step back before even thinking about it.
Steve’s eyebrows furrowed. “You alright?” Bucky nodded an affirmative. But when Steve gently moved his arm to connect with his, Bucky shied away and tensed his muscles again.
Inwardly he was furious at himself. He’s trying to be nice, shouted Bucky to his body, trying in vain to get it to relax. It’s not like he’s going to hurt you. He’s the only person out there who really wouldn’t try to hurt you! His body refused to listen, and the peice of him that wanted to touch back was beat back into submission.
His fourth fear. Touch. That made… That made sense. Bucky swallowed hard like he’d just tasted something sour. Touch wasn’t supposed to be a thing to be feared. It was supposed to be a positive.
“Are you ok, Bucky?” asked Steve again, more quietly this time. Bucky swallowed again, and, forcing his muscles to obey him, gingerly placed his organic hand on Steve’s forearm.
“Yeah,” he said confidently. “I am.” He smiled slightly, and Steve followed his lead.
But then something happened. Something snapped. Bucky’s body reverted to factory setting and drew back to punch Steve while he was off guard. The one sane bit of his mind ran frantically around, trying to find a way out of the cage his body had put him in and stop this. But his training had been too good.
It was a surprise attack. The punch connected to the middle of Steve’s chest, making even the mighty Captain America stumble back a few steps and gasp for air before turning to stare at Bucky again.
Even though he had no control over his own body, Bucky got a front row seat as he watched Steve’s face. The hurt, the pain, the betrayal evident there was almost too much for Bucky to watch. “Bucky?” Steve whispered again, questioningly, but already hurt. And not because of the punch.
The Asset stepped back again and silently kicked Bucky’s best and only friend in the shin. Inside Bucky screamed at himself, “Stop, stop, please just stop!” But the Asset wouldn’t listen.
“It’s a fear, it’s your fifth fear, it’s just one of those fears,” Bucky chanted. He defeated the other ones by ignoring the pain or the emotion. That wasn’t working here. How to get out? There wasn’t any way out! Bucky was near to panicking as the Asset used his knuckles to jab into Steve’s throat, momentarily choking him. Steve was fighting back, definitely, but the Asset was winning and Bucky could tell how much Steve was holding back.
The fight went on, the entire apartment being destroyed in the process. Bucky was reduced to pounding on the walls of his mind prison, trying in vain get out. He lost all sense of sanity and sunk into pure panic, not thinking of anything but how his one and only friend was going to die by his own hand, and even if Steve survived, would never want to have anything to do with him again.
Bucky opened his eyes in a small, cold, grey room, tied down to a table like he’d been before. Above him he could just start to make out a face as his vision cleared. “Bucky?” Steve asked.
Bucky lifted a hand to his forehead. “Steve? What… What happened? Am I out of the landscape? But I didn’t pass the fifth fear. I failed.”
“You were in some sort of a coma when I got here. I woke you up with a little help from Tony,” Steve explained, holding up his cell phone.
Bucky moved to the other side of the table and came within a few inches of Steve. Finally able of let the emotions run free, Bucky let the tears come and wrapped his arms around his friend. “Thank you,” he muttered. “Thank you.”
Steve returned the hug just as intensely. “You’re welcome, Bucky. You’re always welcome.”

Advertisements
 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The Fear Landscape Series: Bilbo Baggins

