1965-02-24 - Project Virgo: Buried Alive
Summary: Bucky realizes the terrible truth about Voronezh, and has to go forth alone, stripped of all his support and aid.
Related: If there are no related logs, put 'None', — please don't leave blank!
Theme Song: None
steve-rogers bucky rogue 


The Shambles. Tunnels. Voronezh.
Serpentine routes carved from the living bedrock of Voronezh Oblast bear signs of much improvement. Mortared walls and solid floors speak to long-term care, the radiant warmth indicative of some efforts to humanize and improve the place.

The Shambles are where thoughtful intentions end, and humanity nosedives into an ominous end. In all his time, the Asset recognizes no such similarities to any of his fractured memories stored in a brain repeatedly scrambled and pulverized, his memories pounded to sand and spun up over two decades. He certainly hasn't seen children melting into the walls and the discarded wereckage caught in the entangled hellscape. Bluish water rolls around them, shallow basins dipping into much deeper pools where death could be certain.

They watch with their bloodshot eyes, those who haven't lost those empty hollows, hung or shaped, molded into a labyrinth of living figures instead of bones in the old ossuaries of Catholic Europe.

Those that can advance on him, the nearest grabbing him, pulling him to join them in an imploring drive that lies on the cusp of reckless bestial intellect. Bite if they can, claw if they cannot. Bones snap, those that don't bend like sponge, and they hold fast, sheer weight and waterlogged, stinking, suppurating flesh that parts to absorb his fingers.

The handle to the sodden door snaps off his in his hand, yellowed bone crumbling, bleach white far stronger but giving way. While he forces it open, one of the children manages to gouge a scratch on his hip. Hard. Burns.

He's doing his best to kick them away, to cripple them. Just enough to try and earn himself passage unimpeded. ANother wound to the little assortment that he carries, swift to clot and seal, but not without another stain on the dark gear he's wearing. Then he's tumbling through the door. Beyond Winter's nightmares - that's impressive.

Not without a stain from the blackened fingers, the blotchy hands, the open wounds carried on the water. What will the serum do when contacting the miseries of a nation, the dregs that society sweeps literally under the proverbial rug? Time will tell.

Water splashes around him, the inundation of the river following him wherever he goes. The eerie blue light more in line with cenotes in the Yucatan rather than buried between the Black and the Caspian Seas chases after, the only strobing light to be seen anywhere. Disturbing, really. His soaked clothes are heavy, and he'll hit the wall without having some care with that tumbling. The slower-moving children trudge after, swarming to the blood and the warmth of a living soul who might care. Even if he shatters their noses or leaves boot-shaped impacts cratering their chests.

The long corridor exists on two levels. He's in a shallow well, and twenty feet up, a cross-section of a tunnel visible. It stretches east to west, comparatively.

Up he goes, as fast as he can manage. Hopefully these baby zombies won't climb after him. Or at least he can outpace them vertically. Climbing he's good at, after all. Assuming Volga doesn't just bear them up like bubbles rising in a bottle.

The cool water fills the well, slowly increasing where it laps up against the chiseled brick. Fallen mortar announces his ascent, digging in, though the rougher texture the higher he gets allows Bucky better control, a scramble into one of those higher venues. Even at his height, he shall be forced by circumstance to bend, for the ceiling clearance is only about 5'6" up, bored smooth enough to avoid many undulations. Still, the tunnel decidedly feels clammy and cool. His choice which way to venture, whether he favoured climbing left or right.

Below, the wrecked children and youths in their depleted, gaunt state scrabble at the walls. Their limbs may be misshapen and twisted, but not so greatly they cannot manage this.

He looks like a revenant himself - half-drowned and sodden, bleeding, eyes wild with his own fears and those beating down the link in time with his heartbeat. Still armed, though down to knives - that kind of wetting causes real problems in automatics. Stooping a little, though not too much, considering his own size. He's heading down the tunnel as fast as he dares, trying to get away from his pursuers.

Torment flickers at a distance, panic blind and scrabbling at arm's reach. Emotions recede back, like the twilight sleep brought on by powerful relaxants and anaesthetics. They are there, but unmovable, out of reach, sinking into the void behind Bucky's conscious thoughts.

He ascends as he follows that tunnel. Points pinch in where he needs to turn himself sideways not to get stuck, metal arm squeaking and rasping along the stone. Ahead the light fades worse, leaving him in the dark. No lamps here, about halfway along, and the point narrows to push him down, force him to all fours or his belly, as the intersection swings to his left. A stub to the right forms a little hollow.

