Disclaimer: I do not own Avengers
Warning: Avengers AU
Alternative storylines/plot, Alive!Pietro, Neutral/Good! Loki, Neutral/Good!Ultron
Chapter 1: Idealism At Its Worst
"Those who teach us the most about humanity aren't always human."
- Donald Hicks
Baron Wolfgang Von Strucker was always known for being a pragmatic idealist whenever the matter involved his views about the enhancement of the future, or specifically, Hydra itself. It had been so for the last decades or so, or for as long as he had been a part of the organization which provided him with a purpose. Even his valuable Dr. List knew as much but was even more aware of how standing as an obstacle between his leader's ambitions would solely result in his ultimate annihilation and nothing less. As such, he made sure to stay perfectly clear of his goals without unnecessary interference unless it involved the well-being if their investments.
To think that something as great and sophisticated as Hydra once stemmed from such a meek and subservient organization as S.H.I.E.L.D. was hard to believe, especially for whoever had served them long enough to view them as kings of the coming world. There was a significant difference between Hydra and S.H.I.E.L.D., however, which became the ultimate reason why they split up in the first place. Whereas S.H.I.E.L.D wanted to protect the world and make peace with whatever damned creature and abomination that wanted to join their cause, Hydra's objective went even further than that. They wanted to take advantage of the opportunities they were given to the fullest potential, going as far as to induce domination over every existing being in their world and more. Killing few in order to evolve many was part of their method for survival and progression. Nothing was taken for granted.
That's when the organization took in an equally idealistic but effective young professor who would become the apprentice to Dr. List. A man that showed potential in joining the cause of Hydra with an almost blind loyalty to the organization. A prodigious Sokovian citizen by the name of Wilhelm Jeraslovik, who, already during his first day, revealed himself to be exceptionally bright and intelligent even on Dr. List's level, if not beyond. The man was an experienced astrophysicist and doctor but wanted to go further and make himself of sufficient use to the rest of the world as well, not just an insignificant amount of people. He wanted to become better, and better he became.
Years passed and Jeraslovik served as an excellent addition to Hydra, already standing on top of the most other doctors in the organization. His work was brilliant, that of a true genius, and he knew that himself all-too-well. He was not in need of being told that by anyone, not even his own wife, whom he barely seemed to pay any attention towards. The Baron found his presence to be required if anything involving their experiments was supposed to go well. The doctor always knew what he was doing, even without the guidance of his initial mentor, who eventually became nothing more but a fellow doctor on the laboratories.
Then came the day where they were finally able to retrieve specimens from the Battle of New York, and their experiments evolved beyond that level they had initially thought were impossible or highly unlikely. With the aid of those, and the technology they were granted from what they had been able to retrieve, their weapons increased drastically in efficiency and it didn't take them long to exploit the opportunities to the last inch of the straw. The thought of how pacifistic S.H.I.E.L.D. had been as to let these chances pass them by were not plausible. Jeraslovik expressed distaste for their former associates by how unmotivated they were about evolving the future.
Then came the Scepter, the brink of their strength. Jeraslovik became, mildly said, fanatically obsessed over the new device as if it was his own offspring. He would stay up days and days on end studying it and figuring out every ounce of knowledge the object could provide him with which wouldn't risk his life. After some time, and numerous of experiments, he became the source of the conclusion that living creatures could be exposed to the powers the Scepter withheld and absorb its potential energy to their own advantages. That was how the experiments were initially utilized, and that became how their ultimate weapons were created. They had reached a new point in evolution, as the Baron preferred to address it as. A New Age. Their age. The Age of Hydra.
They began to conduct experiments on willing human specimen who wished either to become stronger, either out of pure self-centeredness or because they had their own plans on how to use the powers they were granted by the Scepter. Hydra wasn't foolish enough to allow them to walk freely amongst civilization if they succeeded, as they could pose as threats if that was to happen, but simultaneously fortunately and unfortunately for them, none made it out alive with the exception of two. Whereas the rest of their human subjects were proclaimed deceased due to the lack of survival odds against the inhumane forces they were exposed towards, there were two that did not allow the mistress of Death to claim their lives so easily.
The Twins. Wanda and Pietro Maximoff.
Baron Strucker had personally met these individuals and had to admit that he found their determination and the unbreakable will to be admirable. This, perhaps, became the essential instinct which kept them alive in the first place. After all, based on what he knew about them from the start, their experiments were not the first ordeals the twins had to succumb to and survived. That made them the ideal candidates. Miss Maximoff had gained a range of unique abilities, all of which would serve to Hydra's objective, whereas her brother had gained the advantage of unlimited speed and the incapability of being stopped by anything when engaging in the velocity. However, they were both unstable after the conducted experiments were deemed successful, and thus had to be temporarily contained afterward.
