1965-01-09 - Court of Nevers: Story III - Bucky
Summary: Captain Rogers is lost. The torch has a new bearer, and he isn't nearly as nice about balancing the scales with Russia.
Related: Court of Nevers
Theme Song: None
clint fitz bucky rogue 

The woman peers through a tall metal tower viewer mounted on an ornate, art deco swivel. Her green gloves grip the sides of the viewing machine, adjusting the angle of the swivel. Her smile is visible only in profile, a piquant curve of the lips. "Our third champion, James Barnes. Be welcome, and do share your story."

2345 hours. Zhelezdny. Closed city 81. USSR.

No map for public consumption marks the existence of Zhelezdny. No comrade could tell you about the twenty thousand souls in the ZATO. A small number of people attached to one mandarin in the Politburo funnel all the necessary resources to a model Socialist wonderland. Disconnected from the outside world, the isolated citizens dwell under the shadow of criminal prosecution while pursuing their idyllic lives among plants manufacturing highly classified materiel and researching subjects that not even the Marshal of Soviet Union hears about.

Hence fences, lakes, mines, and rivers do plenty to deter random visits. Police mind the three gates and check for passes under intense surveillance. Cameras bristle in all direction. Units prowling under cover of darkness provide unseen security above and beyond the visible. Planes so often cover airspace overhead. Listening posts buried in the ground and concealed with trees listen for the slightest sonic crack.

SHIELD knows these facts. The only reason they know about Zhelezdny at all came at a terrible cost; the death of a good man and many bad ones. A vendetta over thirteen months that started with the bloodstreaked uniform last worn by Steve Rogers on the rusty soil and no body led through spies, enemy agents crunching cyanide pills, or their skulls simply exploding upon capture. Paltry amounts of intelligence point to a hidden city where a dead body might rest in a morgue, or a prisoner in a cell somewhere. Is Captain Rogers too valuable for Russia to execute?

Who will wield the shield? Without Steve himself, there was a bull-terrier level of insistence from his old comrade, and a grudging permission from SHIELD and allies. Now it's James Barnes, in his own variant of the flag-suit. Black, save for a dulled and somehow metallic flash of the red-white-and-blue on the breast. The shield is the same….though unlike Steve, he has exactly no compunction about using fully and intentionally lethal force. Which explains the AK slung at one hip, and a pistol at the other.

For his part, he's adamant that Steve is alive, and to be found. Found and rescued.

Fitz was in full tactical gear covered in pockets, two concealed small arms, the NNG reliably on hip, and other small devices in utility for reading, scanning, and disarming security measures between here and their target. He followed behind Bucky and leaving Clint and that long-range cover them from behind. The engineer's nose was buried in the gauge looking to pick up electronic signatures off radio signal, or trace metals at ground level. Agt. Barnes had a mission to go secure their asset, and in this Fitz wasn't trusting any field agent to putz with his tech and volunteered to go to see the team could move past the defensive security measures. Was there going to be gunfire? Undoubtedly, but he was not going to let the success rely on whatever chance and luck Bucky kept in that big metal arm of his.

Taking some kind of hover-capable craft seems plausible, but alas, that kind of technology penetrating beyond the Urals invites a flight of MiGs and superhumans as the welcome wagon. Assistant Director Fury's intel, assessed in tandem with Fitz, points to an overland route in conjunction with a thirty-nine second break in the overlap between border guards, and the strobe lights and infrared cameras going down for a power surge. A brief one signaled by…

…that bang in fact, a generator struck down by Team Bravo. Their time to move, while the snipers are left frowning from the flash of light and the brief chaotic churn awaits.

Beyond lies the glimmering lights of the city. It oddly lacks for many buildings, and those present are almost entirely low-rises occupied by the residents. Statues loom larger than life at street corners. Murals floodlit on inward-facing walls depict the peaceful, industrious life. No street signs. Many hardy plants. It looks nothing like a standard Soviet town: colourful, somewhat prosperous. A string of broken bodies and half-gained secrets say more of Zhelezdny lies underground than above. Truths to be gained.

