1965-03-09 - Project Ursa: Megrez
Summary: Lives hang in the balance as SHIELD's super-soldiers race towards Volgograd. They've encountered just a few setbacks along the way: enemies in hot pursuit, loss of supplies, and a few bullets with Captain America's name on them. They just have to navigate their way through a few villages before they're home free. A cinch, right? If only the very Rodina — the black earth of Russia itself — weren't rising against the invaders. They say the land never forgets. They're right.
Related: If there are no related logs, put 'None', — please don't leave blank!
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steve-rogers rogue bucky 

0856 hours. Oktyabr'skiy Roadblock. Volgograd Oblast.

Ice floes choke the primary east-west wateway leading through the killing fields of Stalingrad. Names that fall into modern mythology scar the landscape, as fabled in the Red East as Omaha, Juno, Gold, Utah, and Sword are to the defenders who emerged from the Channel. Instead they have more ominous identifiers: Saturn. Mars. Uranus.

Serpentine courses seethe past the snowy landscape, high banks inundated by the high water level even the locks cannot keep back, tongues lapping at the roadway and washing out bridges in a questing fury that cares nothing for peasants.

Two Americans fall into a world of bone-numbing chill, the sort of violent cold that punches the oxygen from a man's lungs and slaps him across the face with scouring cold. Nearest the bnaks no evidence of icebreaker activity exists, and that furious undertow unseen from on high grabs the swimmers to hurl them down. Conflicting eddies that create cross currents and wavelets add their own hazards to say nothing of the deep U-shaped basin hauled out by Stalin-era prisoners, labourers forced to bleed and ache for the Rodina. Their bones might be down there among the colossal ribs and struts of unknown monsters.

The goal: a handsome inland freighter clipping along, likely bearing iron ore pellets or finished products towards Volgograd and the Caspian Sea. Crested and maroon red, she steams along and leaves a messy spiralling discharge in her wake, enough to throw waves that flip over and under.

<REF: Fancier, more red — http://c8.alamy.com/comp/B0G53N/cargo-ship-on-river-volga-near-volgograd-formerly-stalingrad-russia-B0G53N.jpg>

It's nightmarish, Steve beyond his reach under the dark, cold waters. Buck's doing his best to find him, struggling against the current to seek him almost by touch alone. The arm is a terrible heatsink, letting the cold into his core as if it were made for it. Perhaps it is - all the better to freeze him, when the time comes between missions.

There's a surface somewhere, probably high above, where light filters weakly through murk and frozen floes that rush by. Out of the firing pan and into the freezer, apparently — Steve holds his breath as best he can against the draw of chill on his body. The great coat is of no help. It catches the current's wefts and pulls him along like a wayward kite. Still —

He reaches out, more a flail than anything else, because he thought he saw a figure come in after him. It could only be Bucky. Who else would risk their lives for a foreign enemy, one happily checked off as a casualty of the Don?

The water may never dip more than eleven feet below, but the pumping stations struggle to cope with the volume pouring through. They're pulled down and tossed about, ever at risk of being smashed against a great metal wall powered by cranks and electrical charge powerful enough to stop a whale dead. The Volgotanker, with the unimpressive name Gornostay, churns up the plume of sediment and snowy chopping waves in her wake.

On the shores, those Army green vehicles tear into action, accompanied by a volley of shouts and spotters fanning ahead. High, zinging thrills attest to engines in action, smaller than the larger, lumbering trucks, zipping along the banks.

He manages to snag Steve with his metal hand, flailing them both to the churning surface with the others. Trying to come up in the shadow of the big tanker without being pulled under by her wake. The Soldier's pale face is visible against the dark water, as he tries to keep Steve's above the surface. "Steve, you with me?"

Breaking the surface is almost like entering a sauna in comparison to the numbing water. A whooping gasp and Steve immediately tries to keep afloat, his un-held arm churning the water in an effort to tread water. The weight of the shield on his back is substantial, but nothing something he can't overcome.

