1965-02-27 - Project Virgo: An Accursed Winter
Summary: Bucky discovers there is no turning back from whence you came. Death walks in his wake. The wolves of the Volga are gone, his guide dead, his girl lost.
Related: If there are no related logs, put 'None', — please don't leave blank!
Theme Song: None
rogue bucky 

|ROLL| Bucky +rolls 1d20 for: 11

|ROLL| Rogue +rolls 1d20 for: 1

The Dacha. Voronezh Oblast. 1030 hours.

He appeared not far from here near to twenty-four hours prior — and was it weeks? Time is a mercurial thing in the perfect dark, and space folds when a man vanishes under mother earth. A very different arrival then, the portal bleeding ultraviolet and a proud parade of soldiers stepping through. Not a one of those remains to him now, except the Winter Soldier, humbled beneath the silent witnesses of pine and fir and silver birch, the traditional wardens of these mixed forests.

Greyed over skies foretell the probability of another winter storm settling in, obscuring visibility towards the western uplands. Hours ago, Steve set out in search of Voronezh or another suitably large town along the river, following the winding road. Bucky's task is, admittedly, the far easier and the far more difficult. Follow the tracks, if he can find them, and trudge back to the crucible of disaster and violence, incipient passions stirring in the breast perhaps at the site embodying all his loss.

Somewhere under there lies the girl. Somewhere beneath the thick slurry of thin, sucking dirt lie the sons. Hidden beneath the sagging, once remarkable manor of a pampered aristocrat with a penchant for hunting, future promise snuffed out.

The place is in disarray and quiet, as well it should be. The ground is wet and unspeakably marshy even a kilometer out. The closer he gets, the clearer the impact of the disrupted water table, sucking at his boots, claiming even now.

The closer he gets, the more the wolf is there. Less coherent, less directed, but somehow at home. But then….so is Winter. Only the city boy feels alien in this stretch of the wide white world, and he's outvoted. The amalgam, such as it is, beast and construct and bewildered agent, trying to come quietly up on the wreckage. Fortified by a little rest and warmth adn food. He's brought some of that with him, though not daring to leave the larder bare.

A good thing, too, for that snug cottage may be especially difficult to locate after the stupefied evening spent under its rooftop. But has a wage of blood and bone been already paid to its jealous mistress, or will her wrath be felt at unexpected hours to come? Questions that will not be answered here or now, leaving a trail of poisoned breadcrumbs for lonely nights when anxiety vexes James awake, and neither lupine reflection borne from the mires of Svartalfheim and the assassin sculpted from winter give any succor. Is this not a metaphor, these very treacherous grounds identical to the existential threat he faced on the choke-chain of a smiling dark elf in a parade of them?

No lights burn in the windows, but they never did. Access remains via the front doors, the ones sprung last time by Steve and his efforts, or the western wing. Holes in the rooftop smashed by a peacenik's fists are less likely an option. The twisted, raw stone curtain wall is only visible by trekking into the woodland surrounding the torn-up landscaping.

Back to the front door. Alone now, indeed, save for the fractures in his head. Touching the link with a pilgrim's fervor, waiting for some answering vibration. No ranged weapons at all with him, just knives and hands. They have to be found, even if it's only bodies. The wolf's impulse is to howl, let the rest of the pack know where he is, hard enough to make him swallow to keep the sound in.

Nothing. The dearth of sound or sensation leaves Bucky purely alone in the solitude of that cracked psyche patched back together so many times, a telepath would need a jeweler's loupe to really make heads or tails of it.

The front doors present a danger, the slightly visible tripwires or dislodged mines in the sucking earth forcing him to mince carefully up to the broad, shallow steps. Those too are in poor shape, awash in silt in little rippling drifts. A step on the first board collapses it entirely, revealing a jagged row of pointed triangular spikes fit to rip the treads of a tank. Doing any sort of hasty dead man's dance puts the soldier to the doorway, splashing through puddles to squeeze his way through the bloated door. That may be the last thing entirely solid he sees.

