1964-10-18 - Down in the Hollow
Summary: A team of SHIELD agents investigates a potentially paranormal phenomenon in rural West Virginia.
Related: If there are no related logs, put 'None', — please don't leave blank!
Theme Song: None
ben-daimio bucky nick-fury 

"Alright, people," the heavily scarred Ben Daimio says to the truckful of lightly armored SHIELD agents making its way along a switchback in the Appalachian mountains in eastern West Virginia. "You've all been briefed with as much as we know—namely, that there's some sort of supernatural reading in the area hitting the psychics' registers. What it is … and what it's doing … we'll have to find out."

Despite the bumpy ride of the back-woods road, Daimio's standing amid the seated agents. He leans hard against the back of the truck cabin, his head brushing the camouflaged canvas cover sheltering the riders. "Believe me, I'd love for a smoother approach, too. But these mountain folk—apparently they'll /barely/ take kindly to a US military presence, even on 'training maneuvers', so there's no way they'll respond well to SHIELD. Hence…" he gestures toward his own standard-issue ODs.

A few of the agents murmur to one another, but they're otherwise quiet.

"When we arrive, we'll let the specialist do his thing," Daimio continues, looking to Nick Fury. "You ever heard about magic up in the mountains here?" he asks. "Seems like it might be a case of too much moonshine, except for the psychic sensors."

One SHIELD agent clears his throat. "Ah, sir, if I may," the agentRandall 'Cornfed' McNemarsays. "When I were young, my ma'd tell us of the wizards in the coal mines, lookin' fer precious stones and herbs and such. Mebbe it's minin' season fer 'em?"

Dressed in that dark blue kevlar beta cloth Fury swings along in the truck, standing near Ben, hands hanging off the unrecognizeable ropes running along the ceiling. He removes his cigar and squints that one good eye, "Save it, son. I'll have /you/ minin' for sand in Egypt. We'll call it "deep undercover". Speak when spoken to." Nick is his usual cheery self it would seem, "Now," A long drag is taken from his cigar as he turns to Ben, "who'd they give us anyways, as far as a specialist. Best I can say is aint' nothing surprise me anymore. I seen mutants in back alley bars and Asgardians at Denny's. If the power signature they are sayin' is out there aint some fluke…Well, let's go ahead and assume it aint'. Take no chances." He grunts a little in the direction of the guys down the line mumbling but 'Cornfed' has already got the whip. No sense in makin' examples of everyone. "Actually, a good place for it. Far away from us and folks like Strange…At least so they thought." Now he's just barely grinning and it's possibly not even noticeable.

"Well," Daimio replies, sighingwith half the air expelling through his perpetually-open left cheek"my briefing suggested that you, sir, were one of our two specialists. More SHIELD ops under your belt than probably half this convoy put together. As for the other, well…"

Ben glances to Cornfed. "We got a local boy who likes to yap. But word is that he's an excellent tracker and as well-versed in these mountains as anyone alive. Might just be what we need."

Cornfed, meanwhile, looks straight ahead, his lips tightly shut.

The truck hits a particularly large bump and everyone's jostled a bit. From the cabin, the passenger calls back through a small window opening: "About to reach the hollow in a few, everybody. There's a thin trail of smoke reaching up from beneath the tree canopy. Time to get ready. Sir," he adds quickly, eyeing Fury.

Smoke slowly exhales and Nick chews on his cigar, his eyes never moving to the boy. "Interesting. I was thinking…Hymmm, nevermind." He nods to the driver. Eyes back to Ben, "Well they better be right." Now he turns to the young native boy. "On yer' feet, soldier." He pulls out a map, "This here. Can you get us there? Nice and easy, we don't want no one knowin' we're comin'."

"I know, I know," Ben says with a nod. "I wish we'd had a different specialist on hand, too." He glances to Cornfed. "No offense there, soldier."

"Naw, sir, I get it," the agent replies. "I wish we had one'a … them … too." He sighs and begins looking at the map. "I should, well enough. Should be some huntin' trails to help."

The truck begins to slow, adjusting for the sudden change in descent grade.

Ben inspects his rifle and slings it over his shoulder. "Well, hunting sounds about right, at least. I just wish we knew how much of a shit-show this is likely to be."

