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A Lovely Bones Earth-206 Miniseries
Episode 3. Demons in the Black Forest
It’s been some time since their team’s excursion to Wakanda. He has been told that it is now the summer of 1942, and the weather in Europe certainly feels like summer. At first, if you told him that only days, even mere hours had passed since then, Steve Rogers would have more readily believed it. A palpable thrill had carried Steve through the early days of their time in war, until he crashed into a figurative wall, and time began to drag on. All the training with his new shield went by so quickly, only for it to remain a prop for the time being. With each time he stands on stage for British and American soldiers and punches a man made up like Hitler in the face, he grows ever more restless. He knows that it is only a matter of time before the warnings of the doctor who transformed come to fruition and this wicked cabal called Hydra strikes on behalf of its masters. He also doesn’t believe that a warmonger becomes a more beneficial presence equipped with his own armor and weaponry. This feels especially true for as long as their morale tour continues without any fieldwork. If a shield is unnecessary in this service, this so-called Iron Man suit is unnecessary a thousandfold.
Captain America is not the only restless one. One man yearns for the feeling of bone cracking beneath his knuckles. One woman craves the thrill of seductive, deadly espionage. Namor and Natasha are bound by two sentiments: fear for the people they have left behind, whether they be caught in endless battles on snowy fields or face submersible intrusion in an undersea kingdom, and a pulsating disdain for the flashy costumes and cheesy mantras that define the Liberty Legion’s first months of service. It is perhaps not surprising that the two foreigners quickly found themselves in each other’s beds, and when their late-night clandestine exploits bring them into crossed paths with Steve and Bucky, a mutual vow of secrecy is formed. Being bound together in secrecy soon transforms parallel midnight trysts into quiet four-person conversations at the dead of night. Bucky has to politely resist his curiosity about Namor’s city and people, and Steve and Nat likewise avoid talking politics, but a certain shaky camaraderie begins to take hold as four weary, impatient soldiers endeavor to pass their time in suitable manner.
“I’ve loved Kate since we were kids but I have absolutely no clue what she sees in that strung out gym rat mentor of hers…”
“Fury and Carter try so desperately hard to treat me like everyone else, but there’s just this unspoken underlying tension I just can’t seem to place…oh yes, they only scrapped their six different ways to assassinate Stalin because of Hitler’s little stunt. Are they right not to trust me? Of course! Still stings a little though…”
“They named me the Sub-Mariner, for their pretty little propaganda shows, and yet we consistently deploy to land-locked battlefields! I can do so much more than fistfight on dry land in the dead of night! Fury and Carter have no sense in their sun-cooked surface-dweller skulls!”
After weeks of this quiet dissent, word comes through the barracks that they will next be covertly deploying into southwestern Germany, escorted by Allied forces through a staked out chunk of quaint countryside within the Black Forest in search of civilians in need of emergency evacuation. On this day the bellowing joyous laughter that echoes through the Liberty Legion’s halls is so great that it drowns out Namor’s bitter grousing. He insists that he’ll remain at camp back in England until Fury and Carter know how to deploy him properly, and this is accepted with little fuss from his comrades and commanding officers alike. Howard is held back as well, unwillingly, due to the bombast of his new suit.
Steve, Bucky, Natasha, Kate, Peggy, and Clint board their plane as they steel themselves for their first real action in months. The plane flies low throughout their journey, sticking to the clouds and other obscuring elements as much as possible, unwilling to risk being shot down in enemy territory. This precaution is undermined by a couple of near-misses that crop up anyway, anti-aircraft guns recklessly and loudly spraying at the slightest noise above. Despite these dangers, no one hesitates for even a moment about serving in Germany. Never mind their ever-heightening impatience with USO work, each and every one of them knows a simple fact, as Erskine had said so many months ago: the first nation the Nazis invaded was their own. Among the Germans’ own number there are the vulnerable that need to be brought to safety, and these men and women are proud to provide it as much as they can. At last they land in Switzerland and continue the rest of their trip on foot through the valley, following the High Rhine river into the fields and forest at a reclusive piece of the Southwestern tip of Germany. Their covert approach towards the nearest town within the Black Forest went awry quickly.