What was the bedtime story that they used to tell trainees about Barnes and Rogers? Rogers did the flag waving so that Barnes could do the real work? Well, with the man in black now plastered with the stars and stripes against his chest, who the hell watched his back?

'Well, hell. Nobody needs to live forever.' is Clint's attitude, generally speaking. Suiting up, his tactical gear is as customized for getting his ass kicked as it is for kicking, which is likely par for every Clint in every known version of every story. Bow? check. Sniper rifle hanging off his other shoulder? Check. Side arms aside? Check. Resting bitch face and douchebag sunglasses? Triple check.

Reflective lenses glance in Fitz's direction briefly while the guy nerds out over his equipment. There's the sense of silent judgment, but he doesn't say much about it. The archer has a reputation for more assassin than spy sometimes, and enough cover stories that only the high brass know the bullshit from the real deal.

"That's the signal," says the Captain, if not the Captain that it should be. Then he's moving forward, smooth as a spill of ink, the stars and stripes dulling down to near nonexistence. Waving the flag more subtly these days - he's a placeholder, an understudy while the maestro is indisposed.

Bravo is the distraction, Alpha's the wolf with its jaws heading for the throat. They suspect, by process of elimination, where their sought prisoner might be held. "Fitz," he says, curtly. "Guide us."

Fitz was going through his own checks with robotic precision and handed Clint what looked like a scope with green lenses with a purple sheen on them out of his cargo pocket. "Swap out with that. I added a build in rangefinder and you'll be able to cycle through thermal and night vision sight. You'll be vulnerable to anything bright that flashed of course after so when you aim at something explosive?" the Scot paused, "well, best be prepared." His own goggles came down and the field scientist hopped the berm, keeping low. His focus was on pathfindin, trusting Barnes and Burton for any necessary cover fire. (and no, Clint he refused to change his name to Bitz for the mission to fit the name scheme even though it made sense for all the random gear on him).

Tactical and quiet entry was the goal. He crouched and disassembled a security tripwire before making it down towards the village proper. Using the hand reader he built, oddly by dissembling Stark-Tech and re-purposing a missile guidance system to be handheld and it functioned quite nicely as an infantry guidance system. He'll have to thank Tony later. For now… He held up a hand to silently relay to them where he was picking up heavier readings of Ferris indicating to him a military grade support structure and reinforced walls. 80 yards, just beyond the 3rd building, over there. it was a good starting point for them to locate likely entrances to the underground facility.

A placeholder for the long term. Once upon a time, there was another Bucky Barnes, a succession of them, all to keep morale high. Similarly, Cap was a man of many faces. Some of them still live today. But the man with the plan leads them on, and so they go.

The snipers watching over the long walls of the hidden city don't fail to react. Thirty-nine seconds is dead and gone in so much time. Commotions at the Bravo site generate a quick response, pulling off a tactical team inside the fenceline that way. Round headlights mark a vehicle headed in, bringing armed men and scientists to investigate. That's the dangerous thing about the ZATOs: everyone has a role, even the kids. Alpha has a minute to clear the distance to the fence and break their way through before someone notices. How fast can Fitz run, and Hawkeye in fast pursuit?

Either way, it means bolting through the tangle of fence no longer supplied by electricity, a height of fifteen feet at the shortest, and running for the entrance. Of course, the ground-level access under a handsome metal grate isn't going to be unlocked, right?

Clint stares at the bit of tech he's handed off, rolling the scope through his fingers while he waits for an explanation. A second glance at the tech guru says what he doesn't in a subtle 'you're shitting me' before he simply takes word for rote. Neatly switching out his scopes, the other gets pocketed just in case. He breaks things a lot. "Don't look at explosions. Fair enough. Thanks."

How fast can they run? Well, if it means not getting shot? As fast as they need to. Clint muscles Fitz a little bit behind him like a good herding dog when they have a direction they need to go. Locked and loaded, he wants to make this as clean as possible, but he has no qualms putting people down ahead of time if he sees them as problematic. Testing the fancy new scope for a spin to check the path, there's a low word, "Better move, Doc. Hope you've been doing your sprints." He doesn't love guard missions, but recognizing Fitz' specialization, it seems a necessity.