Daylight does a piss-poor job streaming through the roof, in part because the real damage inflicted on it centers around the dormitories. Walls angle oddly, joints slumping under some immense weight. Parts of the floor are frankly gone, caved in to lightless holes that might just gleam if the sunlight manages to strike the primeval wells. Whole walls have sloughed away.

A sinkhole. There's still the temptation to make noise. But Volga has to know he's here. Do the others? Or are they cold already, lost and gone, the cost of his misadventure. That most recent death will the the heaviest burden on him - that one he can't blame on his programming, only his own foolishness.

But he's picking his way along and through, in search of some clue, some sign.

Sounds are inhibited in the cavernous space of the dacha hall only for the heavy muffled weight of destruction. Boards gone soft collapse under too heavy weight, but otherwise betray no scampering feet. Neither do the walls, sweating condensation, expose small flitting shadows belonging to wraiths garbed in white nightshirts. Laughter is absent, if it was ever here. The east wing offers processing, the west those training centers.

Is it consolation the ruined youth hung from the banisters is still there, if he approaches the western wing? Few of the stairs are totally intact, and the midrise of the second floor has dropped like a layer cake onto the first. Silence, dreadful silence. He knows the way down, if there is a down. Or up, to that terrible hall, or out to the back where Volya made short work of several guards as Nikita and Evgeniy courted fleet-footed death in the woods.

Up, first, just in case. To make sure. Putting off the hour he descends down into the depths. Got to find some source of light - a candle or a lantern or something. The faithful Zippo won't hold out forever. A wraith returning to the place of his death. The idea's enough to walk a shiver up his spine one so many cold little feet.

Up: those stairs cannot hold his weight. Not the dense side favouring the metal limb, for the floorboard snaps and breaks, leaving Bucky's leg buried to the knee in squelching, melting wood better described as mold or a sponge. The noise gurgles out, water staining into stinking clothes not much improved by baking atop a hearth.

Whatever rhetoric applies prior, he has to crawl with the aid of a creaking banister likely to topple to slither onto the unstable second floor. The sight isn't much better up there, the collapsed floor crashing down in melting, soggy layers to the dacha hall below. Beyond the upper landing, supporting pillars have collapsed in, crumpled chunks of plaster melted away. Bits and pieces of destroyed ceiling tiles, ruined paintings, scraps of paper are washed up against the sides.

It's more like some weird version of spelunking than clearing a house. Anything that'll burn? Anything that isn't sodden wood? "You destroyed this whole fucking place," he mutters, under his breath. "All of whatever it was you were making here." Creeping along on what parts look relatively stable. Hard to believe this is the result of merely twenty four hours or so.

The entire dacha is, indeed, on the threshold of collapsing into the ground, falling in on itself. What foundations hold up the house over the tunnel-riddled bedrock? How stable are they, no one may be sure, for it could well be that Bucky just walked back into a deadly mousetrap ready to spring and carry his corpse away to the Caspian.

Not much is intact, only the outer reaches where handholds punched into the wall keep him from falling through the floorboards or crashing deeper still. The scent is unpleasant, all water and force, demolishing whatever stood in its way. Skidding shapes underfoot, the ruin of that portrait of a rider surrounded by hunting hounds, scraps of glossy brown or oiled blue plaster. Paper crumples underneath, sketches of a map, another of a ledger in no apparent order. Numbers roll down, and down, quantities and volumes, dated in methodical order. Every four days, another thing set out.

Paper to be exmained, if he can. They found mention of nonexistent cities downstairs, didn't they? A cursory looking over, to see if anything can be made sense of. There's a whimper from him, despite himself, worry made manifest.

Chunks of paper, shreds that fall apart when jostled too much. Water damage doesn't do well on the material turned to pulp, or sagging where the ink ran. Others might give up slivers, chunks, bits of information to stitch about logistics and transportation.

