1964-11-25 - Project Virgo: Life at 90 KM/H
Summary: Bucky desperately tries to escape from East Berlin with twelve young, superpowered dissidents.
Related: If there are no related logs, put 'None', — please don't leave blank!
Theme Song: None
bucky rogue 

0255 hours. Volkseigener Betrieb Industriewerke. East Berlin.

How often has this scene repeated itself? Late night settles over an operational medical factory staffed by a skeleton crew of labourers and their foremen. Unbenowst to them, the Winter Soldier creeps through a second-floor office under total cover of night. Not a single window pierces the walls, and the lone source of light comes downstairs in the hallway where a bulb burned. Within the foetid, still air stinks of oil, fear, sour sweat, and bodies.

His marks this night aren't a dissident rabblerouser or an important Politburo member meeting an American agent. There's no mole to remove, only a dozen children selected by the ill-winds of fate for transportation to the depths of Mother Russia.

Their bonds from wrists and arms and legs split away with a knife, but that hasn't stopped the immediate problems: how to organize the scarred riffraff, and escape with them before their handlers show up at any time.

Thank the gods it's only a dozen. And he doesn't even have a piggy oven mitt to amuse them with. He's tugging the oldest upright. «I'm getting you out of here. You've got to help me with the little ones.» Because even he can only carry so many.

What entertainment could they possibly gain with those bruised eyes and faces thinned by terror? Unlikely any puppet show or diorama of workers in fields and factories will ever satisfy these castoffs of the German Democratic Republic. They stare at the shape in the dark, Bucky barely distinct and more of a living shadow. What they have, however, is an understanding of German, brothers and sisters, cousins, friends. The bigger boy he freed feels around and grabs another of the thin, listless children drugged during their experience. "«Come on.»" It's so hard to form words, but after some half-heartedly attempts, they shuffle around. Youngest ones are the least likely to hasten forward largely because they can't, floppy and dopey in the dark. Easiest to carry, though, even for the weakened, frightened ones. The bigger children, those eight, ten, eleven, are harder, too tall to just sling into arms and too heavy to jostle around much. But they form up, stumbling in the dark and crying out when they run into the canvas-covered furniture or pillars they were bolted to.

All right. Now's the tough part. One of them, anyhow. Herding these wobbly little lambkins back to where the trucks are. Thank God he remembers how to hotwire cars.

He picks up ones he can, gets one more to piggyback, hopefully. That's a handful. The rest he and the oldest child he'll have to chivvy as best he can….and hope he doesn't have to fight until he's unhanded all the kiddies. «Follow me,» he tells the ones urged to their feet. «We're leaving.»

Long, skinny limbs surround him like match-sticks. Emaciated bodies wrapped up in too many layers to be reasonable or normal cushion the little ones. Bucky's bound to be strangled a little by involuntary clutching of frightened wunderkind. They follow like geese. Around the barricade and down the floating staircase slap small feet. They stumble. They moan and whisper to one another. Sounds are slurred, not good, eyes glassy, not better. In twos and threes they cling to his presence like burrs.

That's okay, for now. He's got enough muscle in his throat to tense up against it, at least a little. «Quiet,» Bucky tells them, as gently as he can. «Like mice, we're going somewhere nicer, you're going to feel much better» And so is he, once he's had the chance to wring some necks, when it comes to who was responsible.

Down the stairs to an empty corridor and the offices he listened for activity but never entered. Darkness out there but for the bulb pools shadows deep and thick in the corners. Beyond he's heard the claxon signalling a change in shift, the insistent beep. Three in the morning. One hour or less for transport. Time drips through an hourglass, dooms him in every breath spent hesitating in a gloomy old factory run by an uneasy conglomerate between East German workers and West German interests from Frankfurt. A few boxes on the way were marked Hoechst AG.

The little ones try to abide. They still fear a backhanded slap, the man with the frozen eyes freezing their innards and bringing tears spilling down wan faces. No hushing here, they learned to cry quietly. Two of the preteens are shaking, withdrawal already hitting a bit as their systems burn off what they can. «Okay,» says the boy. «Where?»

