1965-03-20 - Project Ursa: Yildun
Summary: What mysteries lurk in the heart of Closed City 53 that remain shrouded even to the highest circles in the Soviet Union? SHIELD doesn't have the luxury of time as they use every inch of spycraft and stealth they possess to stay alive and get out. That may not be good enough to bypass Closed City 53's front-line defenses.
Related: If there are no related logs, put 'None', — please don't leave blank!
Theme Song: None
black-widow steve-rogers bucky rogue 

So, the initial attempt to get into the closed city did not go well….but it went better than it could have done. Vanguard let them go and didn't offer a real fight or try to capture them….though he did shut down Buck with one of his code phrases. That that's more widely known isn't a good sign.
But it's not permanent damage, so at the moment, the three have regrouped outside the closed city's security perimeter, Bucky awake from his nap. They're sheltered in a little hollow in the ground overgrown by pines, shielded from most eyes. Wearily, Buck explains that most of thecity is underground - that's where the crucial things will be taking place. So if they can't go in directly, they'll have to find a way down to get in.

When pushed to it, Steve Rogers can do 'surly' like no one's business. He's expressing a less intense version at the moment, leaning as he is against one of the pine tree's trunks, but the crossed arms and tense set of his face is proof that he's not a very happy camper. How could anyone be a happy camper around here anyways? Bears might eat them.

"I doubt they would be stupid enough to put an entrance to an underground facility outside the perimeter of the fence," he says quietly, turning to glare off in the general direction of the city itself.

The river floods everything up to the highway, a sad excuse of a two-laned road headed to Astrakhan rather like the two-laned, snow-covered highway they were chased along from Voronezh to Volgograd. Only in this case, no nice canal awaits them: only the furious, raging river under black earth and black dreams, swallower of Socialist pride, devourer incarnate from the north lands near Tvov to the Caspian. It gives no relief through the tangled quicksands and mires that swallow tanks as easily as a few super soldiers.

No signs here of any helpful, unmarked shacks or holes in the ground with inexplicable grates or little yellow flags, the sort used by utility companies in the U.S.

Buck shakes his head. "You wouldn't think, but….there were at the dacha. We should try coming at the city from another angle, see if we can find some signs of a vent system, or something meant to keep out the river. You can't have an underground complex on a floodplain without something like that."

Mighty Volga saw fit to separate our heroes, and while the unwritten rule of Steve & Bucky Together Forever holds true, Natasha wound up awashed a far greater deal away. To catch up, she had to catch a ride on a train, no problem when she can line herself and stick to the side, before climbing her way to lie down ontop of a train car. Only thing to track was the surrounding, good thing she knew the lay of the land here much better than she does Brooklyn. At the right time she drops at a non-existant stop, to make a bit of a trek to the next location. On the plus side, she managed to collect a rifle along the way, which should significantly increase her range over her pistol. Then again, it may not be in the best of shapes.

Steve nods, mulling the idea over in his mind. He glances over at the red-head recently rejoined of their small group and asks of her,

"Did you see anything while you were traveling? Anything like the vents he mentioned?"

Widow points in a direction once caught up with the group, as Steve asks his question, and she notes, "mist." Suggestion exploration in the vicinity is in order if they are to find where it comes from.

"Sounds like as good a point as any," Bucky says, following her pointing finger. He's a ragged scarecrow at this point, gaunt and weary. Then he's heaving himself up from his little shelter under the pines to head that way.

Pushing off of his lean against the ragged bark, Steve takes about a step or two before his movements slow.

"Hold on." He looks between the Russian assassins, eyes gone sharp with a rush of adrenaline. "When we were by the fence, Buck — I saw piping up in the trees. They had tried to string it up and disguise it as branches, but they were too straight and angled, not natural enough." Weird how the brain works when recall is involved.

Trees row on row give faulty cover ot the north, sufficiently dense to obscure the presence of an actual town for some miles and further beyond. All the Volga basin hereabouts represents an unparalleled wilderness, untamed, dim and dark. On parallel with parts of the Urals, the absence of a moon or even torches to see by divide the little party if they get too far apart from one another. No way to see one another clearly, separated by tangibly thick shadows in curtain.

