1965-02-27 - Project Virgo: Calling the Cavalry
Summary: Steve makes it to Voronezh. Using a party line, he just now has to get SHIELD to fly to the rescue.
Related: Project Virgo
Theme Song: None
nick-fury peggy steve-rogers rogue 

On the road to Voronezh City. Voronezh Oblast. 1245 hours.

The plan set forth was simple enough, in the comfort of a snug cottage a bit too warm and tidy to meet with mythical standards. While Bucky performs a quick sweep through the forest, Steve heads into the nearest settlement of any respectable size and signal SHIELD to the ill-conceived, daring raid in the heartland of Mother Russia. Follow the river and eventually somewhere of reasonable technological advancement ought to spring up, right?

That's probably what the Mongol Horde thought, too, eight hundred years prior. No great mounted force sweeps across the snowy plains, at any rate, nor even so much as a groaning, ancient truck.

Easy plan when inside. Much different trying to slog through six foot drifts or the barely plowed road that might only be distinguished by its rolling contour being much flatter and regular than any field. Telling the difference between the frozen river and the road, now, that's a trick. He's been walking for near on four hours in conditions not much better than Azzano and the Limburgish Forest, with the added benefit that German snipers aren't shooting at him out of the coldness in their swastika-crossed dark hearts. Here, people just want to get by.

It was with muted concern that Steve parted ways from the house and the brun left to his own devices. He remembers well enough the exhaustion-fueled fears that left Bucky's lips on their trek to find safety, after… The blond flinches at the vividness of recent memories and quickly pushes them off to one side. This was still a battlefield, even if there was no live fire at the time. He can't be distracted. Still…how to remain secure and able to function by himself in a foreign nation without causing further diplomatic stress?

Before he reaches the straggling edges of Voronezh City, where the houses begin to cluster closer together for the sake of humanity, he pauses. A glance down brings the bright white star into serious question. Not red. White. And this shawl, what to do? Steve holds it out in one hand and considers it as he shifts his weight.

Wait. Kneeling down, the Captain moves aside the snow. …well, if it worked for the snipers in the trenches, it'll do for him.

Thus, wrapped in the shawl, the blond American trudges into town looking as if he was the winner of a mud-wrestling content. His hair is half slicked on one side, face obscured with random splats, and the covering of both thick muck and shawl obscures the more obvious markings of his suit. Yes, he's warm, but…somehow…he's going to find a way to shower before he goes to find Bucky again. Does he have an explanation?

Yes. Simply ask.

The shawl belongs to someone's grandmother, knit with chunky yarn into the most traditional of patterns imaginable. No one would ever declare that stylish, but to its benefits it is both warm and itchy, as all proper grandmotherly shawls ought to be. Whatever needles laboured long in front of the hearth in that rocking chair created a square large enough to act as a flag, so presumably Grandson Piotr or Vladimir are impressively broad of shoulder. Broader than Steve? Alas, the colours are terrible for stealth, a smear of oranges, browns, and yellows, natural fibres dyed in an unmistakeable selection.

Voronezh's outskirts present the typical affair for most cities, ramshackle houses and not nearly enough apartments or tenements for those who dwell here by choice or force. Brutalist cement apartment blocks rear up against the sky, and families live crammed in paper-thin walls with maybe one bedroom, sometimes two if one greases the right palms. Some thin curs trot among the cluttered streets. Loose gates, vacant lots, and torn up earth suggest a frozen cosntruction site, multiplied many times over, waiting for the season when the ground unfreezes and work resumes. He'll earn a few looks from the better bundled mamas with their children urged on, workers with their pails ducking their heads against that moaning wind.

One great benefit of the river city, finding the broad docks and orienting upon the waterway cleaving through its heart is never really that difficult. Just walk until the land runs out.

Looks are fine. Steve can return those as mildly as he can manage, attempting to hold his weariness as main factor in his movements and expression rather than simply brushing it aside and, well, soldiering on. It's if anyone gets to whispering and suddenly disappears: that's when he might get nervous.

Where to go for a phone? All he really needs is a phone. Well…in theory. Who knows how well the lines are monitored and even if a signal can reach so very far across frigid tundra and freezing ocean.