He gives the kid a dry look. «Anywhere's better than here, right? We're going somewhere safe. There are options.» Down to where the trucks are….the smallest and fastest that looks like it'll still hold a gaggle of little ones. «You're all doing fine,» he tells the others, encouragingly. HE's got someone still with baby teeth held in his human arm - he might need the metal one for punching.

|ROLL| Bucky +rolls 1d20 for: 8

Shift changes in the middle of the night bring a certain degree of buzzing activity, a far cry from the Jetsons-like punch-in, punch-out of Hanna-Barbera. In the upper northeast quadrant of the factory, no officials in their starched, thin suits roll in five hours before dawn. Activity concentrates to the south side, where Bucky saw the main doors and workers thronged around primitive machines that pump out pills, stamp and bottle them. Packaging lines wait for their precious bounty, poisons to cure all that ails you, temporarily stalled to account for men in grey and blue uniforms to rotate out.

It's a brief break, a stall probably putting the clutch of goslings and their armoured shepherd at greatest risk. They try to keep up but it's painfully slow zigzagging around machinery and boxes, urging them to keep moving. He has two options for exit, the door he squeezed out from into the open air or braving one of the loading bays past an awful lot more souls.

IT'll be out that first door. Get them out of sight, if he can. And then stealing a truck. He's got a lot more luck in that - drugged kids are hardly the stealthiest of creatures.

Sweating bullets - there's a reek of warm iron to him now that no soap or deodorant can ever really tame.

The little ones go where bidden, half-dragged, half-carried when the weight isn't too great for their bearers. Asking children without sufficient meals and pumped full of who knows how much product from possibly this very factory to do much? Unreasonable to have hopes they can do more than stagger from place to place. Two crawl, when it suits them, easier to go on all fours across the dirty floors and they don't think about the dirt on their palms and their knees. At least it makes them much smaller, lower profile targets. Two more follow the first, and then the goslings cluster around Bucky if they can manage. Clear skies stand out through a speckling of orange halos thrown by the electric buzzing lights. Puddles shine on the ground. A morass of hazards where boots or a splash might alert the guards on their rounds. He has a way to get to the trucks, there aren't any vehicles on this side of the building. Going around the unsurveilled north side might bring him to the doors faster and the rail line. The south is familiar, the way he entered, a labyrinth of warehouses and low buildings in between offering cover. Choice is his, they will go where told unless into a bad witch's oven.

Out they go, back out into the complex of buildings. Through the door he came in, each one handed through when they need help. As gentle as he can afford to be, heart in his throat. He can hide them behind one of the low buildings. Anything so they aren't out in the open when the kids' absence is spotted.

The children squeeze around building easily. They haven't got any trouble with playing a drunken goose game of hide and seek. He has to worry about the patrols, a set of three men armed with flashlights and guns that sweep the route assigned to them. They ignore the rooftops unless given reason and seek to look down byways for workers sneaking off for a cig, employees trying to make a run for it, slackers and dissidents spraypainting the walls.

By himself, or with one of them….up on the rooftop like some sort of Soviet Santa Claus with eight mutant little reindeer. But for tonight….he'll have to hide them in another building, if he can jimmy the lock. If not….hiding in the shadows will have to work.

But then he's bidding them all be silent and wait. Now's the time to deal with that patrol, if he can, the wolf's light in his eyes, Winter's echoes in his motions. The hunt is the hunt, and if there's an extra ripple of pleasure at the prospect of taking some of these guys out silently as a first taste of revenge….

Twelve reindeer, and most definitely deviant if not classified by tattoos on their wrists or Khrushchev's orders on signs around their necks. One little girl sucks her thumb, though she must be close to six. The others flag in fraught, shaking exhaustion. The eldest looks up with a dull sense of danger. Another of them, a boy with flat thin hair and hands that convulse in the cold, keeps trying to awaken something. Sparks of it come and go. No control, no connection; the need for the drugs. Bucky herds them into another building where waiting brings a scared edge again, the sense of terrible muttering.

«He's abandoning us.»

«Where's Papa?»