Although the Baron had viewed this as a favorable outcome on Hydra's account, he was vaguely surprised to see that the young doctor Jeraslovik appeared to be dissatisfied with the results the Scepter had provided them with. When confronted with this dissatisfaction by Dr. List, Jeraslovik expressed his disgust and stated that the twins were but cheap drafts of the real perspective and that Hydra was able to get further ahead. The man was close to mental at this point, but he did have his reasons for being so, and the Baron agreed to some degree with his proposal. Jeraslovik said that he would come up with a plan to ensure the future wholly with something standing superior to the twins in every way.
The Baron agreed to this idea and allowed the man to continue his research whereas he himself continued to observe the twins' capabilities as followed. He was satisfied on his own account, but what happened nearly a year after the young doctor had announced his plan to him, Jeraslovik finally presented Strucker with something he never foresaw in a thousand years: A child. An infant girl that had just escaped her mother's womb, still coated in blood and screaming to the point where it physically ached Strucker's ears.
He did not understand the meaning of this and demanded an explanation as to why Jeraslovik had presented him with such. Jeraslovik had wrapped the child in a meek blanket, not nearly enough to ensure the warmth the infant needed and he was smiling as if he had just uncovered the most valuable source of beneficial outcome in a millennium. The Baron could see it clearly on his face that day, a man with a lack of sanity but with a mind of unequaled intellect. A dagger pointed at both ends, shedding the blood of both its opponent and its wielder.
Jeraslovik proposed the idea that if they exposed a newly-developed child to the Scepter's powers, it would manifest much sooner and grow at the same pace as the vessel. The man confirmed that it was, indeed, his own child he was presenting the Baron with. The mother of the child did not survive past the delivery and died shortly after the child was out, but he acted nonchalant about her demise and did not even as much mention a name. It did not matter either way. He seemed frantic about the idea, eyes bloodshot due to the deprivation of sleep and skin as pale as the moonlight itself.
Wolfgang Von Strucker had a child of his own, a young boy that stayed with his mother far away from his father's work, and despite his ambitions, Strucker did have his own morals which he chose to abide by. It involved keeping children out of their conflicts if they could avoid it, but the young doctor's words had somehow intrigued him to look past that sentimental edict and look at the bigger picture. If what Jeraslovik had said was true, that they would somehow be able to grasp the greater power through the likes of a child, then they would go further beyond what they initially pictured themselves. The twins were, indeed, drafts, albeit valuable. But this could be the key to a true insight of the future.
Through a various range of experiments and procedures, they were successfully able to ensure the infant's survival through the exposure to the Scepter and the child made it out alive. The possibility of such a small creature making it when well-grown adults did not seemed absurd, but fate proved them wrong once more before they drew their firm conclusions over the matter. It took some time before the powers developed, but as soon as the girl was able to stand on her own two legs, they accompanied that self-developed skill. Like always, Jeraslovik grew obsessed with the idea of his own flesh and blood becoming the very Eve of their New Age, and it went much further than unhealthy, but as long as he remained efficient to the cause, Strucker did not complain.
The child was cared for by a woman named Nathalia during the first six years, but only to ensure that the child developed her expected skills such as coherent speech and minimal understanding of the world around her. However, the length of her 'world' was limited to the base of Hydra and not an inch further. If they were to keep her there, they would have to make sure that she remained oblivious towards the outside world until the day she was to finally faced and fulfill the purpose of which they had selected for her.
However, things became problematic and the caretaker became too attached to the child, much more than they would have preferred it to remain. She went as far as to try and take her away from there, but they were able to catch her before she managed to get out. She screamed at them as they dragged her away, calling them monsters and saying that they were nothing more but bastards wearing the skins of people. Quite melodramatic and amusing, but no less inconvenient and they made sure that she was silenced properly. They feared that this change of events had somehow affected the child, their child, but fortunately for them, she was too young to grasp the situation and remained the same naive child she always was, much to their relief.
After that, no caretaker was assigned to the child. She would stay in the cell which they had provided her with, the same cell she had been held captive in since the day she survived the exposure of the Scepter. Those four walls were the ones she had grown up within, and it was inhabited by little but a firm yet tolerable bed and a couple of toys to ease her curiosity. They deemed that she wasn't in need of becoming literate, as it would serve her no advantage of which they could think of, and she would be served three mealtimes a day and occasional showers to keep her hygiene in check.