Power lines and wires that run higgledy-piggledy among the buildings at least signal this achievement of the modern age reached the CCCP. The number of illegal pirating lines tapping into the main generators are concerning, indicative of a supply insufficient for the needy. Utility poles are few and far between, but easily identified for their wreath of loudspeakers. (http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-HU2gtJ_5jeM/TaOMLn796eI/AAAAAAAAC1k/FlTvT7bfiT0/s1600/100_0453.jpg) As to where to find a telephone, that's going to be a tricky task. Most private households lack them.

Shops line the deeper streets, and of course there's the government buildings in harsh greys that replace the emptied, looted Orthodox church being used ignominously for 'The Hall of Science' in a bleak nod to cynics of the Enlightenment. If they had any idea…

Steve tracks the tangles of wires with a vague sense of disappointment. He knows enough to recognize that they cluster around places of business and/or the government. Still, he trudges on, looking as stalwart and stoic as he can manage. His walking takes him deeper into the city proper, now more populated than the outskirts.

He pauses beneath one of the utility poles and scans the streets around him. Which shop has a line leading from it? Actually…he squints at the various signs or marques that tell of what is offered from each location. He's looking for a hardware store in particular, all the better to 'call home and tell Mom he's found the right tools for the job'.

Not much populated. This hour is closer to mealtime, lunch, and those approved to take their short, comrade-mandated break do so at their desks or in cafeterias inside, not out in the cold. Sluggish progress leads to better cleared streets, a statue of Lenin in bronze and another of Stalin, glaring imperiously over his grandiose mustache, the first signs of real fervour. Red banners snap in the brisk, chilly air running roughshod over the steppes. Here, a seat of power, those ranks of hammer-and-sickles indicative of the oblast government's seat of power rather than the city. Infrastructure improves somewhat, but with the seat of power goes higher sense of being watched by law enforcement, police in their heavy hats, the odd soldier or two.

Centered all around the area is the main shopping district where government-approved shops sell government-approved goods at government-approved prices. Steve sees nothing that fits the bill exactly. There is a bakery and a general market with windows displaying several very rank and file goods — shoes, socks, nails, a comb, a block of lard — as well as a hairdresser, a bank, a post office, the norm. Several shopfronts are little more than cardboard exhortations to serve the Motherland well by investing in labour, joining a state-run farm, getting an apprenticeship for heavy machinery.

A bookstore… Propaganda, of course, and is that Bucky Barnes on a book cover?

Okay, the book cover is just distracting enough to bring Steve over to investigate. He squints, bringing a hand to his brow to shade his eyes, and then makes a rusty sound of dismay. This is not something Bucky would be pleased to see — or at least his friend assumes, given their current states. His eyes shift back towards where his path lead from, back towards the outskirts. He then shoves down worry and continues on, over to the general market. This seems like the place to find hardward. At least a hammer. There has to be a hammer. They're nuts about hammers around here.

He opens the front door and looks around. "«Hello?»" It's nice to get out of the cold, at least. He shifts the shawl on his shoulders to relieve a ticklish itch.

Slashed colours give a boldness different from the boring volumes in yellow or dull maroon, featuring titles like 'Economic Progress of the Western State Collectives' and 'Mechanical Repair, Small Engines.' The modest selection intended to be hip and eye-catching includes a children's primer featuring boys in a factory while girls sit in a kitchen on a divided cover. And then there's the dark-eyed man, a spectre against some kind of warehouse, the red star on his grey arm unmistakeable while he reaches out to a suspicious, whispering pair of figures.

«Champion of the Motherland Secures The Plan» shouts the bold Cyrillic marching across the cover.

Heading into the general store is an easy matter, given there is a very brief queue. Inside everything is laid out cleanly, one aisle on the left, another on the right, and a counter folding the perimeter where staff are happy to be sure you have your one allotment per individual, two per family, of beets in a jar or pickling spice or shoelaces. It's all terribly easily laid out, hardware to the middle, clothes at the back, foodstuffs in the front, toiletries in between.