The Fear Landscape Series: Bilbo Baggins

Burning. Everywhere, everything, burning. Dying. The sky was dying, blue being swallowed up by black smoke. The grass was dying, being replaced by the flames themselves. Bilbo was dying, though whether by being cooked or by being melted, he wasn’t sure.
The smoke that pervaded his lungs tasted like ash and felt like flame. The fire that licked at his feet was so blinding to his senses that he couldn’t tell what it felt like at all. All he knew is that unless he could escape, this was the end of him. And Bilbo was positive he couldn’t escape.
Even as his mind fled from the strain, sirens blazed in it. He’d gotten carried away again. None of this was real. It was a simulation, forcing him to face his fears. This wasn’t real. Wasn’t real.
A lot of good knowing that did him. Even if he knew in his head that it wasn’t real, his body couldn’t seem to get the memo.
The fire raged on and the blaze grew higher around him. Bilbo’s eyes were forced shut and he wheezed and coughed trying to just get a little more air. The flames all around him were nothing compared to the buring on his insides, like he was a bomb just waiting to explode.
Calm down, calm down, calm down, calm down! As Bilbo focused on lowering his heart rate and regulating his breathing, the adrenaline associated with the very act raised instead of lowered it. He couldn’t do it. Couldn’t do it.
Calm down, Bilbo told himself. It’s not a choice. You don’t get to not do it. You have to calm down. Against all that his body screamed at him to do, Bilbo crouched down to the buring ground and curled into a tight ball. His face muscles relaxed and he worked to keep his breaths steady.
Soon he wouldn’t be able to breathe at all. And if he wasn’t through with the landscape by then, well, he wouldn’t be getting through the landscape. Bilbo relaxed.
And woke up in the dark. Slowly uncurling, Bilbo tested his eyes and his lungs. The fire was gone, as if it had never been. It wasn’t real. It had never been real.
But he wasn’t done yet. Bilbo stood and looked silently around. This was a forest. A dark, damp forest. And was that a… spider web? Yes, yes it was. A very large spider web. Which could only mean one thing. A spider.
Click, click. Bilbo’s hair stood on end. Click, click. The sound came from behind him. He had to act. Before it did.
Bilbo had only fought a spider once before, and he had been terrified. The only thing keeping him alive had been Sting. And he didn’t have Sting with him now. Or did he? Bilbo had control of the simulation. He could make Sting.
As the spider lept for him, Bilbo drew Sting from its sheathe, spun around, and ran the beast through.
The spider dropped to the ground, and the landscape changed. So fast that Bilbo couldn’t even follow the images, the forest morphed into a ledge. A tall, small ledge in the middle of nowhere with nothing around.
The fear of heights. Yes, Bilbo knew of this one. He knew this one was coming. And this time, that helped him prepare for it. He had control of the landscape.
Apparently the landscape didn’t like one of its fears not having an effect. While the land itself didn’t change, this time, the focus of the area shifted. The fear of heights had been easily conquered.
An unknown force threw Bilbo over the edge of the ledge and hurling down to the darkness below. Not knowing how far down the chasm went, Bilbo fell.
He closed his eyes. How far down was it? And… what was at the bottom? Water? Dirt? Rock? Lava? He had no way of knowing. No way of knowing what to expect or prepare for, no way of knowing how he would die.
The fear that gripped Bilbo suddenly was a different fear than most. The terror he’d experienced during the fire and the adrenaline during the spider was different from this. This was dread. This was the freezing up of his senses. This was a cold fist clutching his heart and pulling it down.
More than fire, more than spiders, more than being up high, Bilbo feared what he didn’t know. And he didn’t know a lot of things.
It didn’t matter, Bilbo reminded himself. It didn’t matter. It wasn’t even real. Not real. Not real. All he had to do to confront this fear was face it. Calm down. Breathe. What was the worst the unknown could throw at him?
Some really bad things, Bilbo argued.
But it didn’t have to be that way. Bilbo drew Sting again and clenched his teeth in determination. This he could take. Bilbo the Burglar would get through it. And with that decision, he was set free.
The blackness below him faded and the speed of his fall slowed. “What next,” Bilbo muttered, shutting his eyes.
Squinting one eye open, Bilbo took a peek at his new surroundings. Hobbiton? Yes, he was back in Hobbiton. It was a summer evening festival. What was he doing here? He wasn’t afraid of Hobbiton.
As long as the landscape was giving him a reprieve, Bilbo decided to enjoy the party. Recognizing one of the hobbits, he walked closer to the center. This would be easy. This would be fun.
“Hello, Tigerlily, Daisy,” Bilbo said with a slight bow. “Good evening, Till and Dimple.” Things weren’t going as Bilbo was expecting. None of these people were speaking to him. In fact, they all simply raised an eyebrow in disgust and moved awkwardly away. Didn’t he know them?
Bilbo didn’t understand. Wasn’t he one of the more respectable hobbits in the Shire? Why the sudden change of attitude? Now a hobbit he didn’t know approached him, and Bilbo got the impression this wasn’t going to be pleasant.
“Good evening, Bilbo Baggins,” stated the man. “If you would please find the white picket fence to your right, you will discover an exit. Very sorry, but as you have been known to conspire against the peace of Hobbiton, we have had to label you an official ‘disturber of the peace.’ Thank you for understanding. Have a good evening, sir.” With that, the man walked away.
Bilbo was shocked. A disturber of the peace? Him? But how could that be? Embarrassed, confused, and angry, Bilbo walked home. About halfway there, he stopped in his tracks.