«I don't wanna go to school…»

The serenade leads him into the dark labyrinth where the patrol sweeps its beam left and right, up and down. Special attention is paid to the corners, spots shielded from immediate view. They're armed with standard pistols and metal batons, things meant to break bones rather than forestall runaways. The group walks in a fanned triangle.

|ROLL| Bucky +rolls 1d20 for: 13

Murmured reassurances - they don't have to go to school. And he'll come back, he swears. Just wait and be ready to run when he calls. Then Buck's slipping forth, after a last backwards glance with a gloved finger to his lips. R
His first real chance to unleash since all those months ago. The first chance to start striking back on his tormentors, even at so many removes. He's up on the trio of patrolling guards in silent moments, seizing a baton and summarily rendering them unconscious in three precise blows.

Buck strips and breaks two of the pistols, keeps the third, takes all the ammo he can find. Then guards and scattered bits of automatic are dragged into the shadows rather than left to lie where they might be seen. He is a trained professional, after all. Now it's a matter of finding a truck or a van that might yield to his efforts to hotwire.

How many times has Bucky promised that? Or unknown faces to those particular victims of the Communist machine? Of course he'll come back. Promise, cross your heart and hope to die. Their dead faith reflects out those window-pane eyes, the dull expressions. They huddle together for whatever cold comforts their wet, chilly, shivering bodies can provide, nestlings released to the winter wind too young.

The guards don't have a chance to relive their training or speak before the bone-crushing violence sends a parade of blood upon the dank alley or the bricked walls. Matter of an organic origin mixes with the oily water. Tossing them upon convenient landings or stowing them in the corners they linger in buys time. Ten minutes before they don't check in. Fifteen before their next posting comes up blank. The workers outside don't hear the cries much or if they do, they turn a blind eye in Stasi country. This is what imagined freedoms make of men.

And off goes Father Christmas, Sinter Buck, armed with a few fresh clips and cheaply made Warsaw Pact firearms. Edging his way past someone smoking is no difficulty, and he has his choice of trucks. A cheap boxy one, a Barkas B1000, that might hold them all but the open back is probably concerning. A larger Robur with a detached cab and box riding behind.

The Robur it is - larger, more secure. He's back to creeping, again. But the moment he succeeds in firing up the truck….it's going to out them. But the time is running, and sooner rather than later someone is going to go check on those poor nestlings. Better to have the advantage of surprise and mobility on the way. Hell, if need be, he can run some of the more foolish down. Compunction and mercy he's left somewhere in his wake, for the evening.

The Robur has the dubious distinction of being the work truck of choice in East Germany. Easy to track through the streets given the marks on the side, but more spacious. Hotwiring it - cheap, for all the engineering is respectably German - takes Buck less time than brewing a pot of coffee. The back door can be rolled up to pull them in, or he might manage two, maybe three, in the cab. Choices, choices.

They'll be hard to convince to get running into a van, tired, worn.

They're small enough, most of them, to be scruffed like pups if he has to. Anything toget them out and away, and if it leaves him an element of their nightmares in days to come - needs must when the Devil drives.

Though surely Lucian has a driver of his own, right?

Skills learned in the war remain, and the truck sparks alight. Running, and he's pulling it out as carefully as he dares, praying it's not sufficiently unusual a soundto have the whole pack come baying after him.

Needs must. The bigger ones can pile in. The little ones land among the mostly emptied cargo bay, no handholds to speak of, rolling around with boxes of cheap no-name medication stripped of name, ingredients, and brand. All for the comrades and their welfare, of course. Little creatures cling to one another and the slim hopes, those with it enough weeping again, sniveling, noses running and eyes teary.The doors shut and that is the finale for them, as far as they know.

He's got the fell task of driving through a warren and by the time the truck slouches into motion there might be a few befuddled looks. Shift change is over, off go workers, in come workers, and there are early morning transports. Who thinks to check? How fast can they move? This isn't a process in rapid motion, and he has a few minutes to cut free.

Because no one's ever left Berlin in a truck against their own will and never returned. Good. Let them be confused in the changing of the guard. He drives sedately at first, carefully. Don't mind me, just stealing some kids. It's all going if not swimmingly, then well enough. No sirens, no shouts, no fire.

