- You see this, Obergruppenführer? I have never been more alive... And so is Hydra... But, you won't be any longer, I'm afraid...
- -- Arnim Zola
- -- Arnim Zola
Arnim Zola was a Nazi scientist who would later become part of the special research division Hydra during the second World War. During the war, Zola created the weapons of mass destruction that would fuel Hydra rise to power, and directly served under the Johann Schmidt himself, the Red Skull. In Hydra's apparent defeat, Zola would be captured by the Allied forces in 1945, and after the war would be a part S.H.I.E.L.D.'s historical Operation Paperclip. He used his place within S.H.I.E.L.D. to rebuild Hydra from the ground up, recruiting many people to his cause. In the early 1970s, his body died due to an undisclosed terminal illness, but his consciousness was saved by being uploading himself in the cyberspace through numerous computers previously owned by the very organization he infiltrated.
The Chitauri Conflict
Before and during the Invasion, Arnim Zola seemed to have the same history as his Earth-61615 counterpart, where he transferred his mind into a complex computer system after being diagnosed with a fatal illness in the early 1970s, along with him successfully and secretly rebuilding Hydra within S.H.I.E.L.D. until present day as an act to fulfill the paramilitary organization's legacy. At some point in time before the Chitauri Invasion, Zola's former leader, Johann Schmidt, who recently found himself waking up in the ice caps of Greenland, had reconciled with him within one of his secret bases, located in the now-abandoned Camp Lehigh in New Jersey.
Ultimately, Zola betrayed his former master, rather than letting him keep his place as the returning leader of Hydra, deciding to imprison the Skull instead of killing him, reasoning that keeping Schmidt alive would make him a "fine living trophy".
March to Secret War
As a consequence of Loki's effective strategy during the Battle of New York, the invasion timeline was prolonged for almost an entire week, longer than it was supposed to be (in other realities). Though this event might not have affected Zola and the legacy of Hydra itself drastically, the aftermath of the invasion put the presence and the core mission of Hydra inside S.H.I.E.L.D. in jeopardy, since the artificial intelligence Ultron had found out about the secrets and lies Hydra had kept since Hydra has infiltrated the S.H.I.E.L.D. during Operation Paperclip, and because of it, Ultron duplicated and decrypted all those files, sending them to Hank Pym and Tony Stark, before his untimely and selfless death to save the universe from the hands of Loki's mysterious benefactor. The files were also designated to be released to the public, something that Ultron had done intentionally to expose the lies S.H.I.E.L.D. was not even aware of yet.
Though most of Hydra's superiors and sleeper agents felt on edge and panicked now that their existence would be exposed in the next few days, Zola was the only one among the high council who was able able to come up with a back-up plan, using the recent dilemma to their advantage. With it, Zola prepared to execute the secret algorithm he had written and formulated as a last resort, in preparation for the "war" that he had always expected would arrive. While the others among Hydra had expected a war against S.H.I.E.L.D. that would be great and destructive, Zola had accurately predicted that they would actually be facing a war so "secret," the whole world wouldn't even know it would occur in the first place.
Facing the Avengers
Only a few days after the victory of the Avengers over the Chitauri Conflict when Pym and Stark had first discovered the encrypted files left by Ultron, Zola decided to infiltrate the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarriers as he activated Project Insight. Thankfully, at the last second, Tony Stark was able to shut down the operation's protocol by making all the Helicarriers target and fire on each other, causing the vehicles to crash into the ocean, costing the lives of everyone who were inside at the time, with the exception of Director Nick Fury, Agent Maria Hill, and a few others.