Never mind the few stray bullets and a crack of a pine cone, of all things, being lobbed their way. Nope, nothing to be worried about there..

Do they need to unlock it? He may carry the shield, but he's still got the arm, does Buck. He'll wrench that cover off with one gloved hand, if he can. Or punch it and break the lock. Finesse? What finesse? Let the archer and the scientist concern themselves with it.

Assuming they make it over the fence. Buck's up the wall like a frightened cat, but turning to help them over, while he's poised at the top.

Fitz didn't bother going over the fence. That was for soldiers. As it was not electrified he pulled out the laser knife from his utility kit and took to carving a hole like Wyle E Coyote paints tunnels on cave walls: with adept efficiently. A clatter of the loose mesh gone and he passed through to join Bucky running low at the hole. "Look away" was all the warning anyone got before he threw a flash grenade with a very short wave EMP pulse detonation on it: 3…2…KA-ZAK. With that, he waited for Bucky to drop in and sweep anything hunkering in the room before following.

Locks squeal as metal bursts ripped out of the housing. A shaft plunges into the darkness for a drop of eight feet, a row of carbon rungs black as night against the shaft. Nothing to see until reaching the bottom where the stormwater drops into another floor grate out of sight. The hall is low and squat, concrete that reaches the coffin-sized shaft. Metal doors are wrenched apart uneasily. Luck isn't with them; the elevator is at the bottom, not the top, making for a ten-foot drop. No one waits for them at the top of the shaft, pointing guns down. The hum of electricity laps an ozone buzz in the air.

Shouting out, a masculine voice, the Russian: "I saw someone!"

Finesse is for shampooing Thor's hair. This they can afford a bit of mess and brute strength, and quite honestly, asking him to do anything but that is asking rain to not be wet. The best thing they can do at this point is mitigate the trouble. Clint is up and over the fence while barely touching the thing as he lands on the other side, straightens up and stares at Fitz while he just…walks on through. A bland look passed on to the doc, Clint follows on sweep, alternating between running backwards to cover their path and facing forward, but not even he can see everything coming. He's still watching their backs, he waits for the note of clear before following. He's not on point on this one, but the voice draws his attention in that direction. Clint takes what cover he can to see if he can get eyes on the source.

The source of the voice is up, not down, out on the street. Someone who hasn't determined the whereabouts of dark-clad SHIELD agents — icons, American supremacy in intel and patriotism — yet. But they've deciphered something is wrong, whomever that is.

There's one of those little flicks of the brow in acknowledgment. Tortoise or hare, they get there all the same. "Well," Buck says, rueful. "Let's move. It's a drop - use the ladder if you can." He resists the temptation to bounce down with the shield, slides down the ladder like a fireman racing to the bell.

Fitz sighed climbing down after Bucky. Quietly he murmured, "Brilliant. Well we knew they'd find out" He was already crouching and was about to pull out the blasting putty strip when it occurred to him… "Oh hullo." And with that, since there were the sounds of boots already on the elevator already opened the hatch for a peek. He dropped down inside and took as few chances as he may with this one, though it would take a moment, that screwdriver was coming out to remove the access and repair panel for the controls. Until then? He pulled the stop elevator button. Yeah. That'd do. Really sometimes just using the basic installed features work the best. Why over complicate things just because your friend's wellness, (a national hero and icon of freedom, liberty, and hope) was hanging in the balance, there were explosions, and people soon to be shooting at them? He looked up to the hatch, screwdriver in teeth gesturing 'Where's Barton?'

No one inside the elevator, only a pair of dim lights with a curiously violet-shifted shade. The drop within and a push of the 'open doors' button — in Russian, alas — will open the access down there into another area where the security and industrial paint job suggest they're actually getting somewhere. It's one of those abrupt transitions that hits many floors lower than Captain America and his cohorts actually drop.

The mind simply accepts that. No need to ask how the landing was stuck without someone splatting. Bullets crack the wall. Someone is there, dressed in black, snub pistols fired almost simultaneously. Narrow miss hitting the concrete just short of Bucky's head. Another zings through the open gap, nearly taking Fitz in the shoulder. Duck.

Barton's on his way, boys. He's watching their backs, making sure that inquisitive voice and others hearing it don't follow after them. Don't worry so much, Doc. Of all the people who can catch up, Clint's among that list. The other two down, he waits at the top for a moment longer before shouldering his weapon again and slides down the ladder; the inside tread of his boots making a slick 'Shhhhht' of sound just before they tighten up and he stops before the bottom, stepping down lightly and waits for Barnes to follow down the emergency hatch before vanishing down it as well with a hop, shutting the hatch behind him. A neat bounce on his toes, he doesn't have the time to think much more than that before there are bullets flying again. Clint flattens himself quickly to the wall, cracking his bow out and knocking an arrow reflexively. "Heads down, boys." Clint turns his head, pulls taut and relaxes, letting fly an arrow fitted with a flashbang to fuck anyone's day up in that direction.

With the flawless sense of utter lack of self-preservation handed down to him by Steven Rogers, Buck's already charging for the source of the bullets. He's got sense enough to do the Turtle of Freedom maneuver when he hears that warning from Barton, tucking head within the protective circle. He resumes his forward charge in the aftermath, unblinded, quite prepared to buffalo right through the opposition.

Fitz was pulling out the wires and connecting them to the pocket device he managed on him after unscrewing the panel on the SWEET MOTHER OF MERCY Bless him his hands didn't move, though his heart was racing and he would not need coffee for the rest of the month to stay awake forever. He called up to Bucky, "I have the secure floors override. We're heading down." And with that took the best guess trying to use generalized bunker knowledge for where the brig was libel to be. Right let's go with that one. Ding. He set the panel back in leaving the wired for access and re-secured the screwdriver but pulled out the Nite-Nite Gun keeping that on hand.

Twin pistols pumping out bullets ting and clink off the turtle-shell shield in varied directions, clips expended. Another reload must be coming fast as the soldier in black body armour adjusts. Whining fletching warns too late, maybe. The explosion detonates in a brilliant white flash in the dim concrete hallway. In the chaos, their assailant goes stumbling back, head ringing and shit for aiming at this point.

Fitz chooses the wrong moment to look up and he gets the last flash, head dazzled, pressure enough to make him reel. Still, he clutches the Nite-Nite Gun, but slumps like a ragdoll into the corner. No one say they saw that!

Letting the guy with the shield run headlong into danger, Clint steps out into the hallway casually, checking the opposite direction of the red-white-and-black tank, sweeping for hostiles before turning back toward Bucky's back, an arrow pulled taut with his back against the wall. They have time. There's just one, right? Buck's got that. "Told you to keep your head down, man." Tone drier than the Sahara.

There's the almost melodic series of clangs as Cap caroms the shield down the tunnel to hit his target… and follows it up with a pounce worthy of T'challa. This guy is lucky. He's going to get off with bruises and a concussion, rather than a crushed trachea. Buck's in no mood to play nice. "Clear," he says, laconically, even as he's looking for the next target.

This guy is … not a guy? Not by that build, anyways, a little too thin and short to be any standard, wheat-fed Soviet. In closed cities, they receive better food and supplies in return for being cut off. She would knee the American icon in the groin if she had coordination, but her aim is off, never mind the concussion splitting through her skull. That oh shit moment explodes for another report, another day. Fitz is still giving the wall a thorough staredown in case it's full of dangerous substances that need acute examination right now. No fear, he'll be right as rain in ten minutes.

No hint of movement from the hall, but that's not saying much. The aisle runs up to double doors and stops in sight, then bends neatly out of sight. If the facility resembles the town above, they are on the outer fringe of the western side.

Bowstring goes lax. "What took ya so long?" Clint rumbles, quiet and mellow at Bucky's back as he steals a glance in Fitz's direction. "See if you can get our ride workin, Doc?" Striding up in Barnes' wake, his boots thudding light as he comes up on the felled … lady? "Huh. That come standard issue?"