In it? A dead, curled up thing hardly identifiable as human, emaciated, starveling.

Operating now by hearing, touch. He knows the feeling of dead flesh, even if it's been reduced down near to bone as it is. Delicately tracing the outlines, looking for something that might be useful, or informative.

Stretched taut and collapsed over bones, the skin belongs to something there for a fair long time. At least two years, by decomposition. Effect isn't so much mummification as wasted into a dried, leathery sort of ruin. The thin shape wouldn't give much indication of age, curled in on itself, limbs tucked to the bony chest, fallen sideways. Its face rests to the wall, hair cropped short. Some kind of worn shirt and dusty pants might mean any of the young ones in the dorms, crawling away to explore or hide, and never seeing the light of day.

Awful. He makes no noise of revulsion, but continues on down the corridor. Not making such good time, reduced to crawling and scrambling, when need be. If he thought to bring light…..nothing so practical as a flashlight. But he pats himself down, on the off chance that zippo in a pocket has survived.

|ROLL| Bucky +rolls 1d20 for: 18

Behind, the endless gurgle of water masks any semblance of noise. On high it can be hard to hear, the distortions of his own body pressed down by the shrinking ceiling scraping along his back, burning in his side. Bucky manages to clear around a corner where the pinch point rams a cleft along his spine, pushing his head down almost to the sandy flagstones.

But he manages to pull himself free, sacrificing precious seconds. Dragging himself forth and unknown distance to push around a corner reveals two uncomfortable realities: one, he'll be able to use that zippo to find a sealed ventilation grate immediately to his left, and another corridor tunnel curves out below him at a drop of ten feet to snake around to some other ungodly part of this place.

This is getting too narrow for comfort. But he turns first to the grate, working on wrenching it open, if he can. The vents seem safer than the main corridors, especially after that last unnerving encounter. The wound is still aching.

The grate pulls and stretches out of its housing, released from the long, three-inch screws that surrender with a shriek. Metal resonates out of rock, the sudden give possibly threatening to smack the soaking wet assassin in the face with his own square shield.

The Holding Room

Oblong, the rectangular chamber is higher than anything else he's seen except the room immediately beyond that he escaped. High ceilings lead to double-racks, accommodating those tall cylinders filled by a serene bluish light. Capped in steel and copper, they are arranged differently, some freestanding and others upon their sides, linked in a webwork of supportive piping. Heat radiating from the opposite wall reaches even Bucky; it's practically sultry as a sauna, though not quite as humid. Close.

In the distance, is that a hollow ping? A cry, primal and broken, from one of his pursuers?

Here, though, his immediate concerns may be the large containing basins and some poor thing laid out on a table, submerged under a foot of water, mask over their face. It's a child, yes, probably nine.

His first concern is getting down. Back to the floor, as safely as he can. Sweating already, hair in strings - any tie long since lost. The sight of that child….it makes him pause in curiosity, quietly observing for a few beats, before he resumes his efforts to get back down.

Dropping down is no trouble. Here the floor is clean, absent of dust or any debris. God forbid that happens, for the contents are all terribly well maintained. They should be. Several of those glass tubes are empty, and others…


The child is just a sampling of what the freestanding ones contain. Those who are closer to adolescence than childhood, on a spectrum, hovering suspended in space, stand upright. The lying ones either hold the younger specimens.

He can see at least one dissolves away into entrails floating in the bluish bath, the mask over the face concealing anything, arms stiff. No legs, no hips, just the torso up.

The child breathes on the table, if the rise and fall of the chest is anything to go by.

Not the quickest thinker - Zola's been right on that critique, more than once. But it comes to him in moments - these are the ones rendered down for the chosen ones to consume. Fanya, himself, presumably some of the pups.

IT brings on a full-body frisson of utter nausea, fists clenching. But he doesn't strike out to destroy. Not yet. There's no point in wrecking anything before he's stopped the ones who called this into being. He pads silently along that pristine floor, looking for another exit.

The only doors lead east, and then south. Where Bucky walks, the heat saturates into his flesh and probably brings sweat to wash away the residue of the river. If he was chilly at any point before, this particular spot commands a decided sultriness that eases the way. Another muffled thud joins the percussive crackle.

