Chapter 1

Andrea Destler woke with a start, her eyes bolting open immediately. Looking up at the ceiling, she saw white and bright lights. Panicking, she tried to sit up but found her wrists and ankle bound to the small, steel-framed bed she was lying on. Her heartbeat pounded in her ears as she made to let out a scream but no sound would escape her lips. Instead she froze, listening intently for any sight of danger.

A few moments passed before she heard footsteps in the distance. As soon as she did, she started tugging at her restraints, trying desperately to pull her hands out from her bonds with no luck. Quickly she turned her head to see if anyone had entered the room but found no-one, the footsteps still approaching. Sweat dotted her brow as she struggled painfully against the leather holding her in place. Then she heard a series of beeps, like someone entering a code, and she froze dead, terrified about what was about to happen. She heard a door open and footsteps starting to walk towards her before they stopped suddenly and she felt her breathing speed up painfully so. Then she heard running and soon she saw a man with greying black hair and glasses standing over her.

"My name is Doctor Bruce Banner. I'm not going to hurt you. What's your name?" Andrea made to respond but her throat was so dry that all she could manage was a short squeak. She looked up at him scared, his calming words doing nothing to make her feel any safer, especially as she was still restrained. He picked up on this and looked down at her wrists and ankles, a slight gasp escaping his lips. Immediately he ran out of her line of vision and she heard him talking into an intercom. "Stark! What's the code for the restraints? Why do I want to know? Because someone decided to lock her into them, that's why! 3-1-6-9, good."

Then he came back and stood near her feet. He smiled at her shyly and typed the code into a small panel on the side of the bed. Immediately after, she felt the leather around her extremities loosen and she pulled herself out of them quickly, pulling her knees up to her chest and trying to get as far away from the doctor as possible. He smiled apologetically.

"I didn't want you restrained. It does little to gain someone's trust. Again, what's your name?"

A little of her confidence returning, she managed to speak. "Andrea Destler."

"Okay, Andrea," he said, standing close enough to her that she was aware of him but no so close as to scare her. "Do you know where you are?"

"No."

"You're in the labs in Stark Towers, New York. Do you know how you got here?"

"No." She looked down at her kneecaps and pulled the hospital gown she was now wearing littler closer to her. Bruce noticed this as well.

"JARVIS?"

"Yes, Dr Banner?" On hearing the voice come from nowhere, Andrea let out a little shriek and shrunk a little further down into the bed. Bruce cursed himself internally for his mistake. It was hard enough for him to adjust to JARVIS; she would feel far worse about it.

"JARVIS is a voice interface and master computer. He's harmless," he said comfortingly. She nodded a little and loosened her arms around her legs. He addressed the computer again. "Have Natasha bring down some of her clothes for Andrea."

"Right away, sir." The accent made everything sound proper and Andrea couldn't help a small giggle escaping her lips. The doctor turned to her, confused, and she realised how odd she sounded. Quickly she tried to pull herself together as he questioned her again.

"Do you know why you're here?" The second that question was asked, her mind flashed her images of the man with cruel, green eyes leering at her, standing over her, touching her. She wanted to throw up but there was nothing in her stomach. Bruce noticed her anxiety and went to stand closer to her.

"You're safe here." He looked up at him and he smiled weakly. She tried to return the gesture but couldn't seem to move her face. Instead she resigned to looking back at her knees. It was then that she heard a code being entered and the door opening again. She turned quickly to see a shapely woman with short, fire-engine red hair walking in, holding a small pile of clothes. Andrea shied away but the woman smiled kindly.

"Andrea, this is Natasha." Andrea could only manage a nod of acknowledgement as Natasha laid the clothes down on the end of the bed. Looking at them, she saw a pair of black sweatpants and a plain, grey t-shirt. Without any real concern for her modestly she took off her gown and shrugged them on. Bruce had turned his back but Natasha stayed just where she was. When she was dressed, Natasha poked Bruce lightly on the shoulder and he turned around again, a slight blush on his cheeks. Feeling slightly more comfortable with these people, who seemed kind enough, she sat up, crossing her legs in front of her. Natasha sat down on the end of the bed and Bruce stood awkwardly beside her. It seemed it was Natasha's turn for questioning and she started easy.