He’d almost entirely forgotten. The simulation. This wasn’t real either. But why would the simulation go and make him a disturber of the… Wait. The simulation confronted you with your worst fears. What did that mean Bilbo feared? He hung his head in frustration with himself.
Social disgrace. He legitamately feared social disgrace. A few months ago maybe he wouldn’t have scoffed at that, but now, after meeting Thorin and Company and sleeping under the stars and seeing more of the world than he’d ever seen before, maybe things were different. Maybe he shouldn’t fear social awkwardness anymore.
With a smile on his face, Bilbo walked the rest of the way home, only to be filled with shock as he approached. The lights were on. And there were people inside. Who dared enter Bag End without his permission? Bilbo decided to do what a burglar does best… and not be seen.
Instead of walking right to the front door, Bilbo snuck around to the left side, the side with all the windows, and peeked into his sitting room. Was that—no, it couldn’t be! Surely they wouldn’t—yes, they would. With a sneaking suspicion that he knew what he was about to see, Bilbo took a peek at his large, newly painted green door. Yes, it was as he had feared.
The Sackville Bagginses had moved in. And as Bilbo had always thought they might do if they ever got hold of his house, they’d taken a large piece of wood and painted it with their name to hang on the door. It read, “Bag End, property of Lolebelia and Otho Sackville-Baggins.”
This was an outrage. An outrage! Under what authority had the Sackville-Bagginses take Bag End out from under him? If he hadn’t already been a disturber of the peace, Bilbo might have knocked on that large green door, with its new nail holes stuck over the fresh green paint.
As Bilbo stood in the dark on what should have been his own house, he noticed for the first time how much this all was affecting him. With good reason, of course, but he hadn’t expected his heart to rush off quite that quickly. Was he truly this scared of losing a house? Bilbo had never thought of it that way before, but he was. Scared of losing a house. What a thought.
Of course, this wasn’t just any house. This was Bag End, his family legacy! In the hands of the Sackville-Bagginses!
If this was only a simulation then he could do anything he wanted. Whether that door was locked or not, Bilbo could open it and face the Sackville-Bagginses. So he did.
Unlike what he’d envisioned–Otho getting up to deal with the intruder, Lolebelia screaming at the top of her lungs, there was nothing. No candles lit, no lanterns on. The house was just as Bilbo himself always kept it.
He smiled again. So the very act of opening the door had made the situation vanish. If only real life were the same.
But he wasn’t out of the simulation yet. Which meant that one more was going to take place in his very home. But his home he was surely not afraid of, surely! What did the simulation mean by it?
Even as he thought these things, time sped up. Through the window, the sun rose and set and rose and set over and over again, days, months, years passing by in only a second. Other hobbits were again coming uninvited to Bag End. But this time, for a very different reason.
An old hobbit, an old Bilbo, had been found lying dead in his bed that night, and the funeral preparations had to be done. Bilbo—the real, living Bilbo, apparently invisible in this time—was shocked. He didn’t look forward to death, this much it true, but he wasn’t really afraid of it either. Death was a natural part of life, and death in your own home, peacefully in your sleep, seemed like a good way to go.
So why was he breathing fast?
He was dropped off at the cemetery as the people of Hobbiton came to pay their respects. Of course one of his closer relatives would have to say something as well, about whatever he’d done in this version of his life. However, when a hobbit Bilbo had never seen before in his life stepped up and remained silent for a few awkwardly long seconds, Bilbo worried even more.
“Bilbo Baggins was a good, respectable hobbit. And like a good, respectable hobbit, Bilbo never had any adventures. Everyone knew exactly what he liked and how he thought.”
The hobbit continued on, but Bilbo had stopped following along. No adventures? Done nothing with his whole life? Gone nowhere, seen nothing? Just… nothing?
But it was true, wasn’t it, Bilbo thought, resting his thumb and forefinger on his nose. In all his pursuit of respectable hobbit behavior, Bilbo had forgotten to do anything. To live. He’d thought that the thirst for adventure that was close to his heart when we was a young hobbit lad had petered off and given way to respectable hobbit values, but apparently the thirst lay deeper in him than he’d feared.
And this version of Bilbo had conquered it, as the real Bilbo was always trying to do himself. Except, now that he saw it in living color, all said and done, Bilbo wasn’t so sure this really was what he wanted. Maybe he didn’t want to be respectable if it meant not seeing the world. He’d already conquered social disgrace. And how bad had it been, really?
Bilbo turned away from the solemn gathering, and walked out of the cemetery, and into the real world. Ori and Nori were on watch and Dwalin snored loudly next to him. Yep. This one was real, all right. He was on an adventure, a real adventure with a company of dwarves. He was already doing things with his life.
Bilbo had passed the simulation. Or had it all been just a simple dream?

A/N—I’m so sorry. I know this is about an hour and a half after it was supposed to be up, and it know it’s not at all the quality I would have wanted. I relied on being able to finish it last night, but when family of mine had problems, I ended up completely filling the day (and most of the night) with the unexpected. I’m very sorry.

 
 

Tags: , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: