Alice heaved a sigh and glared. "There's no sense in fighting this, I'm going to win in the end." There was only silence in response, and she sighed again. "Really? Why can't you just behave? I won't beg." More silence. Alice leaned on the gate, swinging it open and closed repeatedly. "Fine! I'm begging! Happy now?"
Alice pulled the horse cookie from her pocket and held it in her open hand, coaxing the ornery horse to follow her into the barn. The beast of a horse nickered happily at the sight of the treat and nearly ran her over in its zeal to get the treat.
It was always a bit of a fight with this particular mare to get her in at night. Alice didn't like leaving the horses out in the Maryland nights – the weather was just too unpredictable South of Pennsylvania. It took two more cookies for the mare to go properly into the correct stall – she was no fool and knew exactly how many cookies she could extract from Alice at the end of a long day – which left Alice's duties finally completed for the day.
It was with no small amount of satisfaction that she ascended the steps to her little apartment over the barn. She had to shuffle her cat delicately out of the way with her foot to get the door open – Julian wasn't really her cat; he was a barn tom on the best of days, and a freeloader on his worst, but she fed him every night and he seemed to tolerate her presence.
"Scooch, honey," she coaxed the heavy wood door open. "I can't feed us if you trip me."
Julian clearly didn't care. He raced around her ankles as she shucked her muck boots on the welcome mat, yowling his head off as he demanded to be fed right this minute or else he would starve to death in the way that only the best cats can.
Alice complied with all of the patience of a saint, managing to avoid Julian's swipes at her socked toes. "There you go, you ruffian – now leave me be."
Alice opened the one window in her little apartment to let in some of the early evening breezes. The air around the barn rumbled with far-off thunder, and Alice thanked her lucky stars that she had brought the horses inside. Nothing was worse than wrangling horses in the rain.
Opening her tiny mini-fridge was always a bit of a let-down; no faeries had come in the middle of the night and blessed her with a wealth of free groceries. She grabbed a wedge of cheese and a knife from her cutlery drawer, resolving to start eating better (tomorrow).
Alice was settling down to read a good book with her pure-dairy-dinner when she heard the first horse whinny. It was followed swiftly by two more. "What the devil…?" The sound of alarm grew terror-filled, and Alice ran for her door, pulling on her boots as swiftly as one who has seen a barn fire might.
But as she grabbed the doorknob the cries stopped – abruptly – and Alice hesitated. What the hell could that mean? As she paused, hand on the door, the thick wood rattled with a strong knock knock knock.
Alice undid the feeble bolt on her door and opened it with some trepidation.
A grizzled man stood in her doorway – no, he filled the frame. One human eye fixed on her face, and the other blazed with the bright light of a machine. It wasn't the only mechanized part of him, either. Alice gulped, taking a half-step backward. She had seen some strange things at school, but-
"Are you Alice Sigynsdottir?" the man asked gruffly.
"Can I help you?" Her hand drifted towards the aluminum bat resting next to the door.
He seemed to know she was reaching for a weapon, and his eyes narrowed. "Professor Xavier sent me."
She let her hand fall back to her side. "Is something wrong?"
"Can I come in, or do I need to explain the fate of the planet on your doorstep?" His tone fell somewhere between bemused and annoyed.
She flushed a deep scarlet. "Please come in." The large man entered her small apartment, and she realized almost instantly that he was far too large. Or she was just a small person. "It's not much, but please have a seat and I'll make you something to drink. Tea?" The man nodded.
Alice busied herself filling the kettle and setting it on her little electric cooktop. The apartment, being over the barn, couldn't have any open flames, so she had to make do with the plug-in apparatus. It did the job okay, but it took forever to boil water.
"You don't look anything like the picture Xavier showed me," The man broke the silence.
Alice nodded. "I dyed my hair black when I was at the school, though I'm sure you know why, as Xavier sent you, Mister...?" She let the question hang.
"Cable." He made an affirmative noise. "It's the only thing a healing factor can't change."
Alice's head bobbed in a beleaguered nod. "Mine isn't very strong, maybe four or five times normal human speed, but it's enough to show up positive on X-gene tests." She glanced at him and found his robotic eye unnerving enough that she had to look away. "So what's this about the fate of the planet that Xavier thinks I can help with, Mr. Cable?"
Cable didn't seem perturbed by her avoidance and continued to speak even as she fished around in a cabinet for mugs. "I need your help to stop the assassination of Captain America in 1943."
Alice stopped mid-reach for a mug. "I'm going to need you to run that by me one more time."
Arnold had always considered himself to be a detail-oriented man, and the Smithsonian Institution had seemed to agree. It was because of his attention to detail that he had been assigned as lead curator for the Captain America Exhibit, opening soon – so soon, so soon – and he was doing his last review of the materials before everything went to print.
It was important – many veterans enjoyed wandering through the old war exhibits, and if even one name was wrong he would never hear the end of it – a placard had to be beyond vetted in order to be perfect.
It was for this reason that Arnold found himself poring over a huge stack of photographs, matching faces to names. Everything had been gone over at least two dozen times, but one more look never hurt and -
The curator blinked at the photo – how did I never notice that before? It was a photo of the nurses assigned to the 107th, sharing breakfast on a fallen log early in their Western Front deployment. They seemed happy, sharing an inside joke.
Somehow, someone had missed the trace of a figure in corner of the photograph; there was the shoulder of another nurse; as if someone had gotten up from the group and just missed being included in the photo.
Arnold pulled out his magnifying glass, inspecting the figure for any trace of identification. The nurses' uniforms had the bad tendency to be under-decorated, and thus difficult to identify, and this woman was no exception. He gave the edge one more pass, and – ah hah!
Beneath her typical caduceus lapel pin, she had affixed another circular pin – smaller than a dime and far too small to make out details on her blurry shape. Odd; Arnold couldn't remember seeing it in any of the other photos. Arnold sighed deeply – now he would just have to go through the stack of photos all over again.
A/N: Hello, dear readers! This Intro chapter is more of a placeholder than anything else, and a vague introduction to our dear Alice. This story is not well fleshed out yet, with only about 3-4k words written. I have so much research to do, as I plan to base a lot of this story on the real-life history of the 107th in establishing Alice's place in the war.
EXPECT A SLOW SLOW SLOW BURN.