Four employees mind the rather patchy selection. "Hello," says one. "What is your order?"

Steve glances up from deciding precisely what he needs from the hardware section and immediately attempts to squelch down his automatic grin. No one's that happy here.

"«Oh, I need a wrench. And bolts. You see, my mother's tractor, it has rusted in the snow. I need to replace the lugnuts so it can move again. We must make sure the field is furrowed before the spring, you know?»" replies Steve, ever-so-dutifully. He lifts up a corner of the shawl and tries his best to look reluctantly grateful for wearing it. "«Mother's, you see. She does not want me to catch a cold. All the mud.»" He shrugs. Hey, he is muddy. Fixing a tractor is hard work. Wink.

The hardware section has everything wired down. Look but don't touch, of course. Never be responsible for breaking something if you can't buy it. «You have your passes?» asks the bored employee, a man of roughly thirty-five, clearly greasing someone's palms to be able to enjoy such luxuries as telling people no and 'fill out that form in triplicate.'

He tips his head at the shawl. The mess. The smell. Ugh, that dirt. His expression turns slightly at this attempt to explain away terrible, if warm, clothing. Damn peasant, the look on the city-dweller's face is plain. «Bolts for a tractor? You have the wrong place. We have a wrench, but bolts are at Novy's. You may have a wait. Shipments are snarled for a while, but with any luck, the Politburo will sort everything out in time for the harvest. I have faith in our comrades.»

"«Ah.»" The pained expression is at least some parts real; he had hoped to get this imagined errand over with far sooner than later. "«The passes. I knew I forgot something.»" He looks around the store again and pulls the shawl more tightly around his broad shoulders. "«Would you have a telephone that I can use to call my relatives, comrade? They live in the city. I must let them know that we need assistance.»"

The rules don't explicitly say that the employee must stand on the floor and he sits on his exciting stool, awaiting the opportunity for providing service from a heightened peak. One must proud of his accomplishments, and not prove too ambitious for the society. «A telephone?» His expression turns a bit peaked, interest melting under a certain degree of suspicion. There are rules and protocols layered in protocols and bureaucrats hissing at him. «Let me ask the others about it. Your relatives must be well off to have their own phone, eh?»

That would be the antennae sensitive to unnatural privilege going up.

|ROLL| Steve Rogers +rolls 1d20 for: 11

Eeep. Steve can read facial expressions well enough to know he's trodden on some delicate toes already.

"«Well enough, but they too suffer the shortages. We are all in this together, right, comrade?»" Farm-boy earnestness worn down by time and broken pride, can he make this expression real? Hey, he tries. All the while, he's attempting to figure out how to make this conversation happen.

Assuming the shop-minder relents, he huddles in close to the phone and puts the receiver tightly to his skull. The static is something terrible, but he punches in a series of numbers…probably enough to warrant suspicion if anyone could see around his broad shoulders, and waits. And waits.

Someone picks up. "«The frozen eagle flies where the red star shines,»" he says in Russian as quietly and crisply as he can. Is it enough to identity himself?

Things get patched around. Finally, things manage to get connected to the right powers that be. Peggy is looking a mixture of incredulous and pissed as she picks up the receiver in her office. "«Nest here. Situation?» Right now the un-secure nature of the line is the ONLY thing preventing a very irate reading of the riot act.

General Store. Voronezh. 1347 hours. +8 hours from New York.

Farmboy, kolkhoznik, receives one of those veiled looks that both pities and holds in contempt from the shop clerk. He hops off his stool and moves in an unhurried fashion to his coworker assisting an older man to pick up his ration of socks and shoelaces, the endless Russian winter doing no favour to anyone's feet. The gentleman sighs and waits, for such matters always stall. Conversation lasts a solid three minutes, engaging the manager by any other title, and in turn, a consultation of the policy book stored at the register.

Such a thrilling adventure for the single detail. «It is allowed. You have four minutes.» The clerk points at the clock. «I keep my eye on you. Longer, you are interrupting business.» A true fact, the whole building shares an exchange and given the oblast's main government is a street or two over, that switchboard takes precedence.