"Reporting for duty," he replies over the roar of rushing water and the churning of engines, pufting excess water from his lips. "The barge?"

Gornostay churns on. The superstructure in the back is high and tall, looming well above the waterline. Her bow is obviously far lower, but still riding fairly high. Like most cargo ships she's nothing to look at, an industrial figment, absent of portholes and the like. Water pours from two open holes on her sides, many feet up, and the markers on her waterline suggest a full mineral load. She's not slow, and any who want to reach her deck are going to have to climb, if they can find a handhold at all.

"Only choice," Bucky agrees. "We go to the shore, the Army's got us. Can you swim for it?" Already turning them that way, aiming for a possible point that might have handholds. "Crew'll be easier to deal with than the soldiers."

"Anything's better than the 20th." Looking over his shoulder and the distance between them and the shore, the soaked Captain swallows and gets to paddling. What's a bit of swimming in the Russian winter after a barge? The issue is that great coat. "Keep going, I'll catch up," he calls before pausing to tread water again. "Use your arm, find something to hold onto!" One sleeve off…the other sleeve off…somehow finagling that shield…and there it goes, off into the current, to be lost to the depths of the river, perhaps caught on a rusting vessel's rib like a flag. Nothing really now between him and the chill, but after jamming the shield into the clasp of his suit's backing, he gets to mightily swimming after Bucky.

|ROLL| Rogue +rolls 1d20 for: 12

The canal covers a hundred kilometers. Bucky knows that fact sure as he can vaguely read a map. Hundred kilometers and they've covered maybe thirty-three at best, the whole serpentine meander of frozen wetlands and reservoirs ahead of them, a slinking array of villages and hamlets between the cemented locks. Widow said the next safehouse was Prudboy, and gods only know where she is, thrown under the water never to appear or locked on the bank, surrounded by a contingent of soldiers. Hard to know, hard to see.

The first bullets strafe from the north bank, pinging off the water, off metal, and possibly directed against the splashing figures. It was on this stretch of road, before the river followed a straight line, that one tank held off an entire division until out of ammunition and life. A few of those boys are assuredly made in the molds of their forefathers.

That shield makes a /fantastic/ target. Aim for the head.

Of course. It had to happen. Buck flings up his own metal arm, reflexively, as if to ward off the bullets. Still swimming frantically towwards the barge. How long will that be sanctuary, if they reach it?

The first bullet to ricochet off of the shield doesn't leave a mark, but the vibrations are familiar enough as they embed themselves into his torso. Gasping reflexively, Steve pours on an extra burst of speed as he disappears beneath the surface of the water. The stories out of the war put credible factuality to the dispersion power of water, how bullets were slowed, even turned aside by impact with the surface.

He rises again after a frantic number of forward strokes, to look for Bucky again, and shouts at the man, "Punch the metal! Punch it! Get a hold, I'm coming!"

No barge. Only that freighter, long and red and sleek, knife-point bow and ugly backend. She's taller and longer and infinitely faster than any barge dragged along by a tug, and catching her at a swim is nothing really too easy. Not with cold stealing into muscles. While the serum can surely stop the cold from killing, it doesn't keep warmth embedded in. Every stroke hurts. The oily residue and the ice floes make an unwelcome addition, and of course some kind of sweeping cross-current cuts in directly in front of Steve, carrying with it a wealth of crumpling ice that jams together.

Divide and conquer.

Or a river being a river.

Is it malice or is it nature?

He manages it, just barely. Whatever she's made of, it's not vibranium alloy…and Buck's able to just reach it, and start punching handholds into the side. Using tha arm and hand like a set of pitons, though surely he's visible to the observers on the shore, spidering his way up her flank. He hasn't abandoned his own coat, to all appearances the ghost of a soldier resurrecting himself from the waters.