Violence due from whence he came, growing harder. If the horrors there in the shambles are stirred up to that sort of violence, he might be letting the Horseman of War into the chamber of Pestilence by opeing the door. Just a thought.

South it is, and at a good clip. There's some appeal to letting the chaos start itself, after all. East is a loop back, and he's got no desire to deal with them.

The door slowly, slowly opens. Suspended bodies offer absolutely no judgment upon the man passing them by, observing the slow liquefaction into stewed milkshakes that satisfy far too peculiar an appetite.

Instead of a horror, he finds the tidy wall of lockers, one after the other, identified only by numbers. They curl around one tunneling corridor that abruptly turns, and proceed along another. All are painted a dull industrial grey. Memories of the military or high school wouldn't be out of place.

Curious, he pauses to yank one open. Just to see what might be in there. Weaponry? Files, bodies? Who knows.

Bodies lie behind him, already on full display. Here? Plucking open a locker reveals… books. Papers. Some neatly stacked, others not. A coat, for the heavy depths of winter. Boots. Another, papers, a sweater on a hook. Further along, a stack of thinner texts and oh, is that the Champion of the Motherland?

Here he is depicted atop a train, firing at hunched over figures, while a shocked labourer in the field raises his arm and his tractor actually has place of prominence in the scene. Another page, the blitz through a car, chasing down someone with secrets of the people.

That's always a weird moment of vertigo. Some image of him is a superhero, a comic book character as Steve once was. Enough to stop him for a moment, starting at the book. Intended to be an answer to Steve not just in physical capabilities, but in the place he holds for morale. How strange. Gently, he puts the book back, and closes the locker again.

Doors open, doors shut. None are locked. Papers and their creations caught in lined paper, in presentations, in tiny dioramas: Bucky has found a small world within a world, a mess reduced to patent order.

Whatever he seeks lies onward. Whatever he left behind, wrapped in stone and water, drowns.

Picking up that pace again, the ground-covering jog. Time is wasting, time is running. Alone, lost, without his lover, without his friends, without his kinsmen. Was that the point - is that the punchline to Volga's terrible joke? To have him waste all of that, all of them against this place. Panic's a rising tide, tightening his throat.

The Mirror Hall

Following the inner spiral of the nautilus, the hallway that curls inwards below the holding room contains a row of mirrors, one after the other. Each is exactly the same, a rectangle mounted from the wall to the ceilling, five total. Opposite them, a different alcove, each barely broad enough for Bucky to stand in. One is painted with grasslands, another the tundra, a third the seaside, fourth a forest, fifth mountainous.

That's a curiosity. The first thing that looks almost decorative, rather than brutally functional. He touches the first mirror, lightly, with his metal hand. IT's all strangely dreamlike.

Warm. Warmer, at least, than elsewhere. The radiant heat in the holding room carries through here, suggestive the pipework and ducts feed through stone and the floor.

A turn to examine the alcoves. What is this supposed to mean? Supposed to be? He runs his human hand over the painted walls, stands in the forest-painted one, looking at the mirror. Whimsically, he says, in Russian, "Friend."

Water drips. Splat. One bead.

A shake of his head, doglike. God knows he's trailing water himself, looking like a drowned rat. But he leaves the hall of mirrors, back to the corridor of lockers.

The Northwestern Galleries

A route made serpentine runs a very long distance indeed. For that at least Bucky can tread quickly. He is simply overlooked by bricked-in alcoves possibly marking where doors might have been, once. The air is cool and slightly damp, musty with age. Down that shadowy route, his Zippo offers most of the light, and throws a tarnished glow over a row of portraits, painted in oils, stiff men, stiff features, stiff clothes.

Patricians give way to soldiers, heroes of the Motherland, one after another. Some he might vaguely recall, at least by the bands and bars, awards provided to a string of alphabet wings of the people's government, not that people know much what they do. Peace is War, Truth is Lies. Heroes to the Soviet Union in some fashion peer down on him, cold judgment caught in flat eyes, hooked noses, flat mouths. Stranger yet, not all of them are even Caucasian, though most clearly are. At least one, a man, is Asiatic, an Oriental of elderly years despite his handsome hair. Another is a comely Indian woman in the lush flowering of womanhood, full of contempt or seduction. A man of African extraction, brittle and proud, his standing green collar not quite right for the military. One by one, leading him to another sinuous bend, under an arch marked with a singular, multirayed star.