Noticing the vapors proves difficult, if only given the absence of moonlight. The meltwaters of the river accelerate the sublimation processes, but finding those tangled little wisps like the collective exhalation of something unnatural contrary to other patterns is not impossible.

"Then you may well have a bingo, Captain," Natasha remarks dryly as Steve suddenly recalls a rather important fact. She keeps by Steve, in case he recalls the precise location, and with every other step she studies the tree tops, looking for any branches that happen to be something else in disguise.

Bucky pauses, gives Steve a long look. God bless Steve and his memory. "Damn," he says, before he winces in apology. "Good thing you noticed. Think that'll show us the way down into vents?" He's looking around, too - his nightvision's a good deal better than the average human's, after all.

Steve keeps it humble. "It was something that I didn't have time to process in the moment, what with that bear." He probably shouldn't have mentioned the creature aloud; maybe it hears mentions specifically by Americans that punched it before. "It's nowhere nearby the road," he adds, settling into a ground-eating stride. "Keep an eye out." For what? Anything at this point.

The bear no doubt can smell the two men, who still yet reek with a sense of fish paste and guilt and rot from a canal. Blood and dirt have a way of staining more than just flesh, no matter how many baths or dips in a canal a man takes. Yet no sign of the great shaggy ursine, a relic of the ancient pre-glacial past when cave bears terrorized most of ice-free Eurasia.

The Volga Forest
Pathways barely exist in the woodlands. The men, on their way to Medveditsa, know the complete absence. It's a hard overland hack trying to retrace their steps and likely aware unfriendly powers patrol the clouding skies, the bleak black woods, the very earth and certainly the waters they cross. It takes the better part of ninety minutes to manage to parse their way into somewhere vaguely familiar.

To Steve because the birch with a broken limb was back that way and maybe he recalls skidding past a bit of a slope. Is that the pipe tree? In a sense, yes, if this is a pipe dream. Natasha's puff of mist takes another five minutes to emerge, a slow spill of vapors dissipating into the low-hanging gloom that makes the place feel like it emerged from Faerie. A dreadful Faerie, given Russian folktales.

To Bucky because he's been here before, in a sense.

"You guys fought bear?" Natasha arches a brow, she and her bloodied shoulder appreciate not having crossed paths with a bear. Sure, there's the serum giving her an edge, but still, a contest best avoided.

"So we have a vicinity, but we can't split, we'll lose one another," Nat warns, "so eyes to and fro, we find it, yes?"

«We fought that …..I can't remember his name. Not really a bear. He just turns into one,» Buck sounds aggrieved at his memory failing him. «But yes, eyes up, we'll find it. Just gotta make sure we don't step on a mine or a wire or another bear. With the kind of luck we're having, Volga has fucking NAzgul, or something.»

A bear that isn't a bear could be any number of horrors in the woods. For the moment, they have but the shadows churning on the faintest evidence of a breeze and their own company in the bone-jarring chill of a late Russian winter. Siberian, no, but devastating to the exposed yet. Those pilfered mistdevils twirl and twist, evaporating away into nothing whenever the exhalation from hidden tubes — oh yes, familiar — vanishes away.

«So you met Winter Guard? I bet they didn't like having Steve around, huh…?» Natasha asks as she looks over at Bucky, grinning, the fact they are both still here has to mean that the Winter Guard gave the Winter Soldier a free pass for old time's sake. At least that's Natasha's guess, then again, she has no way of knowing if they confronted the Winter Guard at all. Just sounds like Bucky was describing Mikhail.

«I don't think anyone around here likes me,» Steve deadpans back to Natasha, concerned about stepping carefully over the roots of partially submerged trees. «And if Volga has a Nazgul, I'm going to take issue with it.» Was that…a pufflet of steam? Yes, steam rising, making its way through the snow still lying cold and pristine.

"Here," he hisses and waves sharply at the others. "The piping." Trudging over, the Captain begins parting the snow.