"Everyone starts somewhere kid. Just don't let us all end here." The words aren't imposing, rather…almost encouaraging considering the source. As the trucks speed slows down Fury pulls his 1911, checks the magazine and reholsters under his soldier. "Oh, it's a hunt, make no mistake. And we got our local guide to help us make the *kill*" Assumedly the truck slows down and agents pour out the back quietly. Fury calls the boy over. "Alright, where from here?"

The truck comes to a stop and the agents begin piling out.

The vehicle's in a small clearing at the end of a dirt road. A few trails head further down the mountain, quickly disappearing into thick underbrush.

Cornfed spends a minute surveying what he can of the surroundings.

Ben walks toward a small pile of rocks with a lump of old wax on it, as if from a burned-out candle. He kicks it with his toe.

Turning toward the sound, Cornfed's eyes grow wide. "Ah," he says quietly. "I wouldn't do that if we see anymore." He clears his throat. "Definitely miners, or my ol' ma's playin' the best practical joke I ever heard of."

"Coal miners?" Ben asks.

"Naw," Cornfed states, and then he begins off along a very thin, hardly-worn trail. "They're minin' somethin', though. I was always told it was little boys' darkest secrets."

Most of the agents get into formation and begin following.

There's someone waiting a little ways along the trail….and very definitely not a local. SHIELD in the sense that SHIELD is the organization that holds his leash right now, but he's a far cry from an ordinary agent.

Buck's sitting on a log, wearing plain dark fatigues with no insignia at all. He's got a long spidery-delicate rifle that's definitely not US issue over his shoulder…..and he's whittling idly with a wicked looking tac knife. His hair's long enough to be pulled back low at his nape, and his expression is mild enough, as he looks up at the agents.

Fury takes notice of Ben's little investigation and listens to the soldier now, afterall he has a skill set here no one else does. Knowledge. He lets Cornfed take the lead and falls in next to Ben. "This is some dark stuff if memory serves. Seen the likes of it in Latveria years ago. Little different, Burning embers littered the trails…" He puffs his cigar, "Another story for another time." He grows quiet for a moment then quietly says, "Mcnemar, any details from adulthood that could help us?"

As the SHIELD group maneuvers its way through the woodsas cautiously as through any potentially hostile territoryCornfed thinks and shrugs. "Most o' my adulthood's been spent servin' Uncle Sam, sir. But I've eaten my share o' meals that could work as chemical warfare, if that helps."

Cornfed chuckles briefly and then quickly composes himself.

Ben, walking along one of the group's flanks, gestures with a jut of his chin toward the figure ahead on the log. "There's something unexpected, alright," he says, before looking to Fury. "Maybe there was a different 'specialist' expected to get brought in, after all?"

Off in the distance, hints of a small, incredibly rustic cottage or other structure can be seen through the leaves and brush—at the very least, there's something man-made there.

He rises easily, sheathes the knife, and dusts wood shavings from his pants. "Fury," he says, with an upnod - his expression's flat, voice even. No time for old history, at the moment. Then he's turning to Ben. "Daimio," he says, inclining his head with a fraction more politeness. "Name's Barnes," As if they don't all know exactly who he is - there's been plenty of scuttlebutt concerning the Soldier's apparent defection around SHIELD water coolers in the past months. "They sent me along as overwatch." That explains the rifle.

Fury makes no comment but draws his pistol. A few hand waves send men out to the sides quietly. A fist held up tells the ones behind to hold. "With me." He says to Randall. Slowly approaching the see the figure stand.
"Son of a bitch." It's a surprised sounding comment but certainly not warm. "Why wasn't I briefed?" He asks sternly. "Hymm, nevermind." To Ben he adds, "Might be we could use all the help we can get. They didn't exactly give us the Avengers." He grunts and exhales before turning to Mcnamar, "Lead the way" He gives a wave and the others emerge to follow.

With a nod, 'Cornfed' McNemar continues taking point. Around a bend, the structure becomes more visible—it's a small cabin next to a mine entrance.

Several of the agents in the vanguard curse and mutter to one another.

As the company halts to consider the scene, the cabin door opens. A small, wizened man with a long beard that seems to reach nearly to his knees steps out of the cabin. He moves toward a wheelbarrow nearby and begins pushing it toward the mine.

A moment later he stops and sniffs the air. He does so again. Then, he sprints into the mine entrance.

"Uh … sir?" Cornfed asks, looking back toward Fury and Barnes. His face is pale. "I swear to God, that's Old Joe Jabberjaw. Straight outta ma's bedtime tales. He's got a magic tooth and makes his stew from dreams."

