1964-11-28 - Project Virgo: Life at 90 KM/H, Part 2
Summary: Bucky finally saves a day.
Related: Project Virgo
Theme Song: Moby - Extreme Ways
bucky rogue 

Not a chance. And okay, good. One bored American Marine shooting at them from the back is easier, assuming they're greeted with anything more than a jaw-dropped expression of surprise and some spilled coffee. It 'll leave Mr. Partially Vibranium and the engine block to take the fire that has to come their way from the GDR guards.

The poor kids endure one more stomach-churning half-circle lurch - then he's hurling the ungainly thing at the gate. The part of him that has any regard at all for subtlety and tradecraft is wincing. The part o him that's still Cap's whooping sidekick, on the other hand, is agog.

East German forces arrayed around the border zone between downtown Berlin conquered by the US and that formerly Soviet have their protocols, even at 3:35 AM. Especially with a stream of Ladas and Wartburgs pouring out from the main allee and the sidestreets that converge on this point. Not for nothing the main road was kept wide and flanked by few places to hide. The many cement barriers staggerd to the sides funnel traffic into a few narrow corridors where vehicles are checked scrupulously, and guards in their shacks can examine documents, literature, and goods at their leisure for contraband and propaganda. There aren't tanks lined up like there were scant months ago in a showdown, but still, the rails and wires and barbed coils of toothy metal all exist for a reason.

It's not that much different than the war, is it? Things haven't changed in twenty years. In more ways that one.

Approaching at speed causes the bald tires to skip and squeal. His effort to tear the truck around is a difficult thing, given it's got the turning radius of a yacht and the handling of a barge. The engine shrieks. Brakes smoke. Horrors upon horrors, the squealing pistons and stretched chains are nothing next to the cacophony of screaming children somewhere in the background. Whatever else Bucky does, he's not free of bullets.

They rattle in a violent fire.

He's not separate from gravity.

The Robur's cabin is instantly riddled with a few shots, another spidering the windscreen. Pings radiate off the door. A stream of gasoline pours out behind them, more a crack in the fuel line than a lucky shot. He ricochets the vehicle off one of those blocky barriers meant to withstand a tank. Momentum punches the vehicle sideways, skittering through the broken arm of a gate, three guywires scything off the top of the metal box like thick cord through wet clay. Another bullet slams into the cheap vinyl and stuffing of the bench. And over, over…

The cab seesaws once, threatening to tumble fully over, the cargo carrier creaking and whipsawing onto its side through the grooved, tire-piercing grate that leads into the American Zone.

It's like a terrible version of those old sandlot baseball games, with Steve 'Rickets' Rogers flinging himself headlong into whatever serves as a base in the diamond. To the point of concussion, at least once, in fact.

In a couple cases, there's the movie Western sound effect of a bullet caroming off his arm; in one, it strikes into flesh but more or less lodges in the support structures that splay out under his left pectoral. What could've been a sucking chest wound ends up painful, bloody, but ultimately not necessarily deadly.

He simply punches his way through the back of the cab and into the cargo section, peeling metal away like a furious housewife opening a TV dinner. He's got to be a horror to the kids, after all this. But that doesn't keep him from punching the back door out and yelling for help. Standing int the doorway - he can take stray rounds a lot better than a sickly nine year old.

The shouts in German are answered in like by a plethora of languages: more German with the rounded out Bavarian influence, Piedmont-blasted and scoured English, someone possibly fallen from the Scottish Highlands and therefore mildly incomprehensible.

Rows fall into place. No one wants to be seen shirking their duty when so clearly they were. Six East Germans drop to one knee, conveniently placed in front of the Volkspolizei Lada screaming to a halt. Standing on the brakes practically throws driver and passenger against the windshield, the brutal stink heavy on the air. Those taking cover behind cement barriers send a volley of fire into the destroyed tires, assuring the truck is going nowhere.

American forces don't lack for order, either. Not after weeks and months of useless drilling. Defectors aren't common and they almost never show up this way. Sidearms give way to machine guns. Streaming out from the shed, the few soldiers on duty aim right back, and some poor MP is shouting into the phone, "Reserves, get the reserves. Yes, I know they're fucking up on the U8, throw me whatever you have unless you like borscht and working on communes!"

The bloody mess that rips open the cab takes another hit, smacked along his thigh, hands probably ripped not a little in the torn metal of the rooftop. Yanking it apart reveals bruised masses, the sobbing and drugged children laid out in heaps among torn boxes, spilled medicines, packing material in all directions. The red, white, and blue flag snaps over a high pole, the Noster shop sign curiously at arm's reach.

"Bist du Amerikaner?" Oh, that MP is losing his mind. "Die Kinder? Amerikaner?"

Old, old reflexes from before Zola pipe up, hopefully to his aid. "I am an American. Barnes, James B. Sergeant, Number 32557038." No one's decomissioned him or discharged him, so far's he knows - back from the limbo of 'MIA presumed KIA'. Though for all intents and purposes, he might as well have declared himself Alice back from Wonderland. "The children are kidnapping victims." Well, fucking duh, Bucky. You just stole them. "Specifically, dissidents taken against their will and intended to be shipped to the Soviet Union as experimental subjects. Who's in charge here?" He's bleeding from chest, leg, hands. "Help me out here or those GDR bastards are going to massacre children."

