1965-03-22 - Project Ursa: Urodelus
Summary: Bucky remains captive until Captain America comes to rescue him. Steve is too late to save his best friend from being shot by the Black Widow. Omega Red gives unexpected salvation, but why? And Natasha's red ledger comes back to haunt her…
Related: If there are no related logs, put 'None', — please don't leave blank!
Theme Song: None
omega-red black-widow steve-rogers bucky rogue 

«No, not with head,» Bucky agrees, voice raw, strained. «What are you talking about?» His voice is direct, his stare level. «What do you mean, spectacles? Rats?» Not struggling - Arkady'd just enjoy it. HE hasn't safed the rifle, but it's lowered. What can he do to hurt this guy, barring magic or abilities he doesn't have.

They make little headway into that huge room, a city within a city, to accommodate the three large transports under construction. Quite the spectacle to enjoy upside down or right side up, especially given the conspicuously large man in brilliant scarlet attire surely has next to no stealth whatsoever. He gazes up at the grated catwalks, and then reaches out to replace one of the carbonadium tentacles gripping Bucky. «You came here for something, didn't you?» Arkady reaches up the tentacle to wind around a metal framework, giving him something to anchor to as he hauls up the Winter Soldier in the worst possible way. It's an exercise of strength done so carelessly. They are headed ten feet up for that long walk. «What am I talking about? You haven't caught on yet? Proof you really aren't the fastest of them. It is really not complicated. You came with a wanted man, someone who would capture your masters' attention. You broke your way in to bring him and now you are flushing out your rat to show them all what you returned with. A deep part of you still serves the little German. There really isn't any real volition in there at all, is there? Just what you were told to do.» He chuckles. «You've delivered and he will be dismantled, piece by piece. Used, like you said.» His red eyes are sedate, almost clear. «The piece that sold you out won't last long. He might find a use for her, but recycled. They put you back in the cage until it's time to come out again. Not before you watch what happens. Do they wipe you after? So you can't remember what you participated in?»

«I remember all of it,» he says, and his voice is barely more than a whisper. «Every one. They wipe me so I never remember being an American. Where are they? Where is she?» The ability to feign calm is slipping from him - sweat on his brow, that pallor. And the terrible, terrible suspicion that Arkady is *right*. That this is the most deep-laid programming of all - the inexorable urge to return, to bring Steve, the prize Zola's been longing for, into his reach. But he masters himself, by sheer force of will.

The view comes in layers, the ten-foot-high mark excellent for a sense of scale. Scaffolding stretching up the sides of the nearest ship must be eight times as tall, probably higher, and even that tops out below the integrated island. Arkady pulls Bucky on should his captive not be compliant about walking on his own too feet. «Good. Then you will know they dropped like flies. They put a bit of a fight, never any good. Lock the doors and they're dead as the guests in Auschwitz.» The incongruous gold cherub locks surrounding his angular face do nothing but soften the horrible charade for what it is. «So you see? I give you something for a time. This is a little control, decisions. They will be crushed out one by one. You end up alone. You know it, don't you? You always will be alone. You and whatever Doctor Zola makes of you.»

One layer of willpower peels away, and he's going for one of the little knives in his boot. But it's useless against the carbonadium grip. «I know,» he acknowledges, tightly. «Let me see them?» Why he's asking just so Arkady can deny him….

The carbonadium on the metal arm, the flesh wrapped up by the other. For his cunning, the Winter Soldier earns himself a tooth-rattling jarring, shaken up with almost casual indifference. «Of course you would see them. What's the point of leaving you walled up like that Italian with a drinking problem?» Arkady read the Count of Monte Cristo, apparently. Who knew? «So uncreative, such rigid thinking. Putting you back in your cage too early, I think. How is that going to motivate you? No, seeing them fall will be sure you understand. You live alone. You will die alone. You and the icy end of time.»

That brings on an odd moment of cold calm, not relinquishing the grip on the knife. «I always die alone,» he concedes, simply. «And they take away the memories of the lives I've lived. But they can't take away the memories of those who remember me.» A shrug

Arkady gestures at the catwalk ahead of them, and that motion alone is enough to force a pair of distant guards to avert their paths to avoid a collision in minutes ahead. His boots tramp a steady beat. «Why would anyone bother with that? I do not see the point strategically.» He shrugs those broad shoulders and smiles. «Your reactions are enough.»

«Those are the ones who remember for me. The ones that know that I'm James Barnes and not the Winter Soldier.» That's got to be a hell of a sight - Omega Red toting the Winter Soldier around like Christopher Robin with Pooh.

«You could be Alyosha Popovich as far as it matters. Names are disposable.» Arkady glides along the rail as much as a man of his stature can, and carelessly flexes the strong, prehensile prosthetics wound into his body every bit as strongly as Bucky's. Metal writhes and coils in a warm compression, and he essentially hurls his toy over the edge to hang in freefall, jarred along while he walks. «Suit yourself.»

IF only he could get free - even the fall would be better than enduring this. HE's trying to disentangle himself, a little by little. Let him drop.

Alas no, not that way. An octopus plays with its favourite toys in such a fashion, flipping over shells and twisting rocks. At least he has not bothered tossing Bucky up into the air and catching him, which would certainly be a problem insofar as keeping him largely alive. Twisting midair is a dance that slowly circuits the room around him, revolving in detail. He sometimes ends up crushed between the metal segmented appendages, others not.