Ben steps up from his position and unslings his rifle from a shoulder. "Guess we get to knock that tooth out." He signals for three other agents to follow him toward the mine entrance.

"I can't even believe this," Cornfed says with surprise.

Buck gives the smallest of shrugs, spreads his hands. The left has the accustomed leather glove on it. Bureaucracy, says the expression.

As they move on, he takes drogue, because surely everyone there will feel that much better at having a formerly crazed assassin at their backs….and at Cornfed's explanation, there is not a flicker of disbelief in James's face. He works for the Devil on his days off, after all. "So, the tooth is his vulnerability?" he asks, quietly. No hint of a Russian accent, but there's more than a bit of Brooklyn there.

"Christ." Fury mutters under his breath. "So much for a covert mission." He readies his pistol and turns to Cornfed, "You got any knowledge of these mines, soldier? If so ,move it! And if not stay out tha' way! The rest of you guard the entrance. He follows Ben and the others at a slow pace.

Sticking back he keeps an eye on Buck, "Long time. Like the glove." He adds pushing with his one eye and his cigar smoking away.

"Oh, no, sir, I don't know them mines an' I got no mind to be in the way. I'll stay here, for sure," Cornfed says, all but rooting himself into the ground at the edge of the cabin property.

Daimio, meanwhile, disappears into the dark mines, his trio of support agents close behind him.

The mine's tunnels are not pitch-black; instead, there are located at varying intervals small piles of rocks with small candles burning on them. Except that, on closer inspection, they're not rocks at all but rather smallthough definitely humanskulls.

The walls of the tunnels appear to have strange shapes cast by the lights' shadows—shapes that look not unlike faces in torment hewn into the tunnels' stone-and-dirt walls.

Meanwhile, a thick, dark smoke spews out of the cottage chimney into the trees.

"Long story, Fury," Buck's voice is almost gentle, as he replies, barely above a rasping whisper. He….doesn't look as old as he should. More than forty years since his birth, and he still looks like someone in his middle twenties at the latest.

Still at the back, tread silent despite the heavy boots he has. This is too close quarters for the rifle, so it stays slung….he's got a knife in his right hand, though, held ready.

Fury slows down a bit now that he's inside. "Ehh." He murmurs quietly "Another time." "Be ready for anything," He says to no one in particular. They turn a corner now and the strange aura is pulsating now. "Hell." Fury grumbles as a twisted and screaming yet silent face grows visible in the smoke of his cigar. He throws it down, stepping violently upon it before waving the image out of his eyes. "I don't like this." He calls to Ben.


Nick turns quickly. The voice sounds like some demented ancient mage. "That old man wants to play hauted house with us?!" He growls.

In the mine corridors up ahead, the laughter turns into a sudden loud snarl followed by a cry of agony or fear quickly ended.

A split-second later, two SHIELD agents fly through the air and land in a heap. Ben Daimio's on the bottom, and the agent on top of him, one Leonard Karashin, is bleeding out, his body torn open from the base of his neck down to his navel.

Grunting, Ben attempts to push his dismembered colleague off of him. "That*ungh*damned /tooth/!" he attempts to shout.

Several rifle rounds are fired ahead, and then there's a groan of pain. A loud thump suggests another figure has dropped.

Outside, Cornfed begins walking, calmly and slowly, toward the cottage, as if in a daze.

"Son of a bitch," There's genuine shock in Buck's voice - finally a break in that fairly flat affect. His senses are good, but he's no better at seeing in the dark than the next man. A glance at Karashin takes in the futility of first aid, and then he's eeling forward. Let's see if this thing has a taste for vibranium alloy.

Fury just makes it to the cavern wall as Ben and the other man land at his feet. His boot lands on the man's face and shoves hard to help Ben get him off. Kicking him into the other side of the wall his entrails spill on the ground as he offers a hand to pull him up. "Should 'uv brought a 'dentist', not a 'specialist'." Bucky marching forward get's an inquisitive look as he would pull the other man to his feet. "Come on!" He get's a slow jog going to find the action.