The excitement and the thrill evaporate only a little bit. Protocol rules the roost, and the MP keeps the gun leveled at his counterparts from the Stasi as more of those police cars roll up to disgorge their infuriated passengers. The East Germans shout, "He's a wanted terrorist! He has stolen from the German Democratic Republic."

Piteous wails answer that particular claim, and it's all Bucky can quite do to encourage even the bravest of those little dissidents to flop out through a broken fissure in the roof onto the ground, lying flat. Wrong bend to the arm, there is no way a radius ever intended to point in that direction.

"Parker! Get the commandant on the horn, now. God, we couldn't have Polk… What the hell, dissidents? That's a kid."

In some cases, he's reduced to doing a one hand pull-up with the metal arm, kidlet in the crook of the organic arm, then scrambling up to the roof. "That's what they call kids they intend to use as research subjects," he says, with perhaps admirable sangfroid. "That's the excuse. They're kids, they haven't done a goddamn thing politically."

Gods help them all, for the limp, weary child practically flops forward and shows a mucus and tear streaked face, bruises already forming on the thin cheekbone. Forehead gashed, clothes covered in pill dust, it's a sight to send a shiver down the spine. The Americans hiss to one another, and in the distance, three police cars strobing yellow and cherry-red lights sparkle. The Easties don't lower their guard for a second.

A desperate call from a shack. Equally many more lighting up the offices, pulling people from their beds. Already the interlude in the Rosenthal Thor has disrupted far too much. This on the brink of two empires, the spilled wreckage, is enough to make a man drink heavily.

"Look, Barnes. You…" The colour starts to drain from the sleepy MP's face. It turns to abrupt horror, his eyes growing the wider. Behind him, another soldier in a heavy coat holds up a tin with a red cross stamped on it. The poor guy gapes, "You…" as language skills fail.

"Don't move that one," hisses the soldier. They probably know English. They assuredly do, over the border, the nearest ones. "One or two steps, you're outta luck. Backside of the truck's in the American zone, got it?"

"They need medical aid, and they need it now," Buck insists, setting feet delicately to the pavement. "I can get the back doors open, if that won't start a shooting war." He shifts the little one to a different grip, easier to cradle while standing. Nevermind the broadening stains on his leg and chest.

"«American, is this worth fighting a war over?»" Because who said brinkmanship ended in Cuba?

"«Put your hands up and get on the ground!»" The Stasi captain isn't losing this opportunity. He cares nothing for the child, that much is evident, and he has no compunctions about hissing to his colleagues to prepare to shoot. Just don't shoot the American officers; that much goes without saying.

The MP sways on his feet, holding his gun straight on the nearest trigger-happy Deutsch not to be trusted for an instant. "Gates. Please."

Gates, the man with the medical plan, keeps holding up the first aid kit. "We got the doors. Let me do this. Children out first. They have to come to this side. Stay put." The strobing police cars are getting nearer, louder. More from the east, more from the west. Friedrichstrasse, so proper and beautiful on the western side, would be a harsh place for a bloodbath.

"A'right," Bucky says, tone almost offhand. And he does kneel and put his hands up, resting them atop his head. The shirt he's wearing is torn but he hasn't wholly lost the glove on the metal hand. At least nominal concealment, for now. The wounded leg makes him wobble, a little, but he manages to keep his balance for now.

The child half-conscious and delirious with drugs and pain in Bucky's arm doesn't intercede in any fashion. Small blessings, after all. Without that sort of trouble, he has a boat anchor for a dory, nothing greater. Easy to carry that one.

The MP and his complement of four soldiers keep their weapons drawn, and a bullet skitters ten meters ahead of Bucky, clearly on the East German side. The Soviet lines and morale is holding, but there is anger, a growing red tide of belligerence and thwarted fury, resentment and crackling fear. Fear the mind-slayer, fear that rends sense to pieces.

Gates hurries to get the doors open, and the moment he pulls into it, the cacophony begins.

"«You're violating East German property! Get your hands off that, now.»"

"«We will shoot!»"

Fuck that, apparently. Gates uses the fallen van for cover as he hauls and twists on the dented doors. Not nearly as effective as the Winter Soldier, or Captain America, or even the common strongman. But he has the advantage: he's in West Berlin, if only by a meter and some. It gives those running up the road with their sidearms at hand, and the row of cars even more surreal. A loudspeaker flares up: "Anyone crossing the border is violating international law, and will be repelled by force if necessary."

Is this his next death, at the hands of the East German guards? They're puppets of the Soviets, and he's now irreparably destroyed any masquerade of being a deep cover agent. There'll be a Black Widow white to lividity when she hears. Hell hath no fury….«There are sick children in there,» he informs the Germans. And then repeats himself in English. «They need medical care.»