As a result of his destructive actions, Nick Fury, along with select S.H.I.E.L.D. members, decided to help the Avengers take down Hydra's re-emerging forces even without the awareness of the United Nations or the U.S. Government, as well as preventing the secret files from being exposed to the world within the next two days. In the next few hours after Zola appeared, more and more of Hydra's bases of operations were discovered and attacked by the Avengers, courtesy of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s assistance, confirming his theory regarding Hydra reluctantly waging a devastating secret war with the Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
Since Zola's consciousness had unlimited access to cyberspace, he was able to provide easy passage into the agency for most of the Hydra sleeper agents around the world, finally igniting the anticipated secret war against the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D.'s loyal forces, unleashing his own forces to combat the heroes and defend their existence and legacy. For the next twenty-four hours, the Avengers still triumphed over Hydra's forces, despite the countless number of operatives who tried to stop them from exposing their secret bases and apprehending them.
The Madbomb Incident
Eventually, Zola's main base of operations in Camp Lehigh was discovered and attacked by S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers on the beginning of the second day, only a few hours before the files were set to go public, leading to his apparent defeat at their own hands, or so they thought. Zola then hysterically mocked Pym about Ultron, telling him that there was one thing that the artificial intelligence never found out in those secret files. Cornered by Nick Fury himself and Earth's Mightiest Heroes inside his main headquarters, Zola was about to launch his so-called last resort against them, only to be interrupted by the previously imprisoned Schmidt, who was reluctantly freed by Captain America, in hopes of helping them win against Zola.
Instead of activating Zola's algorithm, Schmidt instead activated another operation protocol by the code-name of "Madbomb," much to Zola's horror upon realizing what his former leader just did. Unbeknownst to the heroes of New York, the Madbomb Protocol was a missile containing a mysterious, fatal biological weapon recently designed by Zola after the first contact was made with the Chitauri, several days earlier. In Schmidt's words, since he was no longer a head of Hydra, then no one else should be, proclaiming that it was time for him to destroy what he has created. With no other way for Zola to undo Schmidt's actions, Zola could only stare at the sky in terror, with the heroes still clueless as to what would happen next. Iron Man flew out of the camp and tried to chase down the missile immediately, but his efforts to disarm it still failed, causing the missile to crash on its designated target, the city of Newark.
As the missile dropped into the middle of the city on a rainy day, it took the lives of hundreds due to the explosive blast, before subsequently releasing the weapon, which was a mysterious "techno-virus" caused by a strange form of radiation called "fear rays." Out of the 277,140 people living within the city, 193,200 were unfortunately infected by the techno-virus, rendering the selected population unbelievably and permanently insane and ravenous within the next fifty minutes, as the virus slowly festered on their bodies, terrifying the heroes, who didn't know what exactly they should do next. What was even worse, was that due to the effects of the Madbomb Protocol, Zola was forced to escape his damaged computer system and a major portion of the cyberspace in the process, transferring his consciousness once more, into a techno-organic mutated body he had been keeping in a laboratory located inside another secret base near the virus-infested Newark.
In the wake of the devastating attack in Newark, Zola eventually came to a pragmatic realization, that despite the fact that his algorithm ultimately failed due to the Red Skull's actions, he could still very likely accomplish his overall mission to dominate the entire world with one last opportunity, and with the help of his remaining tech and equipment, he could still rapidly increase the spread of the flesh-eating techno-virus to the rest of the globe within a day. According to Zola, if Hydra's legacy would be deemed to die on that same day, then he'd rather let it die with the rest of all life on the planet.
He then left the ruins of his heavily demolished laboratory, now merged with his techno-organic form, which he dubbed the "Siegsoldat-X." Before he could activate the machine right outside his lab that would help spread the techno-virus, a seriously-injured Captain America arrived. He came to finally confront him alone, asking Zola to help them restore the people who were infected back to their normal state and warning him to end his assault, once and for all, or he and his team would force him to. Factually but sadistically, Zola sadly informs Rogers that there was no hope left in saving the infected, confirming that those who have already succumbed to the virus would end up perishing, revealing that the extraterrestrial virus was something they first found in the rotting carcasses of the Outriders, the mindless and bloodthirsty race that Loki had previously commanded during the Chitauri Conflict.