He's not really tiring, not yet. But it's been a long day, and he's apparently no closer to any of his aims. A gallery of pictures that aren't horrors, for a wonder. Curiosity stops him, now and again. And then there's the arch with the star. He looks up at it. ARound, in search of a trap. And then he's stepping through it. Surely all this isn't merely for the sake of art history.

|ROLL| Bucky +rolls 1d20 for: 16

Crackle and hiss, the dangers of implanted metal studs no more than half an inch wide lace the latter stub of a corridor. Though he might proceed, Bucky risks doing so at his own peril, the lattice ringed around the whole of the hallway and the walls meant to inflict a punishing degree of voltage on the body. Probably enough to stop the heart, tasing all thoughts far, far away.

Fortune is his to even notice one of those socketed heads, much less touch it. Where one lie, a whole starfield of them glint dull and barely seen among the polished stone, the parade of paintings. At the very end of the hall where it turns to the dead-end, Bucky might have an uncanny opportunity to see a painting, nineteenth century, bogatyr tales in larger than life relief. It's the original of a certain immensely strong peasant and his wizard friend.

….there's an old idea bubbling up. A book from high school English class, about a magical portrait. Which is why he draws one of his knives, a long dagger, in his left hand….and stalks up to slash across the face of the wizard. Petty? Perhaps.

After crackling prongs are disabled, however Bucky manages that painstaking time, he has an empty hall about him. The stillness is an oddity, the building crush of exhausted anger building up on the beleaguered link at a very far distance. Too weak to pick up any decent signal, it only throbs there and back.

What can a canvas do against a knife? The tactical blade pierces the craquellare on the finish, tearing a line through the river and the rider placed central, his helm bisected, the canvas torn away. Water splashes out along the partition, a wild gush, cold and terrible. Through that font…

A scrap of blue. A stripe of white. Star?

(The painting: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b7/Volga_bilibin02.jpg/486px-Volga_bilibin02.jpg)

HE's reaching past, of course he is. IT might be an illusion. But…..if the image calls the reality. "Steve?" he says, voice cracked, gone dry.

Fingers push past the cleanly cut partitions in the canvas. Even cold, soggy gloves or steely plates touch fabric, tactical suit and the reinforced Kevlar-like feel rough and hard underneath Bucky's touch. If a chest is contained within there, it is hard to measure, but normally there might be some trouble. Padded well enough not to show where ribs are, after all. Heat is absent, and the suit doesn't move. But oh, it's certainly his.

He slashes the painting away carefully, less a petty vandal and more someone trying to hack away vines from some jungle—hidden sculpture. "Steve!" he says, peeling away the canvas in haste, afraid of what he might find.

Traditional Russian art splits and shreds, peeled away in the hasty tears. Laughter of the striking metal digits find no proof of answer, other than the chatter of deep amusement in cruel, blindfolded fortune. He gains no benefit for his urgency. Bucky finds only Steve's whole costume, pasted up, right down to the boots.

That's chilling. Steve's uniform, but not Steve. No shield. No lion heart. He's yanking it down to take it in his arms, for a moment nothing so much as a child seeking comfort from his blankie.

No shield. No heart. Only the measured suit, even dusted a little by dirt, from the frozen hour when walls blocked off Bucky behind the veritable stony curtain to swallow up Captain America. His suffering is his own. The other luminaries caught in paintings stare, and give no pity.

Carefully, he folds it up into a pack, including the boots, tied together by the laces and slung over his shoulder. Because he *will* give all this back to Steve again. It has to happen.

Then he turns back to head down the hall of portraits. On a whim, he stops before the portrait of the one he saw before, during that first encounter with Volga, and sinks the knife into its throat.

Down the hallway of portraits: the face he savages is, in fact, the man murdered by Volya using a metal bedframe. Nothing like trusting the Hunter, drowned under an immense weight of the unknown, to do his job correctly. A chance throw of the dice — or sleep furniture — has savaged, well, someone.

Back, the route twists through the galleries to the hideous holding facility. Water is dripping off the walls, spreading in a fine sheen across the floor, no deeper than the first knuckle. From here, he has a choice: dare the horrors whence he came, back up into the ventilation shafts to explore.

Up the shaft. There were turns he didn't take. Though he pauses to peer in the occasional locker as he passes down that corridor again. Maybe someone left a flashlight he can use.