Until Fate's determination that James Barnes not have nice things kicks in again, surely. Someone's going to jump into the roof of that ungainly van.

All around Friedrischain, the working class neighbourhoods and the smaller factory complexes make for difficult negotiation. Of course, traffic is light. No one can make it more than a kilometer without parted curtains or a lens turned on unusual behaviour. Even something taking a familiar route from the industrial works is going to eventually trip curiosity. No sirens, no. But then the Stasi doesn't like to use overt means when covert will do. Why not see where the vehicle goes, and bust the contents and the driver avert he reveals his hand? They play hard.

«This is stupid. You'll never get them across.» When did Lazar appear in the cab? It's not really a question worth asking with the ghostly echo of Bucky in terrifying detail, sitting within arm's reach. He is probably armed. He doesn't look altogether different from when he was shaken off in a dark alley.

|ROLL| Bucky +rolls 1d10 for: 5

Lazar can see the chain reaction roll through his template's body. How not - it's that series of familiar and familial tells, the way his shoulders bunch and tense, the body coiling in on itself for action…..and then it unwinds, as conscious thought clamps down before things can go vastly, terribly wrong, an explosion of confined violence. Lazar's had the drop on him for a while, and if they wanted him dead, he'd be dead. «What's your suggestion, then?» he asks, quietly, as if by assuming Lazar complicit, a conspirator, he can make him so.

|ROLL| Rogue +rolls 1d20 for: 5

No smile for the elder over such a brood. This one has the shadows painted around his eyes, frost for a long, ancient look, and the certain tip to his head that seems to paint a mask over his features. Cut from the same cloth, the only thing to distinguish them might be substance. «You know the answer.» His Russian is precise, dispassionate and scoured clean of any kind of accent past Muscovite. Even that is hard to put a finger on, like the rest of him. The children in the back of the truck are still restless, frightened.

«Yeah, I do,» Buck says, softly. Lazar's got him over a barrel….and there's a bargain that could be made, if he's inclined…and if trust could hold. «But it won't do. They get over the border and safe.» Loose, now, but still poised for action. «Why are you here?»

He ignores the question from Bucky about his position. The ghost is another rider in a truck caroming around the streets of East Berlin. He isn't buckled up but the likelihood of an impact with a gate or a wall harming him may be lower than usual. «Gonna dig a tunnel? Launch birds over the wall? Too many.» He shakes his head, watching the soldier unblinking and not the buildings slipping by, high-shouldered brutes pressing in. «They shoot children too.»

«Sewers,» he says, simply. «And there are tunnels.» Can he risk blowing their locations to the Soviets for a passel of scrawny little kids? The cold, calculating part of him informs him that the Western services will have his hide. He can always be mistaken for one of the brothers as a convenient excuse. «What do you want?»

The children are bruised, cargo that bounces and whimpers, trying to be quiet under the roll of wheels on broken pavement. Lazar doesn't pay them any kind of attention. «Face your devils. Make them come and get their part of the bargain.» He turns his head. «Take the train they would ride.»

«What do you mean?» Hands light on the wheel. Buck….it's galling, that feeling that he's been superceded. He shouldn't trust this shadow-eyed successor. He doesn't. But….who else does he have at this juncture.

«They're putting the children on a train. Go on it. End the threat. Ride the line.» Lazar has little else to say. The words are wooden and rusty when they escape his throat in a rasping low volume, the disuse of conversation coming to the fore. Already he is staring out upon the window again.

«You're the ghost the other ones talk about,» It's not a question. «Well, Ghost, why are you helping me?» But even as he asks, he's turning. He knows where the train line has to begin.

«You can't seem to help yourself.» As punches go, that one might be a body blow delivered by a boxer prepared to exploit the options available to him. Lazar in profile is colder, harder, slightly younger. Those fathomless pits of his eyes reflect on the glass. «They're coming.»

All one is going to get out of him as the distant, tinny wail begins, and then a car careens out of the alleyway tangled around them, all those narrow streets flanked by forgettable shops and ugly little Trabants. It swings out of a one-way street, lights slicing through the dismal night. And another, converging behind the truck, falling into sliced formation.