Bucky sniffs the air, lupine, profile raised. Then he grins at the idea of Cap fighting a Nazgul. For he's insisted Steve read the Lord of the Rings. Then he's stooping to help. "We should be able to follow this to the line of the fencing - it'l lead us to one of the grates inside the perimeter that permits access."

A Nazgul doesn't flinch at a vibranium shield or blade, and none present are the rightful king of the fallen republic. That friendly madame sits on an uncomfortable chair, bearing a grudge for the man who interrupted her birthday party in Australia, where no amount of diplomatic maneuvering by Steve Rogers will sway her stalwart distaste and royal contempt.

Bucky will be the one to lead them, then, tramping through the misty forest wreathed in a spectral veil that renders the trees unearthly in the light. Silvery bark and bone-thin limbs stretch to the midnight sky. One direction looks like another unless someone breaks out into fields where no actual city lies. Easy to mistake the safe path from the dangerous ones, and the first metallic click of tripping a well-concealed wire will teach them to watch their footing. The explosion of an unfortunate fir tree remains a loud, noisy rocket in the sky. Natasha almost disappears into the monochromatic background at that point, possibly running a stealth mission parallel to theirs in case a certain giant bear or Vanguard reappear with half the 20th Division.

An hour of trudging to avoid minefields and shaking under adrenaline is terribly, terribly inefficient and slow. But on the plus side, they aren't dead as they reach the fence. Barely. Shades of dead apply.

Damn trip wires. Steve nearly swallowed his tongue when that tree appeared to disintegrate into splinters and fire. Arriving at the fencing again? Happy day — er, evening. Panting not heavily, but in effect of adrenaline, he glances over at his friend again and scowls.

"Well, here we are again. Think the bear will come out this time?" He looks away momentarily, scanning the trees. No sign of Natasha either, not since the trip mine. He didn't see any blood, so he's fairly certain she's still alive. Fairly.

Bucky's face was blank, other than eyes gone round and owlish, during the explosion. Then, in a small, reverent voice he said, simply, "……fuck." A shake of his head, and an attempt at swifter movement. "We're going to have to cut the fence and move fast. Follow me, and I should be able to get us into the underground layer." Bucky Barnes, the Underminer.

Can't go up, can't go around, gotta go under. Digging without aid of a spade will be a trick, but the electrified fence stands between them and their target.

Thank goodness they have a shield! What a multi-use item. Steve removes the metallic buckler from its back mount and, after looking around to make sure they aren't immediately noticeable, he jams the rounded edge into the snow and dirt.

"Bet Howard never thought it'd be used like this," he whispers to Bucky, flashing him an exhausted grin.

Snow flies through the air, revealing more snow, packed ice, and a season of dead leaves, dirt, and the occasional mushroom. The Volga riverlands supply fertile soil to the surrounding area, short-lived as the growing season may be. The going is slow. They might just hear a streaking murmur of engines overhead off to the north.

Bucky is helping, scratching at the earth and snow and mould like a terrier. He's pale and gaunt, but the leaf litter flies nonetheless. "Sheesh, yeah," he agrees, with a ghost of a smile in return.

Snow spills through the air. The process is slow, time consuming, but eventually they manage to find a break where somewhat softened soil — a result of the steam tunnels, maybe — can be pulled away and they can belly underneath the electrified fence. Don't touch.

It's like training back in Army camp again, except this is far scarier barbed wire this time around. Most carefully, Steve slips beneath the fencing, using the trench they've dug into unforgiving Russian turf, and makes his way to the other side. Crouching down as low as possible beside the shallow divot, he offers a hand to Bucky, the fingerless gloves stained heavily with caked mud and debris.

"Alright, I'll follow you. Do you remember anything?" he whispers, listening for any foreign sounds.

Through the trees, to…. Another fence, this one with buildings beyodn it. "This one's the same one we met before," Buck says, with a twist to his lips. "Probably running current again." He finds a stone to skip at it, to see if it sparks at impact.