Overtop the sudden grinding collection of ice, Steve can see his friend beginning his ascent along the wall of the freighter. Good. With a grunt of frustration at the abrupt blockade, he mightly kicks again and launches himself out of the water. He lands on a floe and balances on his stomach…momentarily. Then comes the natural undulation of the current beneath and bloop — into the slush he goes.

Bald eagles are never graceful when waterlogged.

Needless to say, it's very cold. Surfacing with what could have been a yelp, the Captain abandons the idea of running across the ice itself. Nope, he's got to paddle on, fighting against the river's drag and the continual crowding of the ice.

|ROLL| Rogue +rolls 1d100 for: 50

Does anyone take note there on the freighter? Not so much the men, definitely of the small arms fire and more significant fire pinging from the north. The pilot and captain keep threading their course, whereas some poor lookout is now shouting and waving inside his cramped, underheated quarters. Waving of arms shall follow. Bucky painstakingly finds his way up, bit by bit, emerging to cover the deck. The sound of him punching on an ascent is sure to end up with a pistol pointed at him, but whether he reaches the deck first or the alarmed crewman does…

He's got nothing behind knives and the arm - the rifle and the pistol were lost long ago, not that either would be usable after a wetting like that. Pity the crewman faced with that vision, all wild eyes, sodden wool, and manic anger. Buck is moving as fast as he can….and leaving behind a path Steve will be able to take, when he reaches the side. Just like the old days, when Buck was sniper and scout for the Commandos.

Considering he's nowhere near as sleek as an otter, it seems the only option is under. Thus, with a deep breath filling his lungs, Steve disappears beneath the surface in his nest of floating white. Bucky's ascent up the side of the freighter disappears, replaced by foamy light filtering down through the ice chunks. It's an effort on his part, crawling forwards in what seems like futlity. Muscles burn up energy, aching in the cold, but finally…finally…

Emerging on the up-current edge of the collection of floes, he shakes his head and spits out more river-water. There, the freighter! The shield shines like a wetted beacon on the surface as he powers over to the side of the ship. Thank Buck for the impressions left in the hull; the blond immediately pulls himself out of the raging river and begins following the Soldier. The shield's white star is bright now on his back.

Next time, Feodor is sending someone else up while he drinks his tea and worries about the farm. He is not prepared for what is unleashed, much less someone appearing like a ghost with the wet coat and a grim, gaunt look about him.

He's already lifting his gun to fire, hands wobbling, and two good hits puts him down. All hell breaks loose after that, shouts from the larger man in the doorway as he slams the door shut and throws the locks. Speakers crackle. The captain can't just turn a damn freighter around. He can speed up only so much.

«Katyusha!» is understandably heard, and those zinging, converging shapes on the bank making the high pitched noises? Snowmobiles. Snowmobiles with armed soldiers.

They have guns. They point the guns.

A gun he picks up from the fallen sailor, in proper Soviet fashion. Haha, locks. Good luck. Bucky's determined to get in…..but rather than start that sledgehammer tolling, he looks for another door to run to. As if he's going to clear the entire thing by himself, the maniac. He has a rictus grin on he is entirely unaware of, eyes bloodshot, running on adrenaline and anger. All of that, the shores boiling with soldiers like an anthill kicked over, artillery and long arms, just for him and Steve. Like twin brothers at the worst birthday party ever.

|ROLL| Rogue +rolls 1d20 for: 1

No door, then, smashed out to reveal a narrow vault of steps steep enough to be a ladder. The top post is a big square room closed in windows, man at the helm, another by the maps. Low ceilings and enclosed spaces suggest this very much will be a blood-bath, all things considered, or a point where firearms would make for a deafening ricochet effect. The captain stays stolidly at his post; the navigator puts his hands up.

Outside, there is a problem. A big problem. A violent problem like smashing a spider with Mjolnir. The Katyusha is gearing up, pointing its deadly payload at the freighter.

Oh good God, not «Katyusha!»