«Yeah,» he says, simply. He doesn't let them form up on him, no leisurely waiting as the wolves draw alongside. Then he's accelerating, wrenching the truck into a turn it was never meant to make. The screech of rubber, but no scrape of metal or concrete. Using the skills the Russians trained him in to his own advantage.

The children inside the truck haven't got anything to cling onto but one another. They scream in terror through the drug-stained night as the maneuvers fling them against metal and bounce them between boxes full of semi-contraband pharmaceuticals, western products and formulas with the titles scrubbed off for domestic consumption. Bodies thump in a steady percussive beat. They've got no seatbelts, no handholds.

Lazar slams against the door of the cab himself on one of those routines, his eyes bleeding full of a midnight flame. He's already reaching for something, feeling the gun over his shoulder protruding in place of a crusader's sword. No templar rides for Bucky tonight. Hashashin, that's another matter altogether. Take your eye off him and pay the price. In another look over there, the bench is empty. Maybe Bucky has just been hallucinating the whole time.

Abortive turns require the two Stasi cars to negotiate, pouring on the speed as much as their shitty little microcars can possibly manage. Someone has to be shouting into a radio, transmitting the news because the hornets chasing him are joined my more ahead through the diagonal streets.

Entirely likely. If it wasn't for the SHIELD deaths, the proofs on his own body in terms of injuries and burns, there's a good deal of time he'd be tempted to dismiss them as figments of a Russian's imagination inserted into his own, a final, bitter joke.

No opening of the door - can this kid slip through walls? Entirely likely. But now his effort's devoted to losing them. He knows Berlin. Knew it, even - has been there multiple times. It's almost unconscious, the routes he takes, hands tight on the wheel, dodging through, trying to weave back to the train's departure point.

Perhaps that one is. A collective hallucination, an unproven demon, no more substantial than Winter's own presence creaking around his skull in the midnight hour. Bucky hasn't the liberty of managing that. For as well as he knows Berlin, they know it too.

Five cars swarm around him, trying to cut off routes to the broader boulevards by keeping the large transport truck onto the byways and alleys that end in solid walls. Nothing quite next to the Berlin Wall. They're in the tight angled streets of Friedrischain, the borough flattened and firebombed within an inch of its life in the war. Things haven't changed much.

He loses his sideview mirror to one of those too close swipes, clocking a corner of a building. The driver in the ugly Wartburg swinging in behind him, another Lada forced to accelerate and narrowly missing nailing a post box. This early, there isn't much traffic to contend with, but they nip and obstruct where they can. Train, train, back to where? That would lead him presumably straight into the AG factory.

To Potsdamer, like a pregnant bat out of hell. God only knows what kind of radio chatter's being picked up. Gone are the days when the Winter Soldier was as subtle as Lazar. Border Guards on Charlie might mourn to see one of their own (assuming they even believe Barnes is) chewed to ribbons by the assault rifles, but….this one is going to have to be played in the open, in two parts. Get these kids into the hands of SHIELD in the west….and then down to the train to deal with the real problems.

On the other hand, those at Checkpoint Charlie haven't liked their posts ever since that fucking Wall went up in a ribbon of girders, rebar, and concrete. Painted faces and graffiti protest on the West side, the east a littered wasteland of twisted wire, barbed glass, and broken lives. Checkpoint Charlie is well-guarded, some even say by tanks. It's a fucking risk beyond words.

He could abandon them on the no-man's land, surrender the children there to make their own way. What's the measure of a man? The squeal of balding tires, the puttering cracked-egg diesel smell, the whine of the engine and the cracking retort of sidearms raining down around him. Spiderwebs smite the side window where Lazar once sat. Another shot hits the hood. It's not for nothing that Checkpoint Charlie sits on the middle of the city center. Only diplomats cross into the GDR side. Guard towers, cement barriers, and a shed wait for those crossing. The guards are already present, stirring, yanking their weapons free.

|ROLL| Bucky +rolls 1d20 for: 5

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