Crawling his way back up into the realms of the ventilation shaft after passing through the dissolution of souls into component parts is an unpleasant measure. Bucky might realize by this point harmonics through the shut, bound metal door build up, the steady thumps as regular as any jitterbug he once danced to the USO party hall events. Those with eyes stare at him, the child on the table obviously incapable of doing so, but a few in the glass tubes contain awareness enough to trek his every movement.

Bucky crawls away from their misery to find a storage bay of sorts, something straight out of the nuclear era, alarmingly similar to the East German train tunnels in its way. Tiled all over, cement ceiling, the bunks line up in stacks, none of them occupied. No bedding covers the mattresses.

|ROLL| Bucky +rolls 1d20 for: 7

There's an infuriating passage where he's just jammed up, having more or less hurled Steve's gear through it first. Panting and snarling like an animal - thank the gods there's no one there to hear him.

The Northeast Tunnels
After extracting himself from the pinched walls along the corridor, Bucky has a long, hard, wet slog ahead of him. The moment he reaches the water-filled well north of the room overcome with ravenous horrors, he'll see the blue surface far closer to him than not. Blood and gore streak one wall. Several bodies flail around, submerged. Wet prints imply one crawled. Then he has to leap over the divide or dare the violent masses to continue on.

Dark, wet, cool. What feels like a lifetime of hurrying through stooped passages where the ceiling drops or rises cannot be pleasant. Another shaft leads south, stuck, wooden and metal frame sweating water. By the time he moves past that, onto the corner, there's an even longer run ahead of him. Throughout it all, the walls are unnervingly even, unmarked. Whatever this is, it's probably for servants to get about. If this place has servants. If he follows the course to the very end, he just might reach the library.

…provided he doesn't see one of the glyphs on the wall coming alive in a floating knotwork of saffron.

|ROLL| Bucky +rolls 1d20 for: 1

He notices nothing at all. Too busy dragging gear and being annoyed at himself and the world in general. Tired, damp, hungry, and annoyed, making his way down the endless hallway.

Twisted lines converge upon themselves, flaring. Nothing to see in the soundless fizzling of the embers upon their birth and death, all in the span of a second or two. The heart skips a beat, no more, unaware of the hanging curse trailing in serpentine ink drips after the soldier.

Not much farther ahead, a metal vertical shaft descends from somewhere, emanating just a vague hint of daylight in a weak glow through the covering grate. That might alert Bucky to the series of alcoves sliced into the wall, each of them barely wide enough to support a series of three busts: Lenin, Budyonny, Zhukov.

He pauses to peer at them, wearily. Lenin gets a single metal finger in salute. The author of all his misfortunes, at least at some remove. Then he's dragging back to the library. Back where he started, missing his friends and sweetheart, still. No pause, but back on to the western corridor. He'll have to dare that treacherous floor in chamber #5.

He shoved aside the laser-cut glass door connecting the storage room with the chamber beyond. Its lip stretches in a ragged fringe an inch or two beyond, and then promptly collapses into a deep pit stretching at least twenty feet down through a web of pipes, buried tubes, and raw earth.

Beyond, the metal cannisters standing on their bases, ringed in chrome at ground-level, make a double dozen filling that room. If he can leap across, Bucky will find himself among bodies suspended in the glimmering blue. And he's seen at least one child, in his treacherous fall, wrapped in a gauzy smock among the wires connected to them.

|ROLL| Bucky +rolls 1d20 for: 12

Not his most impressive moment, but he manages not to hurl himself into the pit. SCrambling across and up like a cat falling off a dining room table, and then he's among the canisters. Picking his way west among them, careful to assess the rest of the floor.

The floor is hardly clear, for the metal cylinders set up in staggered rows distribute their warmth to a blazing halo more towards the one barely visible doorway on the far wall. Twenty-four of those metal cocoons wrap around suspended figures, in some cases the bodies elevated three feet from the ground in their liquid suspension. A variety of clear tubes spin through the tanks, feeding essential nutrients and oxygen, presumably.

The subjects do not look stressed, presumably alive. Watch the oddly serene moment long enough, the chest rises, or a finger twitches, or toes curl. Dark hair swirls in a halo around a gamine, coltish adolescent; for a child, wisps of fair gold.