The sound of heavy boots precedes Fury as he enters the Directors office. It's not his usual dramtic entrance in times of frusteration but no one has held him aside. Ashes spill from his cigar as he huffs and puffs. His eyes land on Peggy immediately and he listens. Recognizing enough to distinguish the nature of the conversation his lone eye squints at the request for the state of the 'situation'. "Hymph." He grunts as smoke escapes his nostrils. Crossing his arms he stands in the center of the room now and awaits details.

Seeing as he's on the clock, Steve doesn't spare much time to rejoicing at hearing that precise and familiar voice, even speaking Russian as it is.

"«Trouble. Behind the lines, but I have contact with friendly asset. We need supplies. The…»" He stumbles and yet gamely continues on, even if it sounds ridiculous in his head before it even leaves his mouth: "«I was eaten by the ground and contained. Friendly asset broke us out. I can tell you more later.»"

Peggy looks up as Nick enters her office. A quick touch of a painted nail to her phone turns on a speaker so he can hear, then she quickly picks up pencil and pad, jotting down <Cpt. Rogers; CCCP. Extract/assist.> before showing the pad to Nick. Meanwhile, she's already flipping her Rolodex with the other hand. «Local contact number. 79255781, then subtract month/date of the night you stood me up at the dance.» Namely, the month/date he went into the ice. It's an identifier no one but Peggy and Steve would be able to put the meaning to. The number, of course, a deep-cover SHIELD agent who can lend help.

A minute and a half down. Tick, tick, tick. The clock is pretty accurate. The party line isn't the best quality, given ice and snow, the bastard poles studded through Voronezh Oblast, Volgagrad, the marching succession all the way up to the NATO sphere of influence are probably cloaked in ice and disrepair.

The clerk keeps waiting expectantly.

Nick gives a half nod at the pad and removes the cigar from his lips. With the smoking stogie hidden behind his back now he listens on with the slightest amount of suspicioun being shown. It being on speaker he makes no noise but he does subtly step more closeley to hear anything he can.

"«Eagle confirms,»" Steve replies as quietly as he can, taking a moment to shift his weight. He leans a forearm up against the wall, all the better to cloak off his conversation. "«Glad that I paid attention in basic math back in school.»" Blame that particular thought on nerves, well-hidden as they are in his posture. "«Thank you, Auntie, I will be in contact with you as soon as I can manage,»" he says more loudly, for the benefit of the clerk more than anything else.

Auntie. AUNTIE. Someone is going to pay for that. «Keep safe and warm, tovarisch. We'll keep the light on.» Reading the riot act will wait till everyone is back in place. She'll hang up, and look over to Nick. "Get Keyhole surveillance in place; I want eyes on ASAP. And put together an extraction team. You choose the members; the best." She knows all their agents, but when it comes to ops that may go hot, it's hard to beat Nick's decisions.

The clerk keeps watching with his implacable gaze. At the other end of the shop, the Voronezh citizen receives his wrapped up socks and shoelaces. With a sweeping punch and initialing of the booklet, the other shop assistant sends him on his way. He shuffles happily out the door with his exciting acquisition, stepping out into the bracing cold.

«That's four minutes,» calls the clerk in Russian.

|ROLL| Steve Rogers +rolls 1d20 for: 15

Fury nods and the cigar returns to his lips. A billow of cloud appears as he nods it away. "ON it." He says sternly. "Already have the operatives in mind."

"«Thank you.»" That's all Steve has time for before the clerk pipes up. Time to accept the consequences as they are. He hangs up the phone and turns around wearing a hangdog expression.

"«Thank you, comrade. I will take no more of your time.»" With that, he adjust the shawl again as if it's the only thing that keeps the cold from biting into him with wintry fangs. Once he's outside the shop, he mulls over the numbers given to him by Peggy, committing them to memory. Bucky. He's got to check in and see how Bucky is going. He keeps to a controlled pace until he reaches the outskirts of the city, where no one's taking much time to stare after him, and then he breaks into a ground-eating lope. The shawl is carried in one hand, a ragged and muddy yarn banner fluttering behind him. Back to the hut — back to the hunt.

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