A neat pivot and point of another arrow down the bend, a cursory examination of the double doors, Hawkeye scouts ahead to make sure they are indeed alone. Any other points of ingress noted. Just in case their lift to hell is out of the question.

"They don't really have any hesitation for using for stuff we'd never think to," Buck says, with a faintly dry note. "God knows I remember the stories from the war - women snipers, women tankers, women fighter pilots." Buck's heading for those double doors with that confident, soft stride. He hasn't Steven's grace, but the training is evident in every motion.

No other visible points of ingress at this point, only the elevator. The double doors open to a boot print rather than a knock or a light touch, and they are electrified. Rubber insulates only so much. The ozone scent bursts and flowers in violent profusion, explosive sparks showering out from a broken socket. Space twists in a dream and it can here, awake, accelerating the prowl and need to unleash violence. Intersections await Cap by way of Bucky: a succession of guards near doors, firing around corners, waiting to line up their shots.

A gauntlet to run where the prize isn't a delicious block of gouda, but Steve Rogers himself. Corpse or not.

Fitz was out for a good little while there. What he made up for in raw speed of intellect he sacrificed in stamina. One can't be all the things…well… people who aren't Bruce Banner can't do it all. Yeah. Better. The first thing that hit his was a ringing in his ears that was causing a stabbing migraine and the painful urge to throw up. This was good! This meant he was alive and functional enough for everything to be uncomfortable. He could still hear the words of his late lab partner going "Aww, Fitz, this is no time to be sitting down. You've got this." He coughed and cracked an eye doing checks: tingling in limbs but no numbness (nothing broken), nothing cold (so not bleeding), and no copper tang in the back of his tongue (not in shock). Right. He could finish getting Bucky where he needed to get to. He tried to communicate back to the team to let them know he was functioning. "Brilliant." He leveled the NNG down the hall, no one else on their feet yet. "Well, I'm not dead or unconscious. Bravo for me." He called ahead trying to catch up tot eh cacophony, "Sitrep?"

Arrowpoint goes down while Clint stands back, letting the guy with the shield go ahead of him to the door. "How…innovative." That wasn't the word he was thinking. Redrawing over Barnes' shoulder, ready for him to crack the doors when they spark. Like he said. Innovative. Clint doesn't answer the call from behind them, a hint busy at the moment with the exchange.

"One hostile down," Witness the poor concussed woman, "Heading down the hall," His Brooklyn accent's stronger than ever. Let them line up their shots - he's got the shield. Heading for the next set of guards, becoming moving cover to let Hawkeye fire from the back.

Soviet marksmen know their work. They aim low for the feet or high where unguarded body parts might emerge from a shield. Everyone has a rhythm. Punch, duck, favour left over right. Don't forget the scientist or the assassin, laying aim at them while bullets crack and bodies drop. In the end, attrition wins. A city of tens of thousands of souls, turned against three senior agents of SHIELD, an icon of the Avengers, is an alarming prospect.

Turn, turn again. That puts them down a corridor littered in bodies, and as long as they take the right not the left, it should keep them roughly inwards. Doors are interspersed at odd distances, and this place is different, a long, wide, low space that feels like an underpass on a major road. The other end is dark, hard to spot anything on the other side.

The air quivers.

Fitz took a deep breath and puffed out his cheeks. They were clearing a hall path to the end. Seemed. straightforward enough. Oh, and they were shooting back. Lovely. Well, that's fair he supposed. We were shooting at them. If trading words or holiday cards instead worked by now we wouldn't be here. Shame. He felt permanently compromising the environment would make it bad for them but… thinkthinkthink- He dropped his low light goggles in place and came around with the NNG and paused. Fire extinguisher? Could create a propelled blast like a landbound torpedo. He went for his sidearm but instead from the back called, "Clint, bottom left." Hoping he would pick up the math: Projectile + tank = much bigger propulsion ballistic and some measure of environmental hazard for the present occupants.