When Nathalia had been removed, Jeraslovik presented himself personally to the child for the first time since infancy, introducing himself as a friendly man who would take care of her. In reality, he exploited these moments to gain her trust and secure her loyalty to him. A child was so much easier to convince than older humans were, and this provided him with the ideal opportunity to test her abilities for himself. Not long enough, she came to view him as a parental figure, a dependant associate in her life. The kind of father all fathers should be, and the best part was that Jeraslovik knew it.
They started to test her limitations, exposing her to further experiments as she came of age. They were painful and more than often caused her to scream in agony, but it wasn't anything she wouldn't do for her father. They witnessed that, true to the doctor's prediction, the child was capable of going beyond the twins. Her speed remained that of an ordinary child, but her mind became exceptionally well-adept to the circumstances. She had reaped more of the Scepter's powers than they initially believed to be possible for a child, let alone a human being.
However, she became emotionally withdrawn, silent, unresponsive to anyone but her father. Her existence was entirely dependent on him for support. Without him, she would've gone mad a long time ago. Her sanity was limited to the confined space she called her home, but with the help of Jeraslovik's intervention, they were able to keep her from falling in the debris of her own mind. The Scepter and all of the procedures they had gone through with her had been demanding and far from painless, even more so than the twins had endured. No pain, no gain, that was a saying which ultimately made sense.
A few more years passed and whereas the twins remained at the same strength they had always been at without increasing or decreasing in any way, the child, as always, proved herself to be a personified version of a miracle. Her powers excelled drastically over time, and at one point, she proved that she could take down the entire base if she wanted to, but due to her affection towards her father, she followed his orders without rebelling against him even once. The Baron was pleased with this outcome, more than he thought he would be, and as such granted Jeraslovik privileges, even to some things not even Dr. List had access to.
"I am pleased with her progress," said Strucker as he and doctor Jeraslovik roamed the halls of the base, remaining unaffected by the faint echoes and sounds coming from the distance. Some were human, some were otherwise.
His companion smiled slyly and nodded. "So am I," he said, growing increasingly arrogant over his achievements. Strucker noticed but said nothing as they went down the corridor and continued with their conversation like a pair of friends who had just watched the game together. The sensation was an odd one, but nonetheless, one that could easily be compared to the circumstances. "Have you planned anything for the twins?" Jeraslovik pronounced their designation like bitter cyanide caught in his throat.
Strucker raised an eyebrow to the side without turning his head to face his companion. "I don't necessarily understand your contempt against them," he said. "They've proven useful thus far, so I don't see why the hostility is needed."
"They're peasants compared to the Queen." he continued, hands held together as if he was praying to God. "Their usefulness will expire."
"So will your precious child," Strucker countered, noting the stiffened breathing coming from Jeraslovik at the mention of this.
"I will not allow it."
"What if you cannot interfere?"
"I can and I will," Jeraslovik said, a note of firmness unrivaled by none other than Strucker himself. "She's practically a goddess."
"She's fourteen if her powers are dependent on her age. She's not fully developed yet."
"Which is why we will continue until she does," said Jeraslovik, regaining his equanimity and keeping his pace up, albeit at an equal level of his associate, and made sure as to not lose grasp on his composure again. His face was weary and looked old for his age, the happier he became the less he could see (though there was no reason for him to announce that he was by any means blind). He had a different perspective than the others he knew possessed, more open-minded, more ambitious. It served to his cause as much as aspirin served as a painkiller to sick patients at a hospital.
It had already been fourteen years since the project of reaping the Scepter of its whole range of powers was initialized, and it had been fourteen equally long years since the birth of his one and only offspring. Wilhelm always understood he was meant for greatness, but whether it was through direct or indirect means remained to be seen. Thus far, he had achieved most on his own, but he owed some of it to the girl. Despite the fact that she grew closer and closer to adolescence as the years flew them by little by little, she had never had her menstrual cycle and thus confirmed that the experiments had, indeed, rendered her infertile. A shame, as it could have provided them with further research as to how a potential child of hers could gain equal, if not stronger, capabilities, but it was nonetheless of no concern to him. As long as he had her, alive and tolerable stable, it mattered not.
"Are there any thoughts on what we are supposed to once she reaches maturity?" Asked the Baron gravely, sharpening a look his way.
