1964-11-13 - Buckling Down
Summary: A walk in the World's Fair, a place of old ghosts and memories…
Related: Project Virgo
Theme Song: None
bucky wanda 

OOC Note: Bucky is tagged due to this being rather his issue. Wanda is the writer.

New York is among the world’s greatest cultural centers. It only makes sense its museums attract visitors from far and wide, slaking every taste of intellectual curiosity and aesthetic.

The huge, undulating shapes that reared over Corona Park occupied no cultural context for the young man wearing a baseball hat announcing his untimely loyalty for the Mets. He stared for a time at the wobbling, wavy surface of the towers marked by neat brass letters that announced them as the “Hall of Science.”

On the cool, cloudy day, only a trickle of visitors pushed their way through the main doors. He clutched his ticket in his gloved hand, stowing his fist in the pocket of the bulky, shapeless hunter green coat.

No one paid him a second look, proving all the street training true, however much he doubted his trainers. The crowds around him never paid him a second glance. Inbound people diverged around him where he stood, giving him a wide berth of several meters. The occasional dirty look didn’t seem directed at him in particular, only the act of standing still.

He resumed walking to the doors, taking in the pinholes piercing the concrete exterior of the merged cylindrical towers. Too many places offered an obscuring screen for a shooter, supposing he could access the opposite side of the cladding. Foolish decoration obscured the view of anyone beyond. All he needed was a walkway to wreak havoc on the mingled crowds below.

Metal barriers guided two queues up the short flight to stairs into the hall’s main interior. A volunteer in a blue shirt hardly gave him a second look, not so much as asking for a ticket. He did not take the time to wonder on his good fortune, staring straight ahead at the shocking beauty portrayed overhead.

Some great yellow craft hung suspended from the ceiling on narrow wires that vanished into the starry darkness painted across the ceiling. A “2” printed on the sides defined the wedge-shaped supply module. Banana bright plastics shone from projected lights, glistening on the indigo glass block walls writhing in serpentine waves.

Everyone there craned their heads up into the metallic frame stretching vertical bars high, high up. They stared at the distant pinpoint lights, stars shining in the infinite blue. So too he was caught in a universal reaction.

Words escaped grasp. Thoughts melted away into the sensation of falling upwards into the vast midnight blue.

He did not ask how bubbles and square chunks in blue glass could resemble night’s ultramarine core, weakening the bonds of gravity upon his heavy body. His shoulder blades slid together in anticipation of an upward drag into that infinite tunnel that terminated among the coruscating starlight.

Blunt nails dug deep into the fleshy core of his palm, a dim retort against the flight of fancy. Jarred to the core, he squinted at the space taxi shuttling dummies to a larger metal and plastic model he entirely ignored in those fleeting, sublime moments.

Spidery fins emerged at disjointed angles from the oblong cylindrical body wrapped in foil and shining chrome. A floor-mounted podium disabused visitors of the notion of fantastic, impossible achievements. The space station uttered murmured noises, wheezes and melodic pips that turned oddly tinny at a distance.

His eyes narrowed on the red, blue, and white flag emblazoned on the side, a slap across his jarred features. The inverted yellow spaceship ung against the orbital lab, pointing a garish arrow directly at the large sticker.

His enchantment abruptly withered and he pushed on, elbowing aside a gawking teen.

The enraptured guests loitered too close together, shuffling in clockwise orbits to better see the display of the space rendezvous. He ducked his chin and summoned the cold visions of blood and beaten flesh, black waters closing over whatever dying sparks of interest stirred. He could not afford the crushed impulses that came with staring too long.

Light and colour engulfed the nightshade azure walls in a rush as some contrived motion picker erupted into motion. He hastened out of the hall at a purposeful clip, following the meandering pathways that banded through a dozen colourful exhibits designed entirely to block visitors from making a straight line over a ten meter distance.

Another turn brought him to the middle of an oval space hemmed in by hemispherical walls. A television screen played an endless black and white stream of news reels. Choppy scenes and grainy quality attested to their age. The central attraction lay not in the televisions, but a squared off succession of freestanding slabs marked by neat white text and, centrally placed, a man in a blue uniform hoisting a round shield.

“Captain Steve Rogers proudly served his country during the Second World War. He represents the dawning of a new age in biological sciences and human medicine.

“At the outbreak of the war, his constitution and poor physical health prevented Steven Rogers from enlisting in the army. He volunteered for a program unique in the annals of American history, one that would transform him into a guardian of freedom. He received the experimental Super-Soldier serum. Breakthroughs in chemistry and biology enhanced him to the pinnacle of human physical potential. He became Captain America, a symbol of courage to the nation and the embodiment of freedom to the world.“

He turned and came face to face with an image of Captain America saluting, gloved hand to his masked brow. His profile alone was half-again as tall as the startled man.

His pale eyes burned. He shouldered past to cut into the nearest corridor, bypassing a glassed-in display case featuring postcards gone dull in age. Spidery handwriting faded to cornflower, the ink or charcoal barely filling in the deep valleys left by a pen. Yellowing documents carefully pressed between thin acrylic panes held stamps of officialdom, typeset of bureaucracy.