Snow crunches underfoot and the whistle of the wind skirls around the skeletal clatter of the trees. Their progress is neither easy or sure. When Medveditsa slips back into view, after aching knees and bitterly chilled joints protest, the town is awake, floodlit by its protective barriers. Defenses are up, the dogs dropped in the snow by the Winter Soldier since swept away. They have no hope of a stealthy approach without some kind of strobing beam overlapping a portion of the path. The distance between the repaired electric fence and the open space around the checkpoint and its nearest buildings lacks for trees, though a tall pine spears the air.

The pebble deflects off the humming wire netting. More people are back at the checkpoint, and the bright mural faced by Lenin is last where they saw it.

He's up that big pine like some sort of enormous partially-metallic squirrel. Buck's a good climber, and the arm helps. Then, at a darker moment of the searchlights' swing, he hurls himself over to come up at a roll, and then pins himself in the shadow of a building, before motioning for Steve to follow.

Steve nods to himself, blond brows lifted high for a moment. Excellent execution, he'd give it at least an 8. Monkey see, monkey do: thus, the Captain clambers up the tree as well. His leap? Not nearly so refined. He hesitates after the swing-by of the search light's bright circle before launching himself from the cover of the pine bristles.

He clears it, with a hollow 'oof!' of a sound and a half-roll that has him half-sprawled rather than on his feet immediately. Still, he scrambles and darts in to share Bucky's shadow. "Now what?" he asks, looking to his friend.

A trailing hiss of electricity forms a nimbus around the passing flesh limb so close to the barbed wire, and that snags into cloth, giving way with a tear. Landing on the gorund makes enough noise that someone pays attention in the guard station. They've been left on alert ever since the soldiers high-tailed it out of town, and the clicking of magazines applied, bullets chambered, rounds prepared all signal a very real threat.

Thumping ice and snow lie on the ground, spilled out from the kick and the roll. Bucky and Steve need to hurry without question, because people are moving, responding. "I heard someone. There!" shouts a masculine voice, and line of light shivers by them.

A metal grate lies on the ground not far from the low-slung flat.

Bucky indicates the grate with a motion of his metallic hand, mimes hauling it up. "On my mark, we run and do it together. Ready?" Because god knows they can't stay there.

Bucky adds, in a whisper, "YOu'll need to break the lock with the shield." Steven Rogers and the magical round vibranium key to everything.

Steve is sussing out the response to his fence-clearing and nods sharply, glancing back at his friend.

"Right, quick as we manage it. I'll cover with the shield once the lock's broken." This means crouching down when they yank on the grate and hopefully blocking fired shots. On Bucky's signal, both super-soldiers burst out of the darkness alongside the building, headed for the grate like bats out of hell. Steve's attempted to get his shield up and held out alongside his body, facing in the direction of the voices.

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.

This is deja-vu. A dream - the moment he's down he's turning to make sure STeve is with him, coming up out of another roll. Here's the Winter Soldier, not the bearer of the shield. Steve's there, alive and well. Even as he's up on his feet, he's finding another knife. "Steve, this hall…..it may tilt. Like some kind of funhouse thing. Be ready for it. If you want the knife to use as a piton, lemme know."

The drop and landing is far more graceful than the leap over the electrical fencing. Steve even manages to yank the grating shut even as he's flinging himself into the shaft; metal surely bends and jams the grating into place. Yes, that's Steve rising up beside him, shield at the ready, star-spangled and all.

Funhouse though? That has Steve considering the layout of the stretch before them suspiciously. "…I'll let you know," he finally replies quietly, trying to keep his voice down as to abort the worst of echoes.

The elevator stays well at the bottom of that shaft, long cables and brakes visible barely in the weak glow of light leaking up from beneath. No other sources are present, and the tramp of feet will no doubt be a persistent problem for the two men. Who follows them, and how many prepare to gas them out, silencing resistance in the underbelly of Medveditsa?

Bucky bounces forward, off the elevator, into the hall proper. HE's doing his version of the shield-forward maneuver - in this case, leading with the shoulder and arm held before him, like he's got a cape like a movie vampire. Stealing forward with that eerie stealth, head raised…..yeah, he's trying to scent what's before them, and not realizing he's doing it. Wolf-Barnes is in there, too.

