War is hell. No man that’s ever seen a battlefield could ever deny the abject horror that makes the statement true. Man’s capacity for inhumanity was seemingly boundless. Still, Captain Rogers had been completely unprepared for the way the war could twist even the noblest of men. In order to prevent a plague that turned normal people into mindless, murderous machines of mayhem, he and his men had to kill the entire population of a German village—all of whom were civilians. After that mission, Steve wasn’t sure he would ever be able to return to life in America. But the war wouldn’t last forever, God willing, and only a fool prays to die in battle.
Rogers made his way down the hall to the Office of the Coordinator for Information’s headquarters in Scotland, for a debriefing on this latest nightmare. He didn’t relish having to relive the moment, especially for the civilians who ran the show. The secretary barely looked up to acknowledge him, but spoke clearly and precisely. “Good afternoon, Captain Rogers. Please have a seat. The President is eager to meet you.”
“The President?” Rogers wondered aloud. I’ve spoken with Roosevelt in person several times. And unless it was all propaganda, he was just sworn in again.”
The secretary, a Miss L. Unser according to a plaque on her desk, finally glanced up from her typewriter and looked Steve in the eyes. “Trust me; you’ve never met this President.”
Returning to her typing, she then spoke again the moment the captain sat down. “The President will see you now.”
Inside the office, Steve quickly adjusted to the dim light given off by a single desk lamp, and stared in surprise at the silhouetted figure standing before him.
“It’s usually considered protocol for the subordinate to salute his superior, soldier.”
Captain Rogers came to attention immediately and snapped off a salute. “Yes sir, Mister President. Sorry, I just…don’t understand.”
President Lincoln returned the salute and removed his stovepipe hat before sitting down. “We’re both busy men, so I’ll make this as quick as possible. Did you or any of your squadron make contact with the populace in the Netherlands?”
“No! No, sir. I brought a copy of my report for--”
“If you’re lying, Captain, it won’t help anyone. Lives, American lives, are at stake here.”
“Mister President, sir; if you’ve reason to doubt my patriotism, please address it through my chain of command.”
“Stow it, soldier. I’m not trying to get you to betray anyone. My standing here should be evidence enough that we have ways to—"
“Sir, with all due respect, I have answered your question. If there is nothing further, I’m sure we’re both very busy men.”
“Sit down, Rogers. There are things going on here the likes of which you have no clue about. I know you were present when Professor Broom rescued the demon child from the Nazis. Broom got set up as the director of the Bureau for his efforts, and he requested you for his team. I told him he can’t have you; you’re too important on the front lines.”
“I can see that, Mister President. So then what does this--?”
“Because the Bureau is more than just paranormal research; it’s also defense. I know you’ve fought Baron Blood, so you know they’re real. The Axis agent Parsifal may be one, but we haven’t had anyone who faced him live to tell the tale. I tried to get close to him myself by bringing in a team of mystery men to be ‘duped’ by the Nazis into working for them, but you saw to it that we were foiled."
Captain Steve Rogers, United States Army, cocked his head, trying to get a different angle on the man before him. In the dim light it hadn’t been apparent before, but now it was completely obvious.
“The hat, the beard... you’re Uncle Sam!”
“I played Uncle Sam, a role I’ve portrayed on a handful of occasions when I couldn’t keep my presence entirely secret. But I’m not in a position to go behind enemy lines on a covert assignment. In addition to overseeing the Bureau, I have to maintain control of the Weapon Plus projects, one of which created your enhanced physique. Then we have the truly outré situations, like your friend Namor and that extraterrestrial ubermensche; wild horses we can’t control, merely herd in the right direction.
“Coordinating all these secret services is too much of a demand. That’s why I need Captain America.”
Rogers came to attention at once, acknowledging the importance of the moment. “I stand ready to receive my orders, sir.”
“No, not you, Steve. I need the symbol, not the man. We’re preparing American commandos to be seen in action all over the Western Front, wearing your colors. Captain America will be seen in Paris, France one-minute, the next in Luxembough, then the Netherlands, then Austria. You’ll be more myth than man, and the krauts will have to call on their top dog to subdue the man who can be everywhere at once. If it works, we’ll nail Parsifal.”
“And if it doesn’t, a lot of good men will have died for absolutely nothing. Why send proxies? Why not let me, or you, spring the trap?”
“You’re the only perfect super-soldier we’ve yet produced, and we have other assignments more suited to your skills, ones that will keep you doing plenty for your nation. Good as you are, Steve, you’re no man-hunter. And I cannot risk the life of anyone with Delta Green clearance behind enemy lines, not even my own.”
“I understand, sir, even if I don’t agree. The one thing I don’t get is what makes this Parsifal so dangerous compared to the rest of the master minds and mad men?”
“One thing I never could stomach about living in Eastern Europe…all the damn vampires.”