It's a dance. That rhythm, punctuated and driven on by the staccato beat of, well, hot lead. Not the best four-piece band, but Clint knows how to dance.

Hold his ground, two arrows fly in succession over Bucky's shoulders, past his ear. Pivot and draw, Hawkeye's sidearm comes out to shout an off-beat to the lead band. Dip to the other side of the moving shield, his boots trailing a stream of dust kick up as the floor spits ricochets. Clint's movements are minimal and brazen, stature solid and poised, using Bucky's body and the shield as his own personal barricade, pressing his back to Barnes' as he turns back the way they came, silencing a suffering soldier still grabbing for their weapon. Barton has zero problem putting people down for good; ruthless in his efficiency. Non-lethal arrows don't clutter up his quiver like they should.

Clint's back to Bucky, Fitz catches his eye. A short nod and fluid draw of his sidearm again, Barton assists the mad scientist's ploy and fires at the pressurized chemical container, clamping a hand on Bucky's shoulder to draw his attention to the newly flying hazard. Duck dodge dip dive and dodge.

Crouch and brace, deflect and move. He's a relative novice with the shield, but then, he's trained with Steve for years. The instincts are there - the shield on the right arm, with occasional flicks of the alloy hand to deflect something with contemptuous ease. The spark of bullets, the almost melodious descant of automatic fire against that tricolor hemisphere… (do the Wakandans make musical instruments out of it?) Sometimes he's able to bounce the bullets right back on their origin, sending one of their opponents staggering back, bleeding.

Syncopation should be primal and metallic in the forgotten terrain on no map, past the shadow of the Urals or hard up against the Caspian Sea. Here the reign of hooves on salt pan and the chugging wail of the steel rails rule endless skies, not orderly three-quarter beat waltzes of the Danube Basin. Flashing lights awaken in the dark when bullets carve new courses in the walls and arrows strike home into the pressurized can. For an instant, nothing.

Gotta love Soviet tech. Out spews dust and a chemical compound, roaring down the dimly lit tunnel like a bat screaming out of hell. The dust hangs in the air, smoke blown in an explosive puff of pressurized gas escaping. Off it bounces and skitters along the ground, out of sight. Out of sight down that long route without end.

The floor starts to tilt, heaving up, and on a vertical trajectory in six heartbeats. They're headed the same way, the Americans, short of finding some compelling handholds. Down, down into the black hole…

Fitz was momentarily site tracked following the path of the canister working splendidly more than he could hope for. Their targets became harder to see, but they also got cover in return. Once he would have been thrilled about that and cheered on the screaming canister with and 'eee, fantastic!' He wasn't even angry, but disappointed that these people robbed the world of the other person that might appreciate that most, but they weren't taking Steve. The collar of his turtleneck was pulled up to prevent inhalation of the chemical dust and slowly behind them, sidearm drawn.

That isn't something that Clint thought through entirely. The air thick with obscuring chemical, the first whiff was cloying, the second was sending his lungs into a brief hacking upheaval. Eh, it's fine. Who needs to breathe? Sissies.

His sidearm nestled against his ribs again, Clint's bow is pulled again, relying heavily now on the scope Fitz tossed to him previously to track his trajectory. Straighten. Knock. Tighten. Release. Pivot. Repeat. The scuffing of his boots behind Bucky become a light accompaniment to the noise, his silent presence hovering while trying to cover Fitz's figure.

Don't you hate when your guard target runs ahead?

The floor shifts beneath his feet, startling at first shake, Clint knocks another arrow, deftly clipping a rappelling cable to the end of the fletching. Heavy load, but it'll have to do as he clips the other end of the cord to the spine of his bow. Please hold, please hold, please hold. A shot into what /was/ the ceiling and hoping it takes, Barton holds on tight to his alloy bow while his feet slide, quickly whipping his head back and forth for familiar bodies. "Guys?"

Rappelling arrow, bro.

All Buck can do, as the floor starts to rebel, is pull a couple of knives, and try to piton them into the floor that now thinks it's a wall. He says something obscene in Russian, under his breath, trying to find some sort of foothold…or kick one into being, if need be.

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