And there's Steve, right on his tail, the Sherlock to Bucky's trust Toby. The weak light glints from the shield in passing. His is a low-profiled follow, his eyes constantly on the move and senses stretched. The sound of following footsteps is no succor, more a goad.

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 — gives 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.

Odd how empty the corridor is, gliding backwards.

It has to be a trap. Because what hasn't been, thus far? Oh, wait, Vanguard. Vanguard whom Bucky needs to steal, because Steve needs other super pups to play with, and the Bucklings need someone to look up to. A glance back at the elevator - tempted to just take it down. But no, there's the hall to explore….though in this version, Widow is on their side. Well, A Widow is on their side. Buck's still leading, poised on the balls of his feet.

Maybe introducing Vanguard to Steve again back in America will be like introducing two new cats. Spitting. Cuffing. Parkour-like throwing of bodies off various surfaces. Bucky lamenting his spilled drink. How little does the Captain know. He's still content to follow his friend, shield raised and at the ready, attempting to keep the roll of his boots as silent as possible. He's tempted to ask if the brunet recognizes anything, but not speaking seems to be the wiser of the options right now.

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. Intersections await Cap by way of Bucky: a succession of blind corridors intersecting the zigzagging one that has to lead deeper.

No elevator it is, then. On down the corridors. Buck walks like a cat in a room full of puddles, just waiting for something. An attack, the floor to fall out from under them. "I wish we had some rope. We could tie together like mountaineers," he whispers, apparently an idle thought.

"There is that length of wire," Steve reminds him softly, the length purloined from their initial attempt to breach the barrier gone badly via bear and that Vanguard guy. His nerves are getting fairly high-strung at this point, despite his apparent sang-froid. This is far too much quiet for their progress thus far. Not even a single trip wire.


Six feet of wire or less, and a fine way to be fileted like clay under a thick cord. Slice the flesh to pieces, as it happens. A vision played out before may be deja vu again, except in reduced company, since there is naught to see here. Not at first, at least. The guards scattered between the intersections know something of their work. They wait to line up their shots, firing around corners, pointing guns and releasing.

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 shield, adjust for that, and not the assassin, who outstretches his arm to them while bullets crack.

Honest combat is a blessing, finally the expected contact and joining. Sparks spring from that outstretched hand, a prophet exhorting the unfaithful. The shooters are treated, by the strobelight of muzzle flashes, to the wolf's rictus grin, eyes agleam in the dark, as he closes the distance at a run, trying to get within the critical perimeter where a melee fighter has the advantage. One of those long knives gleams in his other hand, flashing in the dimness.

The bitter flecks of impact from a vibranium hand show nearly in counter-tandem to the dull thud of impact on the shield beside it. Crumpled bullets fall to the floor even as Steve joins in that frantic charge up the hallway, fist clenched and ready to swing heedless of the off-chance of bloodied knuckles. Brothers in battle-blood join the fray with serum-enhanced speed and all the defensive rage they can muster, likely goaded on by the fact that each is imperiled in turn.

None of those gunmen stand together. The deathtrap of the hallways invite too few clear lines of sight and attack unless someone knows exactly where to perch, a practice known to the defenders more than the interlopers. Theirs is a nasty habit of shooting at erratic and irregular points, then falling back, retreating into niches or doorways or alcoves. Or possibly shafts dropping deeper into the hidden city, for the designs that serve Russia so well against her aggressors here receive architectural treatment. Now all the pair of supersoldiers need to worry about is the scorched earth policies.

For muffled cracks and the plink of bullets thunder around in the close quarters, punishing anyone with unprotected hearing, leaving their heads ringing. A run into the darkness swallows Bucky whole, that charge through the hallway bewildering — one's as likely to hit a wall trying to traverse the zigzag, full of unexpected angles and corners and turns, as find a body to swing at. And through it all not more than a dim purple shadow marks where they have been, throwing them into a cave-dark night.

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