The Germans don't care, on the east. On the west, it's a simple matter of hauling out another child of six and broken bones, lolling eyes. Sniveling, the frightened faces of terror. The stink of fear-sweat and urine, weasel musk of betrayal, washes out and there are two, three men taking up position and one more shoving through to dare and bring aid, take the child away, away past a diner and around the corner.

They're frothing with rage, and stupid mistakes come from rage on both sides.

"Commandant says stand to, boys! Getting the ambulance through, they're in the West, they're ours." Parker shouts from the hut, radio in hand. "Are we clear? You take that back to Willi Stoph or we're planting a tank out here."

There's not even a flicker of a smile on Bucky's face. No point taunting the Easterners into filling him with enough lead that vibranium is no help. His left knee is in a puddle of blood, slowly growing, the pants leg dark with it. And his shirt is a loss. Let that add to whatever variant of the legend might be growing around him now. Cap's war buddy, the Soviets' deadly ghost and now….what? A traitor to both sides?

Somewhere is a ghost, walking. Somewhere, a young man peers through a scope, shaking his head internally.

Three children become four. Four turns to five. More lights, more cars. Angry mutters of a hornet's nest kicked over and what can they do? A battering spray of bullets limns the edge of the Wall dividing the city before a lieutenant shouts at someone to knock it off.

It's an ugly outcome, a messy standoff. But one by one the minutes tick. One by one the Germans, Americans, Frenchman, Scots hold their places.

"Sayin' you can walk, now's a fine time to decide to keel over at us," notes one of the fresher-faced sorts, Iowan farmboy, comfortably thumbing the sharp lines of his gun.

It's a moment to take a vintage leaf from Steve's book. "I'm fine," he says, even as the puddle spreads. Buck hasn't fallen over yet. But he's not pleading for care, either. Not until the kids are safely away. He offers Corporal Cornfed a sharp grin.

Mind he's still holding a child. The Iowan doesn't quite cluck his tongue. "None of that shambolic heroism now. Come on. Just right back, man, and we're done with this. Give you five minutes before they roll up the rumblies on the carpet and give us all a real fine show. Commandant's flipping his helmet back there." Bucky gets a lopsided smirk, the soldier exhibiting a little restraint, not much. "This ain't an airlift again. Give it to them by coming back."

Easy to say. The guns aren't pointed his way.

Maybe it's blood loss. "Right back?" he asks, vaguely. "And can one of you come take this kid?" A beat. "….please?"

"Just topple over. I'll catch you, and Gates there has got a big ol' coat he can wrap up," says the Iowan with a low hitch, trying not to let the stress break out a grin. It would bring the wrong kind of attention. He cannot come any closer, that blond. Neither can Gates, a few meters away against the burst door of the truck. Or the warriors present.

He's learned to fall gracefully. And in this case, it's only half-feigned. Bucky sways, reels like a drunk, and then lets himself tip forward, right across that line. The little one ends up deposited firmly in the West….right as he sprawls. The *thud* of his head hitting pavement is audible.

The kid squalls just the once. A broken arm hurts, and shock is a thing. Cue the shouts to hold fast on the American side and that big farm boy living up to the reputation of Iowa produce of the golden maize variety. Arms out, he grunts when the weight is obviously much more than expected, but one breaking step back and a bit of discomfort finds boots dragging over the clear demarcation zone on the other side of that famed "You are entering the American sector. Carrying weapons off duty forbidden. Obey traffic rules" sign that hangs like the pearly gates into freedom. Not that the Commandant — or SHIELD — will take this lightly, but there's an advantage in having a ruined truck and twelve tormented children.

He should be peeling off to deal with the train. Ghosting away from these guys. But seeing to the children and getting patched up has to come first. Lest he collapse somewhere in the darkness of East Berlin and wake up to find one of his old nightmares smiling benignly down at him. "Thanks," he says, in a whisper, letting himself be dragged as if he genuinely couldn't get up again.

The decisions happen in record time. Children are hauled back, already to points of safety, whereas a bleeding adult able to talk and breathe receives much less attention initially. Broken arm, broken leg, greenstick fracture, gashes on head and arm: these are categorized and catalogued, as the MPs and medical personnel swing into action. Thirty minutes before that train leaves, give or take. With Bucky in distress and disarray, at least from the surface view, Corporal Cornfed — Feuchtwang, if anyone's asking — gets some help to pull him behind the overturned vehicle and back strategically.

From there, things unfold rapidly, multipoint axes of activity. Ambulances overloaded take their beeline to the nearest hospital. Field care for two of the children conscious enough to whine in pain and accept a little water takes place in the back of an ugly MP car, green and white. The Commandant isn't on site yet, a chance to flee. Otherwise he's bundled off past the shack, away from the crossing point, around the corner into posh shopping districts.

He will accept medical gear, do what he can to patch himself up. And then, should opportunity present itself, slip off. The kids are the focus, after all. And a convenient distraction. His mission isn't over, after all.

Bandages. Gauze. Those icky peroxide bottles, they're all present. And when it comes to Bucky Barnes, ghost in the machine, there must be calls being made for a man who has aged terrifying well and …
… wasn't he the one who shot Captain America?

Here. He's here.

But by the time someone notices, it's too late.

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