"What's your name?"

"Andrea Destler."

"Do you understand why we brought you here?"

"No," Andrea answered honestly, looking down at her lap. Natasha looked to Bruce who just shook his head, refusing to be the bearer of bad news. The red-head let out a sigh.

"Yesterday we pulled you out of an old office block after we found out you were with the man we were tracking. You were exposed to a…substance for which we have no understanding of the effects. We need to keep you here for surveillance until we do."

"What substance?" Andrea asked, a lump rising in her throat; she was fairly certain she knew the answer. Natasha and Bruce exchanged glances briefly.

"Can you tell us what happened to you?" Natasha threw the question at her in an attempt to distract that worked remarkably well; she was after all a queen of manipulation. Andrea looked down at herself and fiddled with the edge of her shirt before looking back up at them, her eyes glazed over slightly. She took a deep breath before starting.

"I was on my way to…work-"

"Where do you work?" Natasha interrupted.

"Stark Industries in one of the smaller buildings in DC but I was sent here for a specialist project. I was about a block away when someone grabbed my arm and turned me around. He was tall with longish, black hair, and he was wearing strange clothes; all leather and metal. He turned me and was staring at me. I tried to pull away from him but he wouldn't let me, just gripping my wrist tighter." Andrea looked down at her wrist where a bruise now stood black and blue against her skin. She rubbed it gently.

"Then he pulled me into a side street and I was yelling and screaming but it was like my voice was just carried away in the wind. People were walking past just a few metres away and not one of them turned to look. Then he touched my chest with this…this spear thing and it was like I wasn't in control of my own head anymore. He turned and walked down the street and I…I followed him. I don't know why, but I did.

"He led me to this old building and opened the door for me. I walked in and there were all these guards, different sizes, ages and ethnicities but they all had blue eyes. Glowing blue eyes. The man nodded to them and walked into a room behind them all and I followed. But as soon as I was in the room…he pushed me against the wall and I hit my head.

"The next thing I remember I was back in my own mind, but I was naked and lying on the floor of a white, tiled room. I couldn't get up because my head was throbbing but I looked around. Before I could really find anything he appeared. I don't mean he walked in but he just appeared, out of thin air; and was grinning like a madman."

"Did he say anything to you?" Natasha watched as Andrea nodded slightly.

"He said, 'You bear the exact likeness of Sigyn'." At this, Natasha and Bruce both looked at each other anxiously before urging Andrea to continue. "I tried to back away from him but before I could he grabbed me around the throat, pinning me to the floor with his knee on my stomach. I could hear him muttering something that sounded like jibberish. He raised his other hand in the air and a syringe materialised in it. He released his hold on my throat but kept his knee on me. He took the syringe and stabbed himself in the inner elbow, pulling back on the lever. His blood was blue.

"Then, he pulled it out and turned back to me, a grin on his face. I was terrified. I tried to scream but he put his hand back around my throat. He held the syringe above me when he heard something and he turned to look. I tried to get out from beneath him but before I could, he stabbed me with the syringe in my thigh, pressing down on the lever. He blood felt like ice in my body and he let go of me completely, standing and leaving. I screamed and yelled but no-one seemed to hear me. It was just after that my head started to feel like it was splitting and I lost consciousness again. The next time I woke up I was here."

Bruce and Natasha had listened to her story intently, occasionally giving each other looks. Confidence waning, she couldn't help but ask, "Do you think I'm crazy?"

"No." Natasha walked forward and put an arm around Andrea's shoulders, pulling her to her feet and starting to take her upstairs. Andrea was about to ask but Bruce did it for her. "Where are you taking her?"

"To talk to the rest of the team," Natasha said as she opened the door. "They need to hear this."