There's a moment where he pauses, finger raised, as if he'd tap on the glass for a response, a child taunting a fish in an aquarium. But he leaves it be. Let them sleep or wait, if it doesn't hurt them. He drag himself towards the west, shoulders slumping, despite his best efforts. Not the nightmare of the western intelligence services, but a very bedraggled young soldier.

At least one of those children has his face, age six.

The door does not wish to open for him. Not with a touch, not with a punch. Some kind of force necessary to heave the portal apart reveals… rough hewn walls, glittering in the blue-shifted illumination spilling out from the cryochamber. The sleepers do not awaken when the noise passes through their tanks, reverberations carried to their kind.

The shimmering finish gives way to metal grating, a glimpse of raw earth below the catwalk he follows on. Another door lies ahead, and his arm hurts the closer he gets to the end of that hallway. It hums, dully, for all the warmth in the air elevates back to a point just above typically comfortable, sultry, summery.

Resonating, as if he were a bell. It's uncomfortable, that ache, piercing through him, not just the arm but all its extensions, supports. But he walks on, for the door. Another one to haul open or beat through. His expression is grimly weary, having resisted the temptation to take that little one out. AS he feared - the pack of eight are just thefirst he'd found. The manipulation and misery go on down the family tree, a cursed father and the start of a corrupt line.

The southern door tings when he touches it, a thrill running up Bucky's fingers, regardless of flesh or metallic plating. It surrenders after a moment of profound resistance. Indeed, well-oiled hinges threaten to leave the metallic handle slamming into the tiled wall.

The Calibration Center

Domed lamps illuminate a strangly decorated chamber, an oblong place at once empty and so, so full. filled to the brim by metallic tiles. They resemble nothing so much as safety deposit boxes in the vault of a Manhattan bank, save for their regularity and smooth green texture. Those run in parallel lines on the west and east walls, leaving the south and north decorated in industrial standard grey-green paint to waist height, replaced by more easily cleaned tiles. The floor in all its unholy grating and cement descends to a central grate. There are truly only two things to speak of in this room beyond that, which ought to have been processed in the first place.

A metallic halo hangs in the air over a very large chair dwarfing the very small, bare-footed girl strapped down. A metallic bracket winds around her bare collarbone, flattening her white nightshirt. Similar bands tie down her wrists, atop the padded leather straps keeping her arms secured, her legs clamped at the thighs, shins, and ankles to the footpad denying her even a connection to the floor. Rolling carts set with all sorts of interesting implements might be dimly named: pliers, flechettes, scalpels, needles.

From the corner of Bucky's eye, he might see something behind him alter, a flicker-flash, the curse unfolding its poisoned taint.

One of the glittering walls has gone translucent at the very periphery of his gaze.

«Ready to comply?»


Another request, mild, so very cultured Russian, masculine. «Soldier. Ready to comply?»

A hollow, thin sigh follows. Any more probably hurts too much to twitch Fanya's diaphragm.

Silence. Silence, but for the slow rhythm of a heartbeat.

Thud-thud. Thud-thud. Thud-thud. Proof of life in the void. His mind is in the quicksilvered darkness of a bubble.

Weightless, his existence is small enough to fit through the eye of a needle. His is the rest of the dreamless — of the waiting for a pull from beyond the warmth of nearly-embryotic state. Blond hair, mussed from capture; clothing, proof of struggle with its tears and rusted stains. His expression is that of frozen close-eyed confusion, the last moments of flinching consciousness captured behind a wall of purest crystal.

Steve Rogers: specimen on display for all to appreciate.

The programming is still active, even if the keys are in the hands of the body frozen. The responsive is reflexive, "Ya gotov otvechat'." «I am ready to answer.»

It's true. He has no immediate response. No clear target, no foe to strike. Back where he began, after all this time, all those efforts. Frozen, in his way. This crusade, futile, the resistance, pointless. He does not kneel or bow, but turns to face that glittering wall with the slowness of a man in a nightmare.


He might hear screams.

The hollow, distant serenade from a distant quarter, sololiquys writ in pomegranate flashes. Fists on walls, metal and bone torn asunder, complement the fragmentary flashes wrought in panic, torment of a bird beating wings against a glassy cage. Something solid and large tears free, a basso thud that ought to hold more body than it does, transformed queerly thin.

A flat tone from the girl, around the thin points of pain stealing everything else away. «Ready to comply.» It falls nearly in sequence with Bucky's own voice, twin satellites of a dreadful void.