These next few moments went by so quickly that the order of events remains difficult to discern. Did they hear the yelps of pain first, or the angry and frightened shouts? These exclamations converge into one terrible harmony that reaches the Liberty Legion and immediately draws them into the quaint village and directly to its town square. Few stand around in the various stalls and shops nearby, everyone either hidden away or engaged in this disturbing action at the town’s center. These villagers were howling in rage as they kicked at a young woman on the ground, whose cries for help were ringing out far past the assailants that obscured her visage. They screamed that the demons have plagued them for far too long and they must be destroyed. Instinctually, Steve charges ahead, gently but firmly shoving those townspeople aside and lifting the girl in his arms, taking her all the way back to the Legion before finally looking her over. As the villagers demand that he return her or slay her himself, Steve and his comrades alike find themselves struck by the young woman’s very unique appearance.
There was a hint of yellow in the girl’s dark brown eyes. Her hair was black and curly, and it wasn’t cut short and turned up like Peggy’s, instead wild and free and frizzy. Her ears came to a sharp point at the top, her long and slender fingers counting out to only three on each hand, and all over her body, her skin was a shade of cool blue. Most strikingly of all…there was most definitely a tail, several feet in length, poking out from her dress and ending in a sharp point. The woman speaks in a frantic German, which Steve doesn’t strictly understand but he grasps her tone enough to promptly put her down. At this moment the woman surprises the Legion for the second time, vanishing before their very eyes in a burst of black smoke, while they still haven’t even truly had the time to register her “demonic” appearance. The Legion’s guns are enough to dissuade the Germans from coming any closer to them, but the angry mob does proceed to shout in anger and curse them before moving together down another pathway within the village. From the back of the group, Clint pipes up to explain that he could make out some of the villagers saying they must return to their town’s church to find the girl.
Quietly impressed at Clint’s linguistic knowledge, the team agrees to race after the crowd in the hopes of reaching the church and the woman first, breaking into a mad dash in a bold display of their super soldier energy and prowess. They easily overtake the villagers, who continue to curse at them without attempting actual retaliation, and finally reach the grand stone doors of an ancient, beautiful church at the far edge of town, sitting in a state of disrepair and abandonment. Peggy orders Steve, Bucky, and Natasha to stand guard at arms in front of the church to keep the villagers away, while she, Clint and Kate attempt to make contact with the woman. Natasha mutters something about being equally if not more fluent in German, but at Bucky’s chiding concedes that she’s not the most comforting presence. Peggy reminds everyone that their goal here is for no one to be harmed, and then begins her approach with the archers, entering the church through a shattered window on the side.
While she remains at this entrance, those two continue forward with their quivers and bows raised above their heads, clenched in each hand, very slowly and carefully approaching the woman, who is perched on the pulpit in the back of the church, her tail swaying back and forth behind her. The archers set their weapon down at her request as Clint begins to softly speak in rusty German to her, explaining that they are a special unit of Allied soldiers meant to evacuate POWs and German citizens in crises like hers. From her view crouched above them, the woman shifts from bowing her head in prayer to looking into Clint’s tired, baggy eyes, squinting with suspicion. With hands still high above his head, Clint sighs softly, and smiles.
“My name is Clint, and I know what it’s like to be an outcast. I was born as an accident from two kids that eloped together. They didn’t have money and they didn’t know how to raise a half-breed, so they panicked and left me at the nearest orphanage, which in turn sold me to a circus when I was six. I was rejected by my parents and by the other kids, while I was just a product to be exploited and discarded to the orphanage and the circus. I grew up being beaten and ordered around, and when I performed, I was looked down on by our customers too, spat on by kids younger than me and richer than I’d ever been. That circus was where I learned the first worthwhile things in my damned life, how to be a survivor, how to be quick, nimble, and precise. When I was a teenager and had gained all I could, I ran off and enlisted. Might as well use those acrobatics and quick-shots for something halfway useful, right? The military is where I did real good for the first time in my life, and I found out that I could have a real family, not just people that take advantage of me and look down on me for being different. Kate here can’t be much older than you, I bet you two will have a lot in common. We’re not perfect, but I know that the Legion can keep you safe. I promise we will.”
A cloud of smoke hangs over the pulpit where she stood only moments before, as she suddenly rises up from the floor right in front of Clint, matching his gaze, and thankfully also his smile. As she looks around the decrepit cathedral with a wistful glint in her eye, she speaks at last. “My mother raised me deep in the woods, far from all of the villages. She looked like me, but her powers were so far beyond my own, nobody dared cross her path. She named me Constance, promising that we’d be constants in each other’s lives forever. That is the first promise to me that was broken. Please call me Connie, now. When she eventually disappeared, I soon began to struggle with living in the forest. I’m not much for foraging or hunting, I simply love the forest too much to take from it. So I moved until I found the closest village, and began stealing food from their market, hiding out in the basement of the church. When my mother no longer could, the sermons I heard from above raised me, and this stone sanctuary protected me. The whispers of a satanic beast lurking in the church caused it to be shut down and a new one built elsewhere, but that did not end my troubles.
