“Breathe, Sharon. Keep breathing,” Steve urged as he stood beside her, holding Sharon Carter’s slack hand and gazing at her lightly bruised face.
Natasha, piloting the Quinjet, hadn’t said a word since they had zoomed away from London. Even Nick Fury and Agent Hill were expectedly resolute in their actions as Sharon’s chances of survival lessened with each passing minute.
As Steve continued to watch Sharon he couldn’t help noticing the weak heaves of her chest. She didn’t have much time.
Steve’s gaze rose.
“Natasha, how far away are we?”
“I’m not sure,” Natasha said, gazing at the African countryside.
The comms suddenly crackled to life and they heard General Okoye’s voice on the other side.
“We are at Wakanda’s borders. Follow me.”
Natasha became startled as she watched a Wakandan craft materialize out of thin air in front of the jet before turning across the gorgeous plains of Africa. She looked down and saw an African man in bright blue waving as he rode a horse. A group of children followed him, their bright smiles visible from the Quinjet as they waved and cheered. Despite their tense situation the sight made her smile.
Here far away from the rest of the world, these people were devoid of the daily conflicts governments found themselves dealing with on a daily basis. Here, they could live freely without the trauma one may obtain by being raised in a KGB assassin school called the Red Room. Her expression darkened.
Steve appeared by her side, gazing out of the window at the land that was Wakanda. Natasha looked at him.
“Is this supposed to be the technically advanced nation everyone’s been talking about?” she asked him.
A hint of amusement touched his handsome features. “Just wait.”
They flew over the crest of a hill and as the Wakandan craft dipped low ahead of them it was heading straight for the trees. Natasha’s eyes widened.
“Just fly straight and steady,” he told her.
Her hands tightened on the controls but she trusted him. They dove toward the trees and she almost felt the natural instinct to close her eyes as they were seemingly about to crash head-on into the ground when suddenly an invisible shield melted away revealing an African utopia, unlike anything she had ever seen.
“Welcome to Wakanda,” Okoye said. The pride in her voice could be heard across the airways.
Natasha gazed in slack-jawed awe at the stunning African city that lay before her. It was more beautiful than she could’ve possibly imagined.
She heard footsteps behind her as Nick Fury and Agent Hill joined them to see Wakanda for the first time.
“Damn,” Nick Fury commented.
“I knew Wakanda was more technically advanced than any other nation but wow,” Agent Hill seconded. “This is amazing.”
Natasha directed the jet behind the Wakandan vessel as they flew over the city and across more plains toward a mountain where a massive statue of a black panther jutted from the very rock. Around the face of the mountain, they flew before the ship in front of them touched down on a landing pad. Natasha did the same and it wasn’t even two seconds after she had landed the craft when she heard the ramp open. When she looked back Steve Rogers was already exiting the Quinjet with Sharon Carter in his arms.
He hurried to General Okoye and Princess Shuri who were waiting for him. A few Wakandan women and men in white coats accompanied them with a levitating stretcher at their side.
“Lay her down here,” Shuri directed him. “The minerals in the stretcher will stabilize her for now.”
He did as she said and as he set Sharon down on the platform the surface began to subtly glow beneath her body and her labored breathing steadied. Shuri then turned to the Wakandans.
Take care of her as best you can, she spoke to them in ixiXhosa.
They nodded, acknowledging her with the Wakanda Forever salute before departing with Sharon down into the mountain.
“Is she going to be okay?” Steve asked.
Shuri looked at him. Despite her smile, there was a deep sadness in her eyes.
“She will live,” she assured him.
Natasha, Nick Fury, and Agent Hill approached. General Okoye regarded them with stern expressions but didn’t speak. She wasn’t particularly pleased to have three American spies in Wakanda’s borders but they had no choice. Still…she would be watching them.
“Where’s Sam and Wanda?” Natasha asked.
Shuri’s expression saddened even more. “They weren’t able to make it.”
Steve turned grim. He turned away from them, looking toward the Wakandan city on the horizon with his hands on his hips.
“There was nothing we could do,” Shuri continued.
“And King T’Challa?” Hill asked.
“He too was lost,” Okoye said sorrowfully. “As well as our dear friend, Nakia. The good news is, they’re not dead. But there’s no telling how long they will stay that way.”
There was a long pause as the seriousness of the situation began to sink in. Nick Fury was the first to break the silence.
“Okay, things clearly didn’t go as planned. Wakanda is without a leader,” Nick Fury said. “What are you going to do about it?”
“There’s only one thing to do,” Shuri announced angrily. “We have to get them back and defeat that hag.”
“We just tried to and got our asses kicked,” Natasha said. “We need a different strategy.”
General Okoye twirled her spear. “Come. This is no place to discuss things. We need to talk about this back at the castle.”
Steve turned. “Agreed.”
Queen Mother Ramonda, standing before the castle’s doors as a transport approached, knew something was wrong as soon as she saw General Okoye and her daughter’s faces. They were trying to look strong but their eyes were glittering with sorrow.
As they exited the transport she hurried forward, her glittering red dress comprised of over a thousand rubies swishing and clinking softly across the ground and her long white locks were held back by a bright red headdress that gleamed in the setting sunlight.
“T’Challa. Where is T’Challa?”
Captured by the HYDRA doctor I spoke to you about, Queen Mother, General Okoye said. We did everything we could to help stop her. Our attempts to do so were futile.
Shuri looked like she wanted to cry but she managed to contain her composure as she remained silent. Ramonda’s attention then turned to the foreigners who stood with Okoye and Shuri. She immediately recognized the captain Steve Rogers who in turn smiled at her.
“Queen Mother,” he acknowledged, dipping his head in respect.
She smiled before turning to Shuri. And what are they doing here?
One of their own was badly injured in the fight, Shuri said. We had to administer her or she would’ve died.
Ramonda nodded. Despite the fact that Wakanda had been opened to the world a few months ago it still didn’t feel right having foreigners within the country’s borders.
“You must be tired,” Ramonda said. “Come with me. I’m sure you’re in desperate need of sustenance.”
“We are rather tired,” Hill obliged.
As Ramonda led them into the castle, the setting sun behind them began to give way to the darkness of night.