Slime runs through his hands, marked by inconspicuous numbers, post box, something A153, an old road through flatlands under grey skies. Over and over again, initials. Memory might kick, eventually. CDSKI VIL. CDSKI-28. C-28.

Volga-Donskoy soudokhodniy kanal imeni V. I. Lenina.

Where else but the confluence of the greatest battles of east and west, the bloodiest of sacrifices? Where else but the nexus of the two mighty waterways?


Of course. He's going to have to find a way to tell Steve. This is going to be a longer, harder trip than even he expected. Still ….he hasn't found any trace of girl or kids. Then there's a sudden flash of impulse, and he peers out at the tracks. Has the train come and gone, in the hours he was wandering?

The tracks are lucky not to be submerged, no trace whatsoever of activity out there. Between the snow and the disturbed muck, the iron spurs curl drunkenly several inches down.

More research. Where can they be? And is any trace of Zola left? Any hint on what he might do to ease that hunger, or find the ultimate point of the endless cruel experiments. Riffling through the ruined papers, still looking for something that'll bear him light in the dark.

The only way to find Zola means going downstairs, into a place flooding at the time Bucky crawled away into the vents accompanied by his grim procession of mourners and faithful. Nothing upstairs stands out but for those scattered files, bits and pieces of testimony and shipments. Proof that this, perhaps, is not the only such place serving such a purpose. But didn't their informant shot down by the Black Widow months ago confirm the same, before his untimely dash for freedom in West Berlin? That multiple pickup sites were possible, and multiple centres chosen for the unwanted rabble, rebellious against the system, disappeared into?

The wreckage lays in the long hall where Volga once confronted Bucky attended by an irritated Zola. Not even the table survived, its great weight plunged into the dacha hall or deeper through the foundations.

|ROLL| Bucky +rolls 1d20 for: 3

REluctance keeps him above ground as long as he can. Ostensibly for something to provide some source of light - he can't see in the dark. But eventually, he'll have to give in, and start to make his way down. The end of a candle cupped in his metal hand - wax won't hurt it, nor will burning. He'll be reduced to making torches in the forest later.

A cheap candle, cold water, stagnant pools. He has no hope of going far down the stairs that switchback, and even the observation deck on the higher level is completely submerged, the stairs inundated. What lies below is a cemetery, dark and cold and wet, except for fish. Any trout that finds its way into this realm may be safe for a time, a sturgeon able to grow to mammoth proportions in such protected waterways.

More importantly, even a capable swimmer is risking his life trying to navigate those narrow byways never built for flooding, what with fallen spars and collapsed walls changing the memory of a place, the layout deeply altered into a weird, submarine phantasmagoria. Reaching for walls and finding signs of ruined wreckage, or even ferns under the water, would have to be by touch: the candle doesn't burn down there. He sees no further bodies, so there is that small hope, but neither are there weapons, signs of a struggle, signs of any life at all. No telling what happened to those children he left down in the classroom, blithely ignorant of the flooding even when they fled. Did they make it to safety?

What about the ones in the cryocontainers, the ones reduced to mere food for others? No proof of them, either, or the shipments not sharing in their East German colleagues' better fate.

A broader sweep of the grounds above will eventually lead back to the place where Steve was swallowed. Sucking mire, all of it. The only path, other than by the ceiling, is to leap and wade through marsh as deadly as quicksand to the wall. The wall that cut him off.

That's where he heads, back to that strange ridge of earth. Where has it all gone? Did he pass through a nightmare - is this some fever dream racketing around in his brain before cryosleep clamps down again? There are vertiginous moments of doubt, but he picks his way there to it, looking for where Steve disappeared.

No hole in the ground, of course, for the disruption to the soil smoothed over as soon as Steve Rogers vanished into the womb of the Motherland. Not the crenellated wall rearing fifteen feet high, partitioning the lawn from the side of the dormitory. It describes a ragged crescent moon, horns pointed inwards, the inevitable separation then as now more than a psychological barrier.