T Outside the soldiers have reached near on full screw off mode. Wandering around and bsing. Though one soldier notices the scout, "Hey, Randall. Where ya' goin?" He doesnt seem to hear so the soldier moves towards him only to violently shake and fall to the ground having a seizure. By the time anyone notices Cornfed is inside,,

Behind Bucky, the small figure of Old Joe Jabberjaw seems to materialize from the rock wall itself. In his mouth is a single, massive tooth—and the man attempts to bite down on Barnes with it.

Ben Daimio manages to push Karashin off of himself, but he pauses just as he's about to get up. "Does anyone—" he begins before staring off into the distance. "…grandma?" he asks, staring at a shadowy side tunnel.

Up ahead, the SHIELD agent who attempted to fire back at Old Joe has disappeared—although there's a large, complex shape in the wall that looks not unlike an adult man attempting to push through the stone.

He doesn't go for the knife. That's the weird thing. No, Buck's turning with that nearly inhuman swiftness, and trying to punch the monster right in the maw with that gloved left hand. He hisses something in Russian at it as he does - an invocation? A prayer? A curse. Hard to tell. It's not fear in his eyes, but a kind of cold rage.

Fury turns back, "Huh? What?" He's listening to Ben and then he is staring down that tunnel…"Ahh!" He violently shakes his head now seeming to snap out of it. "Ben!" Then the blazing aura from the teleportation grabs his attention. He turns just in time to see the swing and the speed! …And hear the Russian «<»>

He pulls up to fire, keeping careful not to have Buck directly in the line….But well, It's Fury, he's not too concerned either.

Meanwhile outside the windows begin to glow and the same little skulls can be seen inside. Men are taking notice now. One grabs his radio. "Colonel Fury. Pr* *t. St* g* T** H"

FUry fires three shots but they bounce back his way just barely missing "Don't fire into that damn light!". He calls out before diving for cover. Hearing the staic he simply smashes the thing before further distraction

Old Joe Jabberjaw is apparently impervious to small arms fire as he leaps toward Barnes.

Just then, Bucky's metal (albeit gloved) hand punches the little man right in the mouth. The massive tooth is ripped from its place in the man's gums and goes flying.

At that same moment, the flame burning in every single one of the candles in the tunnels is extinguished with a rush of air out toward the mine entrance.

Old Joe is struck by another round, but this time it seems to have an effect. He drops to the tunnel floor and is motionless.

Cornfed's just taken a step inside the small man's cottage when he loses his tooth. The cottage immediately vanishes—along with the SHIELD agent inside it.

Daimio, for his part, blinks and steps to his feet. "I just had the weirdest thought," he says, shaking his head and looking around. "Like a daydream I didn't even know was going on…"

Bucky is breathing hard - but there's no sign of pain from him. The glove, however, is a loss….and as he crouches to feel around for both the tooth and its owner, there's the rasp of metal against stone. Like the slither of an enormou snake in there with them. "Someone," he says, and there's a grating note in his voice, "Had better get the dead guy."

With the rush of air there is an almost weightlessness that begins to form in the room. As if more than just air is felt rushing out. Fury Keeps head down and covered till it's over. When it finally is he gets up and dusts himself off.

"Helluva' punch, Barnes." He says with a suspicious nod. Turning to Ben he asks, "You hear all that? My damn ears are burning." He pulls a cigar and strikes a match off the cavern wall puffing away now. He nods to Bucky and looks back to Ben, "Any communication with the buys outside? My radio got banged up." He bobs a head in it's direction and one could see it looks like a Mac truck spun out on it.

One of the agents manages to locate the tooth and scoop it up into a pouch. "Got it!" she calls.

The face-like shapes in the tunnel walls seem to have disappeared. Maybe it's the lack of candlelight. Maybe it's something else.

Ben clears his throat. "So … Fury, I'm guessing this was something the local yokel should have shared with everyone? I'm gonna wring his neck." After spending a minute trying to get a response on his own radio, Ben grunts and turns to assist another agent with lifting Karashin to half-carry, half-drag back outside.

For his part, Buck's dragging Joe's apparent corpse behind him like a caveman who's just taken down a sabertooth. When they're within the range of natural light again, it calls up a silvery shimmer on that left hand. Is he wearing an armored glove?

Fury nods at Ben, "He'll be in the Yukon by tomorrow evening." He says in standard Fury form. "Get that tooth back to Hq. I got somethin' I need to check on." He looks down the cave at the shimmer by the end of the tunnel and back to Daimo, "I'll be in touch." With that he turns, smoke billowing behind him.

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