I have always tried my hardest to stay out of their way, but it is them that make it difficult, them that hunt and scream and go where they don’t belong. I swear to you not only do I not antagonize them, I’m probably a better Catholic as well. My second broken promise came from Stefan, the unafraid boy exploring my church one night. He said he could keep me safe, help the others understand…He was a lying snake. He was a killer of children and I was his easy out. That is what finally broke the uneasy peace in the village, as your people stumbled onto. I can’t prove my innocence to people who can’t look beyond my skin, and I have no more places to hide. They’ll burn my precious church, and the whole forest down with it, to destroy me. I do not trust all who walk with you,” she said, glancing pointedly back towards Peggy, “but I hope I can trust the two of you, at least. I hope you can be the first to keep your promise to me.”
She walks back to the church’s doors with Clint and Kate on each side of her. The Legion takes a tight formation around her as they escort her through the countryside, to the mob’s dismay, but their angry, impotent cries eventually fade into the background. At Connie’s request, before moving further to set up camp at a safe distance, she is allowed to return to the woodlands of her youth to finally say goodbye. While she is given her space, Kate quietly but excitedly tells everyone else what she witnessed in the church, putting Steve and Bucky in awe of Clint, who sheepishly tries to wave it off. When Connie is ready to go, Peggy speaks to her through Clint as translator, asking whether she should be treated as a civilian or an agent, and if the latter, what her codename might be. She is very enthusiastic to help others like her throughout Germany and elsewhere, and upon delightedly plucking a worm with a blue hue much like hers from a tree branch, she knows what she’ll be called. Nightcrawler.
Over the next several days, the Legion moves through the Black Forest in a succession of carefully guarded campsites as they retrieve many more refugees. Connie’s teleportation ability is of great help in rescue operations, from house-fires to liberating prisoners of war. Her comrades quickly take a strong fancy to this young woman, whose striking visage and one-with-nature spirit belie a playful, charming attitude beneath. Kate and Steve are delighted to bond with her over Catholicism. After a thoroughly successful operations ending with more than a dozen refugees in tow, the team finally returns to their primary campsite in England in joyous and eager spirits, grateful for their success and newfound friend. When they touch base with Colonel Fury, he has a beguiling, inscrutable reaction to Connie, one that inspires much discussion amongst the Legion and worry from Connie.
He summons Brigadier Dugan to arrive at their location as soon as possible, inspiring even more concern that her time with them could be short-lived after all. Steve promises to her, with everyone’s backing, that the military brass will not be allowed to harm her in any way. Once Dugan arrives, he agrees to meet in the Legion’s bunker with everyone present to assuage their concerns. He stands in the center of the dining hall with everyone circled around, Connie right in front of him, her tail meekly between her legs. When he rolls up his sleeves and starts to unbutton the top of his shirt, Natasha remarks that he is being inappropriate.
Dum Dum Dugan apologizes and assures everyone they will understand shortly. He closes his eyes and clenches his fists, concentrating but for a moment, and soon the most bizarre transformation occurs. In an instant, what once was flesh is now shimmering metal, evidently covering his body from head to toe. Dugan opens his eyes and reaches out towards Nightcrawler, gently clasping his hands with hers.
“Ms. Wagner, I realize that the mistreatments received for our conditions must be quite different, and I apologize for the theatrics leading to this moment, but I wanted you to know.”
Connie’s tearful, but she smiles warmly knowing at last she truly had a family again.
“You won’t be alone anymore.”
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Main Cast: Steve Rogers/Captain America – Oscar Isaac, James Buchanan Barnes – Enver Gjokaj, Colonel Nick Fury – Ron Perlman, Peggy Carter/Agent 13 – Kerry Washington, Howard Stark/Iron Man – Dominic Cooper, Kate Bishop/Hawkeye – Aubrey Plaza, Clint Barton – Keanu Reeves, Natasha Romanova/Black Widow/Miss America – Annet Mahendru, Namor – Pedro Pascal, Constance Wagner/Nightcrawler – Zazie Beetz.
Recurring/Guest: Dr. Abraham Erskine – Herbert Knaup, Brigadier Timothy ‘Dum Dum’ Dugan – Damian Lewis, Ulysses Klaue – Arnold Vosloo, King T’Chaka/Black Panther – Djimon Hounsou.