Feeling both heavily broken and enraged at the same time, Rogers vowed to take Zola down as he angrily charged at the enormous cyborg, when several Hydra agents loyal to Zola came to his aid. While Zola tried to activate the machine, Rogers engaged all of them in combat alone, just to get to Zola. During the clash between Rogers and the Hydra loyalists, Rogers single-handedly bested the soldiers, until he came face-to-face with Zola's best mercenary, the cybernetically-augmented Winter Soldier, who unintentionally revealed his identity to be Rogers' old best friend, Bucky Barnes, who was presumed to be KIA since World War II. Rogers tried to fight off Bucky, but he was too emotionally conflicted, causing the legendary Avenger to lose.
As the duel between the two super-soldier continued, Zola was close to completing the machine, and was preparing to activate it when the Iron Avenger himself showed up in front of him to interrupt his work, much to Zola's distress. Zola's alien physiology and strength gave him the advantage against Iron Man by beating him to a pulp, severely damaging his armor. The attack was then followed by Ant-Man, Wasp, and even Scarlet Witch, only for the three to be extremely weakened by his sonic device tech known as the ESP Box, easily knocking them out in the process.
As the heroes neared defeat, however, the dark skies darkened even more, along with lighting starting to flash and thunder starting to roar. Then a lighting strike hit the middle of the battleground near Zola, striking the machine even before he had gotten the chance to activate it, frying it to a crisp. As the fog cleared, none other than the God of Thunder himself, Thor, was revealed, now holding another, more powerful weapon he dubbed "Stormbreaker." Seeing how his plan's last hope of succeeding was ruined in an instant, Zola went into an impulsive fit of rage and tried attacking the God of Thunder, only to realize that he was inferior to and outmatched by the Asgardian prince.
Trapped inside his own hologram and thus knowing he and Hydra itself had been defeated, Zola was now overwhelmed with fear. Little did Zola realize, a massive group of the ravenous infected, whom he was partly responsible for creating, started sensing Zola's body as something they could feast on to fill their hunger. They charged towards him and ruthlessly tore his techno-organic body apart, leaving his hologram to be slowly crushed within the ongoing stampede. In his final moments, the mad scientist reluctantly accepted his own failure as a leader of Hydra, and his consciousness slowly malfunctioned, and he accidentally activated the self-destruct protocol within his torn body, detonating a powerful explosion, killing the infected crowd, along with Zola's consciousness, finally ending the two-day secret war against Hydra for good.
Even after Arnim Zola's defeat and Hydra's apparent destruction at the hands of the heroes of New York, the devastating aftermath of the Madbomb Incident left the rest of the world on edge after suffering a heavy loss, putting the public perspective of the Avengers in a new light after finding out all of the backstory, and causing them to rethink if the United Nations, along with other peace-keeping organizations, should keep sponsoring them as a public heroic organization. In the meantime, the U.N. have yet to make a decision whether they should continue sponsoring the heroes, but with more maintenance and supervision from the agency, or they should eventually dismantle the initiative.
After the battle in which S.H.I.E.L.D.'s image and reputation was heavily damaged as a peace-keeping organization, all of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra's classified files were still exposed on the Internet, a decision collectively agreed upon by the Avengers to honor Ultron's memory for showing them the truth even before he was gone. As a result, the agency was disavowed by its commanding governments, who decided to consequently shut it down. Additionally, other authorities have declared to the public that they were continuing their search for former Hydra sleeper agents, including its founder and former leader Red Skull, among other operatives who have escaped custody from the authorities, labeling them as wanted fugitives.
Powers and Abilities
- Madbomb Protocol (formerly; detonated)
- "Fear Rays" (formerly; released)
- Techno-Virus (formerly; neutralized)
- Techno-Organic Body, The Siegsoldat-X (formerly; destroyed)
- The Zola Algorithm (formerly)
- No special notes.
- No trivia.
- Appearances of Arnim Zola (Earth-61615.8)
- Character Gallery: Arnim Zola (Earth-61615.8)
- Quotations by Arnim Zola (Earth-61615.8)
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