A stead beeping is the first thing Talia hears when she wakes up. The first thing she smells is the sterile environment. 'No!' her brain screams. 'No!'
Her eyes shoot open, meeting bright lights and a white ceiling. She sits up suddenly, moaning at the pain in her shoulder. Gritting her teeth through the pain, she pulls her legs over the side of the bed. The beeping is getting louder but she ignores it. 'Get Elena. Get Zuko. Get out!' Her brain is screaming at her.
"Whoa," a loud masculine voice comes from the doorway. Captain America is standing there in civilian clothes: a dark leather jacket and blue jeans. He almost looks like he just stepped out of a catalogue. Elena is sleeping against his shoulder, covered in a jacket that looks suspiciously like the Black Widow's. "Kid, calm down. Everything is fine. You're safe here."
"I can't do this," Talia motions to the monitors and machines. "It's too much like…" The young woman trails off, swallowing the lump of fear in her throat.
"Okay," the man puts a calloused hand on her shoulder. "Trust me, I understand what you're going through. It was hard for me when I woke up in the 21st century. You're just getting flashbacks to the place you escaped from."
She swallows and nods. "Where's Zuko?"
"Who?" the hero looks at her in confusion. A snort of smoke emanates from the corner of the room. "Oh, the dragon." His eyes glitter with laughter. "Where'd you get that name?"
"It's the name of a character from a super old TV show Elena found one night. She wanted to name her dragon, and I quote, 'for the man that spits fire.'" Captain America laughs, his whole body shaking.
"So, how'd you come to be in my apartment," he questions while he takes a seat. "I didn't leave any of the windows open. And the security system was armed."
"I…um," she bites her lip, "I might have disarmed the system." She wiggles her fingers at the man. "There are the only tools I need."
Captain America lets out a bark of laughter, shaking his head, and Talia smiles. Maybe if she makes him laugh more, the tests they put her through might not be so harsh. Elena wiggles at the noise, but doesn't wake up.
"So, how'd you get your wings?" the hero asks, motioning to the dirt covered wings on her back. "They're like no bird I've ever seen before."
"I'm the only experiment that survived the Predator Project." She sits up and fiddles with the thin cloth blanket. "All of the others died during our fifth year of testing. The scientist say it was because of my genes." Talia rubs her wings nodes, feeling almost stretched. "My shoulder still hurts but, thanks to the serum, I can heal a bit faster and last a bit longer in combat."
"What kind of serum?" the red, white, and blue hero asks, tilting his head to the side.
"They did it to me when I was a baby, before even," she gestures with her hand to show how small she was. "Put it into my DNA when I was just a fertile egg. Put all the best parts of different predators, but the wings stuck." Talia lifts one wing. "I've got senses like you wouldn't believe. Not sure if Elena's got the same, but she got the wings." Tears fill her eyes as she looks at the little girl in Captain America's arms. "She just started branching."
The hero shoots her a confused look, but before he can respond, the Black Widow walks into the room. "Rogers, they need you downstairs for debriefing," her voice is stern, eyes hard. The Captain nods and, shooting a reassuring look at Talia, takes Elena with him.
"So," Talia looks up at her idol, who looks about ready to kill her, "are you the one who's gonna give me the tests?"
The Widow's eyes soften slightly as she comes to sit beside the young woman. "Look, I know it's hard to trust SHIELD, and us, after all that's happened to you." She sighs. "But we need more info about who and what you are."
The door opens and a man in a purple short and khaki pants. Talia stiffens when she sees that he's wheeling a tray with needs and tubes and everything the redhead fears. Seeing her wide eyes, the man holds up his hands to placate her; "don't worry." His voice is calm, but her inner predator is shaking in fear. There's something, a beat under this man's skin.
"Stay away!" Talia presses her body against the headboard, scrambling to keep her distance.
"Bruce just wants to get you into the system so that we'll have a health chart to compare too when you become a part of our organization." She gestures to the door. "Elena is getting her vitals taken downstairs right now."
Talia's heart is beating against her ribcage like a trapped bird. "You can't do this…. Please!" The whole situation makes her think of the Facility of, of the cruelty that has been her life for the past eighteen years.
"Please, no more," Experiment 139 cries as she exits the maze yet again. Her wings are bound tightly to her back, the only thing covering her is a dirty hospital gown. Her hair sticks to her grimy and sweaty body. Her bare feet hurt from the blisters and welts from the burning wire floor.
"Just one more test," a brown-eyed scientist tells her. "You've been doing beautifully, but you're timing on the last one was a little slow. So we need to do it again."
"But… I can't!" she pants, wincing as a female scientists takes her blood. There's someone on her other side listening to her heartbeat. "Please, can hear her crying." She's acutely aware of the fact that her daughter, at only six months old, is desperate for her mother. Experiment 139's breasts are heavy with milk, making her wish this torture could be over.
"Just one more test," the same scientist reiterates, reminding her of a robot. He gives her a cup filled with nasty smelling fluids, but it makes her body hum with false energy, because it's filled with electrolytes and adrenaline. They give her five minutes between drinking and starting the maze again; it's just enough time for the chemicals to kick in.
There's the loud noise as the maze shifts, creating new passageways and hidden walls for her to get through. Once each walls clicks into place, Experiment 139 is pushed into the maze.
The young woman screams as the metal plates beneath her feet heat up. This testing that they're doing is it see how long, and how high, she can jump without the use of her wings. Inside the testing room, time is measured in the number of tortures they've tested her on. Each testing period ends, only for another to begin after a cycle of rest. Day and night don't exist within the Facility.
"Please…" she pants as her wings strain against their bonds. She jumps again, almost hitting the electric net over the maze. "I can't…" Black dots dance across her vision as her muscles strain. "Please…" Tears stream down her cheeks, sizzling as they hit the heated floor.
Experiment 139 can hear the cries of her daughter, can see the metaphorical light at the end of the tunnel. The end of the maze is right there, and so is the scientist holding her daughter… but her legs give out from under her, the heated floor panels burning her skin, making her scream in pain.
"You must complete the test," a robotic voice screeches somewhere in front of her. The Experiment screams again, the pain too much. "You must complete the test."
"Please, the Experiment 139 whispers as the darkness surrounds her, the last thing she hears is the sound of her daughter's cries.