He barely bothered with them, forced to slow by the queue gathered in front of another cavernous theatre playing an assortment of black and white motion pictures straight off the front lines of Europe.

Lies and vitriol fashioned by the propaganda machine in the name of war, not “honour, bravery, and sacrifice” that the loudspeaker kept parroting.

A boy in a leather helmet dyed indigo squeezed past him, barely bothering to mutter “Scuse me” in a distracted spill. He resisted the urge to snatch the child’s collar and haul him up, momentarily glancing at white letters painstakingly painted in a neat line:

While on tour in Azzaro, northern Italy, Rogers saved 163 lives — including that of his best friend and comrade, James Buchanan Barnes.

The line snaked up and he followed, keeping to the opposite wall where an opening might allow him to slip around slower moving visitors entranced by the vignettes of a young man trotting through bombed out streets, barely intact walls rearing around him in a ghoulish landscape. Children waving small flags in hasty vibrations greeted the tall man in a mob.

“Battle-tested, Captain America and his allies, the Howling Commandos, quickly earned their stripes. The innovations that gave Captain America his peak human performance also inspired those around him to excel to the best of their physical abilities, and unleashed scientific breakthroughs in multiple fields across the United States and its many allies.”

The announcer dubbed over the film reel filled the cavernous theatre.

Hushed voices murmured their approval and awe.

He shot a glare into the heads outlined against the grey crackle darkness, unmoved by the pageantry. He’d seen it a hundred times before.

And he had not.

Six proud men stood together before some kind of bomber, rattle trap canvas and metal husk painted by an assortment of small bombs. They stirred to the camera, grins becoming somber, expressions transformed from goofy — he couldn’t imagine contorting his mouth that way — to noble, distant visages worthy of concrete statues placed in parks and in front of buildings.

He would have moved on, but for a scrap of niggling doubt portrayed in another scene flashed from the first. The well-groomed, dark-haired man wore a crisp suit in the finest tradition: white shirt, neat collars, flat tie, black coat. Beside him, the taller blond looked far less comfortable wearing a similarly formal outfit of matching coat and trousers.

Even he understood the bond between them, the laughing camaraderie a reflection of the rare moments shared with the others, his…

And he froze, hand poised against his cheek. Calloused fingers scraped parallel furrows against the bone all the way to the jaw. He felt the familiar angles, the hard line. They never enjoyed much time in front of the only mirror in their dormitory. Warped glass threw back ghostly, distorted images of no real value.

But he had eyes. He could see common facets. Orel shared the same irrepressible excitement in his eyes. Kyr had the same way of clamping down on his mouth, skewing the thin look lopsided. Evgeniy carried himself like he owned half the world and the other half weighed him down, bearing him to his knees.

His hand fell away to his side in a limp drag on the sleeve. His shoulder ached under the weight. Shuffling away became a priority, even though the numb lassitude in his bones made standing still easier. Going to his knees would be better than this.

The old lessons in the permafrost lashed him to place one booted foot in front of the other. Even when he couldn’t feel his toes or calves, he walked. His knee was rigid, like in the bitter cold, and he carried on.

Display cases blurred into mere shapes, fuzzy and thick blocks surrounded by a clutch of people.

The same stupid boy wearing his idiotic helm was pressing a large, lit button. The older man flinched back. Experience taught him hard not to press buttons or touch things. Damned Americans did nothing right, a soft people, backwards to all conventions that governed the world to any sense of order.

He careened into a bench and found his own face staring back at him.

The cut glass gave all the definition he needed, though the hair was wrong in cut and he had never smiled like that in his life.

The recording chirped to life, playing the same chestnut as it had for the last nine months. “James Barnes had the singular distinction of being the only Howling Commando to sacrifice his life for his country. ”

Epiphany struck him to the core. An atom bomb shed his skin as the detonation shredded away everything that wrapped itself around the frail crack letting all the ghosts out.

What had they done? The Americans violated him. Broke his name, stole his face. With these lies, they threatened the mission… How could they know about the mission?

All the motive he could find in the charnel embers forced him to totter for the nearest corner. Red rectangles marked the way out. He need not look far to find the exit sign perched over a heavy metal door. His pace approached something normal, for all the world wobbled on a strange circuitous axis. He dared not look up, for up lay the endless blue and the burning, pitiless sky.

What have they done to me?

A question that forced him to punch the door open and find the cold concrete stairwell, a spill stretching up and up and up. He took the first flight at a run, heat burning in the weft of his thigh muscles, and not nearly enough to distract.

The mission. The mission. There could only be the mission.

He bent double, clutching his stomach and gasping. The empty corridors resonated with the pain. Pain, an old friend, gave only a mote of clarity.

Let them learn the risk of making the world compliant. Spinning children’s stories never changed the fact, the risk, the danger.

He would teach them to fear The Winter Soldier.


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