Careful trudging and climbing will, of course, be necessary not to end up lost in the same place forever. No matter how long one can hold their breath, the stagnant mire holds no oxygen and never, ever gives up what it takes. Except in rare cases, and always for a great act of cold revenge. Just ask the Nazis.

The look isn't peaceful. It was never intended to be. What remains of the cheerful, bright-eyed girl is mangled and unnaturally stricken by black and violet bruising from a lightning strike. Every vertebra stands out in a row of stippled black pearls up the spine, forking lines rolling down from shoulders and dripping off the skull. Every perturbation resembles nothing so much as the taint of the failures that besieged Bucky — and oh, that hunger isn't ever leaving him be from the solitude of the mind. Scorches and burns never to heal bubble in their own way, forks layered over and over one another, leaving behind a brachiated pattern beautiful in its own way. Just don't stare into the rictus scream of pain carried over into death and thereafter, the seized muscles holding that tormented expression no doubt worn by him on occasion. Just never with the cooked whites of the eyes, jelly vaporized by repeated applications.

The child is wrapped around a disk familiar to anyone from the greatest generation, the star spanned by claw-curled fingers and bloodless rents torn into palms by some excruciating, irresistible force.

|ROLL| Bucky +rolls 1d10 for: 8

It staggers him, that sight seen dimly beneath the earth, only in the flickering light of the end of the candle. It's in the palm of his hand now, barely more than a puddle of wax and the end of a wick. But he doesn't stumble, or make a sound beyond that initial hiss of surprise.

There's no rendering this peaceful, no making it a scene of mere sleep. No eyelids left to close, no scot for the ferryman, no coin or offering. But before he pries the shield from those dead fingers, he kisses the cold skin of her forehead.

Then, for perhaps the first time, deliberately turning to gather what's left of Winter around him like a ragged cloak. Winter doesn't feel, not much, and Winter is moved by the death of no one, not even children. He slings the shield over one shoulder, and turns to go.

The last offering to the water powers. What rusalka arranged that, the dark bogatyr or someone sending out another message? Is this the gift of the Grandmother or the even more ancient Motherland itself?

Of course there will be no answers from a bedraggled corpse pinched out of life, ignobly shoved against a wall in her ozone-infused shift. One can even smell, around the dense environment, that scent of lightning caught still in her scorched hair.

He knows that scent all too well. Mingled with sweat and gun oil, it was what passed him for perfume for years. It'll haunt him. Let Winter carry the burden, Bucky's had enough.

He does his best to give the ruins of the dacha a last search. But it's clear they're beyond his reach, in whatever means. The cold is welcome, as he makes his way back up to the surface. Time to follow the tracks into town, if he can.

The grounds are soiled and sullied, too deadly to easily traipse across. One wrong footfall and down ye go into the earth itself, swallowed up by the soupy mess made by calling forth the river in its wrath to overtake the soil. In the great elemental battles, earth always subsides to the ocean, and the atmosphere's rages matter little in the stygian depths untouched by light or mountain peaks. Fire is a memory. It's the primordial void which rules.

More scattered wreckage, spilled glass tubes and bits of life from a single shoe to an exercise book scraped clean, a water-logged copy of the Champion of the Motherland spat up against a tree. A box stuck in the snow, half-open, yawning with green file folders.

No life. No dead. Just Fanya at the crossroads.

HE stoops to examine the file folders, out of sheer habit. More clues. More little breadcrumbs to follow into another hut in the forest, surely.

All that awaits is Russia itself, the vast expanse that calls its emotionless monster of a son home.

It's been too long.

Southeast feels like the right direction. Though the last monster created by a Swiss scientist had to pursue his maker all the way to the Arctic circle. It's going to be a long, long walk.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License