Chapter 24

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I woke up on the ground. For a couple moments, I thought that everything was a dream. Escaping HYDRA, finding my parents, all of it was just some crazy nightmare.
I opened my eyes to find myself in a ring of human sized bird cages. I grunted as I got up and looked around. I was startled by the thick chains that were clamped to a cuff around my wrists.
The cages in front of me were empty, but when I turned around, I saw everyone else in the cages in front of me.
Winter was directly to my left, curled in a ball, shivering.
Steve was in the next cage over, looking at me and Winter with concern.
Natasha stood directly in front of me, watching everything, her eyes flitted every which way.
Sam was next, pacing as well as he could in a circular bird cage. Ironic.
Peter was directly to my right, still asleep. He mumbled something that I couldn't make out, because he was still in his spider suit, mask and all.
They were all still in their suits, chained by their wrists and ankles. I was only chained by my wrists so that I could put up more of a fight during...
"Oh no," I slumped to the ground and my knees.
"Auriana," Steve said. "It's going to be alright. We'll get out of here."
"Oh no nononononono..." I trailed off. "They're going to make me fight."
"What?" Sam asked.
"I'm in the middle of the Ring without a cage," I whispered. "They're going to make me fight to the death."
No sooner than I said that, someone behind me shouted, "SHE'S AWAKE!"
Almost thirty guards poured into the room. This definitely woke Peter up, and he jumped so high, he grabbed onto one of the top bars and stayed there.
The guards gathered around the cages and pounded on the bars, shouting, "REMATCH REMATCH REMATCH REMATCH!"
"Rematch?" Winter yelled. "Aren't these fights always to the death?"
"You've done this before?" Steve asked incredulously.
"Why would there be a rematch?" Winter tried to talk to me, but I was too focused on my opponent.
"What?" I whispered as a girl with curly blonde hair entered the Ring. At least, Peter saw her as a girl with curly blonde hair. Everyone else saw her as the girl that we buried over a month ago.
I saw her as my best friend; my best friend that I killed.
"Clara?"
"Clara?" Peter asked, still on the top bars of his cage. "Isn't she your best friend who died before you escaped?"
"It is a rematch..."
I said her name again, a little louder this time.
"Clara?"
I put my hands up and tried to back away, but the chains attached to the floor beside me and only let me move a couple feet backwards.
She ran to me, a knife raised in her right hand.
"Clara!" I shrieked, trying to get her attention. If she heard me, she didn't show it, and she brought the knife down.
I blocked it with my metal arm and pushed her off me. Rolling off the ground, I got tangled in the chains.
She lunged again and caught me in a headlock.
"Clara!" I screamed again. She tightened the headlock. I turned myself toward her and elbowed her in the ribs with my flesh arm. I heard something crack as she let go of me.
We circled for a bit, and suddenly I heard everyone screaming again.
"REMATCH YEAAAAAH!" All the hooting and hollering was really giving me a headache.
"Clara please snap out of it."
She knocked my legs out from under me and when I hit the ground, the wind flew out of me.
And suddenly Clara was on me, her knee on my chest so that I couldn't breathe.
She tried to stab my neck, but I brought my flesh arm up to block it. I punched her head with my metal arm and stole the knife from her.
She rolled off of me and stood up again in a defensive position. Knowing I had the knife put me in power.
"She's not real, I know it's not her! I won't hesitate!" I said to my formal official. He smiled.
"Then do it. Kill her again," he smirked.
But I did hesitate.
What if this was Clara?
Before I had the chance to hesitate more, she bowled me over and wrapped one of the chains behind my neck.
   "Hail HYDRA," she whispered in my ear.
Black spots appeared in my vision, and I did what I had to do.
I pierced her throat and whipped out the knife again.
The chains loosened around my neck as she convulsed and fell off me. I took off the chain and go up, dropping the knife.
Her body twitched and shivered until it stopped moving, and once it did, everything went silent. Everyone stopped cheering, and Winter stopped screaming my name.
Blood poured out of her neck and mouth, even after she stopped jerking.
"Try again tomorrow ladies," I said, trying to sound confident.
My former official picked up her body, gave me an evil grin, and left.
Someone else barked at everybody, and they all left, not bothering to pick up the knife or clean up the blood.
   The only guard that remained was Dimitri, but he didn't even look at me, he just typed on a computer.
   It was definitely Clara. It was the way she carried herself, and the way she said, 'Hail HYDRA.' It was uncomfortable, the way she said it. That's what convinced me that it was her.
I looked down at my hands and examined the blood all over them and looked on the floor. Clara has lost a pint or two.
I was standing in a pint of my friend's blood.
Suddenly I was on the ground, unable to breathe. I heard people screaming my name, but I couldn't understand, I couldn't respond.
