Chasing Demons Chapter 14 Preview
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“Just one more,” Peter muttered as he selected another file, this one a bit larger than the two previous ones he had decoded earlier that night. After that first initial evening, Peter had decided that it was too dangerous to work on the files while his dads were still awake, so for the past three nights he had been going to sleep at his usual bedtime, then setting an alarm to wake him up at 1am and working for as long as he was able to keep his eyes open.
But so far it had all just seemed like a massive waste of time, since besides HYDRA’s manifesto, all he’d been able to uncover had been nothing but a bunch of supply lists and personnel shift assignments.
Whoever it was that had kept HYDRA’s records at that Mongolian base had apparently written down freaking everything except what he wanted to find, and Peter’s patience was rapidly approaching its breaking point.
Reaching for his water bottle, Peter chugged over half of it in just a few seconds, wiping his sleeve across his chin before tapping open the next file. He breathed in, letting it slowly out as he allowed his eyes to relax into their unfocused state so he could decipher the text.
Twenty minutes later, Peter curled his frozen hands into fists and grabbed his glasses, sliding them on so he could read what he had just finished typing out.
“Subjects were selected from various science divisions within SHIELD, based on initial responses to treatment and willingness to cooperate with further testing. Incremental doses of CTX-616 were given at regular intervals to ensure compliance with testing.”
“They were experimenting with that drug,” Peter said, grabbing his polar bear and stuffing him under his chin. He let out a hard shudder as memories from the Miami bunker flooded his mind, of him lying strapped to a freezing cold concrete slab as the Aminacin drug burned through his veins like molten lava, while he bit through his bottom lip to keep from screaming from the almost unbearable pain.
And that had been before they’d pulled out Loki’s sceptre and tried to turn his brain into scrambled eggs.
It had only been a few weeks that he’d even been able to recall those memories, the coma he had been in for months following the Miami battle having repressed them so deeply that it’d taken until now for them to reemerge.
Or at least, that was Uncle Sam’s theory about it. Peter had yet to tell his dads that he was starting to remember more of what had happened down in Miami, and Uncle Sam had promised to keep it a secret unless he decided that it was doing Peter harm to do so. Dad and Papa didn’t need anymore reasons to worry about him, they already had enough of their own.
The file went on to discuss the death of at least twenty of the test subjects during the dose-titration experiments, since apparently non-enhanced people couldn’t tolerate the higher doses that Peter and Papa received. Even Dad, who had been given the drug too, had apparently gotten a much smaller dose since they were afraid that too much of it would kill him.
“So nice of them, since it almost did anyway,” Peter grumbled as he continued to scroll through the file, physically forcing his eyelids to stay open.
“Subject 114, successful demonstration of cryokinetic abilities in-laboratory. Doctor List recommends field test at new Avengers’ facility to determine viability.”
“New Avengers’ facility? That must’ve meant the Compound!” Peter exclaimed, clapping his hand over his mouth a second later. He had already deactivated JARVIS for the night, not wanting to be bugged every five minutes about why he was still awake, but the last thing he wanted was to possibly wake up Papa, who Peter knew had not been sleeping well lately.
“That must’ve been the guy that caused the lake to freeze over last summer,” Peter added. He rubbed at his eyes behind his glasses, his heart thudding as the file went on to comment that while the cryokinesis test was moderately successful, the subject himself didn’t survive the attempt.
“Subject 128 with a successful in-lab demonstration of hydrokinesis. However, subject terminated following failed attempt to capture one Peter Stark-Rogers.”
“Oh my God!” Peter breathed into his polar bear’s neck, his belly swooping at finding his own name spelled out in a HYDRA document. “They really were trying to get me?”
But… why? What’s so special about me?
There were several other subject numbers mentioned in the file, all listed with various matter-manipulating abilities and all who were then terminated for various reasons, including Subject 141 who had demonstrated the ability to control fire, but who also ended up failing to capture Peter Stark-Rogers.
“That must’ve been at the theatre,” Peter mumbled, his heart thudding madly. He shivered, burrowing down even further into his blankets as he kept reading, trying to figure out why in the hell HYDRA was sending all these semi-enhanced people specifically after him.
It just didn’t make sense, or at least it wasn’t making too much sense at four in the morning when he was drop-dead exhausted. Peter was enhanced, that much was true, but it wasn’t like he was the only enhanced person out there. Papa, Uncle Bruce, Uncle Thor, and Uncle Bucky were also inherently enhanced, meaning that their abilities didn’t depend on specialised equipment like Dad and the rest of their family members. But why was Peter being singled out as the target for all of these experimentally enhanced people? Why not Papa, who the senate was personally targeting with their smear campaign, or even Uncle Bucky, who had already been caught in HYDRA’s clutches once before and who was also still sensitive to the trigger words?
It wasn’t until Peter had reached the last few paragraphs of the file that he got his answer.
“Subjects 155 and 156 have successfully completed all trials and have demonstrated extraordinary abilities on multiple occasions, perhaps due to innate genetic enhancements present at birth as well as sibling relationship. Will hold in reserve while strategic plans move forward in the United States, and will continue to search for others.
“That’s it!” Peter said, his horror briefly tempered by his excitement at finally figuring it out. He tapped his tablet screen, highlighting the line he’d just read.
“Innate genetic enhancements present at birth.”
That was the difference between he and Papa and every other enhanced person on their team. Aside from Uncle Thor, Peter was the only enhanced person that he knew of who hadn’t received his powers as an adult, after the fact. And while Uncle Thor was a literal god—and likely not even HYDRA seemed to be up for targeting actual gods, especially if doing so would very likely piss off Uncle Thor’s father and bring down the entire wrath of Asgard upon them—Peter could see how having soldiers who were genetically enhanced from birth, mutants, as it were, would be preferable to those they would have to artificially create.