Wilhelm shook his head dismissively. "I'm her father, hence she listens to me. She's an obedient child so I wouldn't worry too much." Narcissism and pride over his own abilities crept up at his tone like a serpentine devil behind God's ear. Few people would pay it any mind, but Strucker knew better than most what it meant to keep a tight leash around his subordinates throats if their recklessness outgrew his patience and tolerance.
"Even the devil betrayed God in the end." Was all he replied with, allowing the silence to conquer the atmosphere once again.
Tap... Tap... Tap...
Tap... Tap... Tap...
Tap... Tap... Tap... CLONK!
She froze in her position, her knees were pushed up against her chest, the silence rendered her again. Her eyes glowered with an illuminating color as she eyed the toys sharply in front of her. They were levitating above the floor, keeping themselves at the same height as her eyes, just floating there. It wasn't much to keep her focus intact, but it entertained her as it simultaneously kept her fixation in check. One of the toys had crashed down to the floor, breaking into numerous pieces from such an insignificant height. She must've forced it down with much vicious pressure than she intended to.
It didn't surprise her, not really. Her father always said she was much stronger than the others were, and that she was in that room because there were people from the outside who wanted to take her away unless they kept her contained there. She trusted him, more than she would later understand that she ought to.
Her eyes fell on the broken pieces on the floor, and without conjuring much effort, all of them started to float again and, one by one, pieced themselves together until it looked exactly like how it had been before it broke.
The door leading into the room suddenly opened and all of the cubes fell down again in surprise, though they didn't break like the first one had. A man stepped inside, one she recognized all-too-well, and a smile formed itself on her face as she got up and approached him. "Father,"
He smiled back at her and closed the door behind him. "Good to see you, dear," he said soothingly, though with a somewhat ominous tone at the back of his throat. He was carrying a plate of good-looking food in his left hand, and the scent caused saliva to gather itself up in her mouth. Her usual meals consisted of bland foods which rarely had the privileges of significant taste, occasionally sweet or salt, but this looked like a haven of all sorts of distinguishable flavors. She stood up from the floor and walked over to him, a humble smile spread across her lips.
"Father," she greeted meekly, standing up from the floor as he slowly approached her.
He placed the tray down on the table next to him and noticed the scattered toys on her floor, the ones she had previously levitated. "Have you been exercising?" he asked her gently, but something in his words exposed their true intentions. It was a demand, one she knew better than to deny. He was her father, after all, and she was pretty much obligated to reply earnestly if she wanted to stay on his good side. She didn't want to make him angry, not at all, and a shiver went up to her spine at the thought of what he would do if she showed reluctance to oblige to his wishes.
She swallowed and answered slowly, "Yes."
He nodded with contentment and placed a firm hand on top of her head, slightly forcing her to face her bare feet, "That's good,"
She refrained from flinching from his touch. It was unnerving, but she knew better than to say so out loud. She didn't want to anger him. She loved him, and she didn't want to make him angry. She didn't want to. She couldn't. As soon as he took his hand off her, she took a humble step back and looked up at him with curious eyes before they landed on the food on the plate with hunger. "What's that?" she asked.
"You'll need your strength for our next test," her father said. "We want you to meet someone."
"Someone else?" she tilted her head to the side. "Who?"
"You'll see," he gestured to the food. "Eat up. We'll leave in an hour."
Wilhelm did have his doubts to begin with, but upon watching her wolf down the food he had brought her like an animal starved of sustenance, he knew that there was nothing to fear when it came to the range of her capabilities. She would stand above them like a boot over ants, and he would stand witness to it like the proud God he was. She was the Eve of his evolution, and even though the twins had been created prior to her, they were nothing more than Cain and Abel in the face of their God, though he would have to prefer Ms. Maximoff above her brother. Speed wasn't worth much if it could be conquered by the mind.
As soon as his precious little doll had finished eating her meal, they exited the confined space and headed down the base towards a room which was solely dedicated to enhanced humans such as herself. He had proposed to the Baron about it, and true enough, he had seen the potential in creating a place where they could compete against each other, test their strengths and successfully manage to awaken the bloodlust they knew ever human possessed inside of them. What Hydra needed weren't pacifistic, benevolent fools who believed in the gospel of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.
They needed ruthless killing machines.
The room was more like an arena than anything, decorated with the Hydra insignia and with all the necessary tools and weapons, not that neither the twins nor his precious doll would require either part. The twins were already there by the time they arrived, as was Strucker himself. Wilhelm smirked to himself as he imagined what kind of state the twins would be in by the time they were finished there. Things would get interesting indeed.