Eventually everything came back into focus and I sat up. I could hear people asking me if I was okay and alive.
I didn't respond, but I stood up, which basically shut them up.
After a while, Peter asked me a question.
"Auriana?"
I nodded my head to acknowledge that I heard it.
"Why did that guy tell you to kill her again? I mean that's physically impossible right? I thought you told me she already died."
I had told Peter about Clara's death. I told him that someone snapped her neck, but I didn't tell him that I was the one that did it.
"I'll let you wait until you're more emotionally stable to answer that, but I don't know."
I stayed silent for a while.
"She was killed," said softly. "But it wasn't by some random guy."
"Who did it?" Peter asked, already knowing the answer to the question. Everyone else already knew the answer to the question, because I told them back on the plane when we were first leaving the HYDRA facility a month and a half ago.
   I clenched my teeth. "I did it."
   Peter was entitled to the silence that followed. He was also entitled to the confusion in his voice.
   "How, why?"
   "It's kind of a long story," I said. "I haven't even told everyone else the whole thing."
   Sam stopped pacing. "Does it look like we're in a hurry to get places?"
   So I told them the whole story. I told them about Rivers Curtis and his family, I told them about the whole fight that led to her death. I told them everything.
   The silence that followed was expected. It wasn't the most pleasant of stories.
   "Wait but that doesn't explain how you just killed her today," Sam said.
   "Wait maybe she wasn't dead," Peter started. "Most people don't die immediately when hey break their necks, the brain just looses control of all bodily functions. It looses control of the heart valve, and they stop breathing. So basically it's the suffocation that kills them."
   "So what you're saying is that they gave her treatment right after she snapped her neck?" Sam asked.
   I shook my head. "No that's not possible. We buried her remember?"
   Sam rubbed his jaw. "Oh yeah. Are you sure that was her?"
   "What?"
   "I'm just saying that you could have been so focused on something else, that you didn't notice that it might have looked like her, but it wasn't her."
   "Well I know it wasn't a wax figure that Winter buried," I snapped.
   Then I started thinking about it, and I realized that was a good explanation for everything. They could have physically altered someone after they died and put them in the drawer.
   "Oh, god that's probably what happened," I rubbed my face with my metal hand.
   "It's alright Auriana," Steve said. "Anyone overcome with grief could make that mistake-"
   "OH MY GOD STEVE! I don't make those mistakes! I'm the Summer Soldier! I murder people and make it look like an accident, I have twelve kills that are pegged down in the charts as heart attacks! I don't make mistakes like that!"
   "I know, I know," he tried to comfort me. "But if they brought her back once, they'll bring her back again, that's HYDRA."
   My eyes widened. "What if they bring her back? What if they make me kill her over and over again until she kills me? And then you guys will have to witness that. That's the perfect form of torture!"
   That effectively ended the conversation. We sat for hours and hours until Dimitri brought us a meal, which was just rice.
   "No utensils?" I asked, keeping my voice cheerful and peppy.
   "None of your get utensils, traitor," he snarled.
   "I liked you better when you knew my name. You were nicer back then," I said.
   "I don't care, and now I realize that I never should have."
    He left and went back to his computer to type things. Whatever it was, it was long and LOUD.
   "Hey Dimitri, could you type a little louder please? I don't have a big enough headache," I called to him.
   He typed even louder which made me smile.
   "How are you so cheerful?" Peter asked. "I mean you just killed your friend for the second time, I wouldn't be so happy if I had to kill Ned twice."
   "Don't worry Peter, I'm just in shock still. I just still can't believe she's alive. Or at least was alive."
   Peter cut me off again. "I mean how is that even possible anyway? The recovery time is impossible that his point."
   "I don't know," Sam said. "It could be like a super soldier thing, like with fast healing."
   Wait.
  "Winter? How did Steve snap you out of the Winter Soldier?" I asked
   He scoffed. "It's Bucky. And I don't know. I just saw him hurt, and I was suddenly back in the 1940's."
   I picked up the knife that nobody picked up. "So you saw him hurt, and that's what made you go back to James Barnes?"
   "Yeah...," he dragged out the word.
   I examined the knife.
   "Oh no," he realized what I was thinking. "Auri don't do it, I know what you're thinking."
   "How many times have I told you not to call me Auri?" I yelled at him.
   "He's right, Auriana," Steve said. "It's not a good plan."
   "Well I don't see any of you coming up with anything better," I snapped. "If anyone comes up with a better plan, I'm happy to hear it."
   "Auriana I'm ordering you not to do this," Steve commanded.
   "Well you're not the leader of this mission are you Steve?" I asked. "I'm ordering you to come up with a batter plan."
   I turned back around, slipping the knife into my pocket.
   She would come back. If I knew anything about HYDRA, they would make her come back.
  

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