Upon hearing that, Steve attempts to double the speed of his climbing efforts, near to reaching that fabled deck-edge. Still, the buffeting of wind along the freighter's exposed sides — emphasis on exposed — yanks at him and let's not forget any continued fire at the lovely target presented by the shield on his back. Anyone with a pair of binoculars can probably hazard a guess as to its owner now, at least if the upper echelon has complained enough about him.

Clambering over and onto the deck, the Captain immediately scrambles to his feet and into a brisk run, following the path of carnage. Wow, that's a lot of blood. "Bucky! Missles!!!" He shouts, hoping that his friend will hear.

"South bank," Bucky says. "Army's not there yet. We stay, they're gonna open up on this like a Brooklyn housewife who just found a roach in her potato salad. That Katyusha….even you and I can't take a direct hit from that. Game for another swim?"

Pounding up the stairs and over to Buck, the sodden Captain looks between all present and back to him.

"And here I thought they'd let us hitch a ride. South Bank it is," and with that (after confiscating the nearest Russian sidearm for himself, albeit not from his friend), Steve turns around and pounds back down the stairs, out towards the freighter's deck. Of the options available, a swim is sounding like a brilliant idea right now.

Even though he wants to shout, Last one in is a lazy bum!, he does not do this. What he does do is haul ass towards the south bank, arms and legs churning — because missles fly very quickly.

|ROLL| Rogue +rolls 1d20 for: 1

But the one from the fallen guard, the other defenders downstairs not fully reaching the deck. The captain glares at them with mutinous eyes, though the navigator is already dropping, hands over his head. That propels the older man to shift his gaze and alarm to bleach his blotchy face, great Stalin moustache crawling in horror. «No, no, they're going to sink us?!»

The soldiers loading up a slim-line rocket into the Katyusha know exactly what they're doing, swiveling the rack into position. A spotter shouts in Russian, another responds. Long-arms fire cracks off the bow. Plink! Another rainfall tumbles down to strike at the sides as they jump back into the water and the cold punches them again, dripping and cold. On the near side, the south bank, the current is vicious. But with the cover of the freighter, at least Bucky can swim away while Steve parades around in his tighty Baba Yaga whities.

Buck wastes no time hurling himself back into the water. How will this read to Lucian, if he ever makes it back to the serenity of Lux - that many more stains on his soul, the bodycount he's responsible for racking up, the crew of this ship. A whole salvo of artillery fire wasted on them, like trying to kill flies with a shotgun.

Executing a near-flawless dive (that the Russians would likely rate as a 2), Steve plunges back into the river. Oh huzzah, that familiar punch to the chest by frigid current, how delightful. Surfacing again, he looks for Bucky. There, the dark sogging of hair swimming away. Hot on his wake, the Captain strokes madly to get away from the freighter because nothing ruins a day like the sudden risk of impalement by shrapnel.

Water, to the shore. Hardly difficult to haul one's half-dead carcass out of the water onto a snowbank, or crawling through the liquid morass that sucks at their soles as much as the remainder of soul in Bucky and considerably more in Captain America incognito. They have no respite from their swim, the next stage of the triathlon to run. Run like their lives depended on it. For it does.

The rocket burns to life and covers a kilometer and a half in record time, or roughly a third the speed of Scarlett's idea of a 'breezy flyby.' Heat flares and it screams into motion, an explosive sword for the Kremlin. The Volgamax never stands a chance, taken midway, breaking her back in a squeal of metal and exploding fragments thrown everywhere. The canal shudders and the ground shakes, shrapnel blown in all directions. Metal ingots go to slag, dancing on a burst of orange flame so intense it can be witnessed through closed eyes.

|ROLL| Bucky +rolls 1d20 for: 17

The violence of war, while familiar, never ceases to shake the souls of the men running helter-skelter away from the missile's successful impact. Shrapnel flies, but luck is in their favor. A few smoking bits of metal bounce off of arm and shield, but otherwise simply pepper the snow around their path of travel. It's off on another brisk run across the countryside, just like old times — just a bit colder than usual this time around.

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