Orthodox Christmas, banished in the Motherland, celebrates the birth of the infant saviour and the promise to the virgin mother fulfilled. The soft midday hour marks the high point of that sacred day.

«You are home. Will you serve the Motherland?» That unseen presence raises an inquiry.

There never really was a question about that, was there? The blank, positive response comes forth from that charming little blonde girl with the capacity to snap a man's vertebrae.

On and on, the First Avenger sleeps. His is the blanketing wrapping of Lethe in warmest homeostatic gel, unable to harm the lungs when inhaled and thus damage the captive behind such beautiful tinted crystal.

Thud-thud. Thud-thud. His chest rises and falls at a marked, minute, painfully-slow rate. Not even a reflexive twitch of fingertips betrays any blips on the mental scale beyond that of simple existence.

Why the questioning? What does his willingness have to do with it? It's never been consulted. «I did as I was told to,» he says, slowly. «They were returned alive. None had to die.» Then, a moment, «….I will always serve my motherland.» His voice is almost tender, at that response.

«The soldiers present a threat. They are enemies of the Motherland. Neutralize them.» Another crackling sound descends into a cadence of humming as the prongs thorning the much too broad halo come alive. Air pops under the touch of ozone breathed out by an unseen draconic spirit, conjured through a well-practiced sequence governed through a network of submerged databanks and a prince out to carve himself a postmortem barony in Hell.

Tears spill over the thin cheeks as that current evoked by a profane sequence of binary numbers prickles the skin, and leaps along the metal frame of a chair that Bucky might be unable to tear from its deep moorings. Fanya's body starts to arch taut, straining in futility against her imprisoning bindings, even as she keeps the same dull, flat tone that wavers only when her larynx deals with the fluctuating current.

Her breath wheezes in and out, but she gurgles some noise.

«Proceed, soldier.»

And so the center's true purpose is revealed, even as the charge roars up to the door.

Welcome to the Lightning Field.

If Bucky is to save her — Steve, any of them — he'll have to save himself.

|ROLL| Bucky +rolls 1d20 for: 5

|ROLL| Rogue +rolls 1d20 for: 18

Much as it tears him to see her suffer…..it's Steve he needs. Steve will be able to help. So that's the direction he launches himself in, using all his speed, reaching for reserves he's not sure he still has. Bucky hurls himself north, for the chamber where Steve dreams suspended. Half-blind from tears, teeth bared in anger, metal fist cocked to batter down the side of the chamber.

Through the doorway runs the Winter Soldier, once, the hero of America's youth, once, just a kid from Brooklyn dumped in the soul-shredding crucible. What comes out the other side?

His boots squelch through the puddles. Up to the faceted crystal holding Steve Rogers in check, his dark garments scored and torn, no semblance of consciousness answering the fist smashed against the thick wall. Chips fly and land in concentric ripples, sinking to the ground.

Knells. Let them be remembered as the clamour of tolling bells, the clap of great wings.

The door slams shut behind him, an echo booming through the narrow, rough hallway studded in those faint crystals, crystals all of which hold a certain charge it should be said. Streaked veins of ore, spiderwebbed piping buried through the bedrock, and of course the unspeakably abundant groundwater leaching from the mighty steppe river into the tunnels serve their purposes.

Ozone spikes and the lights in the cryochamber wink out, pulled down. Oh, the luminous turquoise waters remain a calm, lasting presence in each of those profane, self-contained cylinders, the subjects perfectly safe. But how much untold voltage streams through the matrix to supercharge a single halo, to land upon a single body locked in a metal vise to a steel altar? Is it even possible to withstand that?

Let it be remembered Volga Svyatoslavovich first commanded power over the very air and its wrath at the moment of his birth, 'ere he ever demonstrated facility to command all animals, speak all tongues, and transfigure himself as pleased him. Perhaps an ancient epic rooted in misty human memory, or proven utterly by the histrionic shrieks starting at the highest decibels and burning up through that sealed portal.

Another strike, another fracture, hairline cracks spreading out. Too slow. Too slow by half.

In the back of his awareness, some part of Bucky's mind burns out. White noise crackles reach a crescendo, piercing the fugue, the chaos point of instability slewing out of check, the molten bubbling in total meltdown, and that rarest pinprick of all in the snowy cold crystallizing in one glimpse of snow, rifle pointed at a foxhole, and chattering rage on the linked bond. The wolves of the Volga howl for their sister.

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