He's given up fighting, submitting to that toying with. Since provoking him is apparently what Arkady wants. «Well, Arkasha,» he says, using the diminutive as if they were childhood friends. «Where to now? Or are you just airing me out before you hang me up to dry?»

«I'm enjoying the view.» Arkady cocks his head a little. The tip of his tongue touches the corner of his mouth and there spreads that slow, feral grin. A thin, tinny bark becomes a lower sound, almost a basso hum. It lurches across the ear, gaining only a little volume after the first twenty seconds or so, resolved into a wheezy exhalation. Teeth-rattling, jaw aching sound ends to the sputter, and then, the female screaming begins at full, vibrating pitch.

How one differentiates the scream by gender is a near thing. Human voices in extremis essentially wander over pitch and range, especially when vocal chords go raw and hoarse.

It has to be her. It has to be. And despite all sense, he's fighting. Knowing all he's doing is using up the last of his strength, and screaming back. If he can hear her, she can hear him. "SCARLETT. AUTUMN. I'M HERE. FIGHT THEM."

Arkady is a patient man, for all that. He was willing to walk out of his comfortable confines into the snow, searching for someone to alleviate the dreary boredom of the winter with. He hums at the screams conveyed from some corner nearby, albeit not an obvious one. On a catwalk, no creature is being eviscerated from the inside out. Nor are they directly below on a slab of concrete abutting the bank of stairs headed down into a bay.

Bucky has yelled himself hoarse, before he subsides, panting. A wild eye cocked at Arkady, but then he's silent again.

The shrieking continues for a good long time before the voice cracks or ends up stifled by some other method, choking on the tongue, and ended then and there. Another wheezy garble escapes from the unseen source, followed by a few percussive beats below as a man with a very large mallet helpfully hammers a bit of scrap metal.

He's still, hunched against the sound, lips tight. Sweating, despite the chill…he can feel the weight of Omega's presence, draining him.

Draining, yes, slow bit by bit. Why eat the meal in a gulp when the death of a thousand tiny sips will do? «See? You've a fine seat. Better than you would have otherwise.»

The faint, distant drumming in the deep is almost impossible to first pick up over the cacophony of muted noises present in any huge hangar bay. What with the welders and engineers working 'round the clock, the place is never still. But there definitely is a sound of something, the low, persistent groan and magnetic ties. Bucky's sharp hearing, magnified by the serum and the wolf, surely knows that. The blond angel in monstrous clothing stretches out his gait to pull the soldier along with him, carelessly dragging him rightside up as they move at a less than leisurely pace. Arkady has the scent of something, and that means height is to his advantage, the catwalks meeting with other stairs and scaffolds. Easy enough to climb. «Fight them. Oh yes, that was good encouragement. Not that it ever does any good. Like I said, they're all terribly weak. Easy to slide into and out of, no fight in them at all.»

It makes his jaw tighten, but he doesn't answer. Limp in that monstrous grip. Might as well save his strength for whatever terrible sight he's meant to see. The sound makes him cock his head.

«Does it bother you to be replaced?» A simple enough question. Arkady easily rounds the next thin gangway that stretches up. Thirty feet and counting, now, the arrangement placing them together in a nest on high, where the shadows of the cavernous space swallow them up. «By the way, your master says hullo. He expects you'll be joining him after this nonsense. His words, naturally.»

«Equipment is always being upgraded,» he answers, vaguely. «I was never more than a prototype.» No pride in that, his voice is blank.

«No wonder they keep you around for parties.» Cryptic words from Arkady. He chooses the moment to lean down and straighten up one of his boots, casual at it comes. Building in the distance, a shriek forms a loud, straining metallic cacophony like the onset of a rising storm, oh so slow. Blitzkrieg.

Because that turned out well for everyone last time, in this neck of the world. On its axis, the Axis turned.

HE can't cover his ears, but he does wince. The source isn't clear, but he's watching, waiting. «Why would I care?»

Arkady straightens up his boots and looks back at Bucky, shrugging. «What else do you have to do?» The conversational tone is hardly bothered by the activity churning around the vehicles in their vast bays, or any sort of changing of the hour. «One of them went down screaming for you.»

«Of course. Who else was kind to him?» Diving into what's left of Winter's scaffolding, that professional neutrality, unstained by all the blood he's shed.

«The doctor who tried to save his life. Your accomplice put the hole in him.» He doesn't smile, but the carbonadium appendages loosely ripple, limbering up in their tight links. «You should be more careful who holds your leash. She's out there alone with him. Might take the bait for herself.»

A sidelong look at Arkady. «When have I ever had a choice on that front?» Mild curiosity in his voice. Another grunt of protest at that grip on him.

When indeed has he? Maybe it just doesn't compute for Arkady or that, too, is another dig to underline the obvious. Nonetheless, a welder scales the apparatus with his torch and the blue flame bursts out at a distance. The keening wail has stopped, no more is metal being tortured.

AT the moment, he's given up on trying to figure out his surroundings. Instead, he's looking at Arkady himself. There's that little indent between his brows, the faint, puzzled canine tilt to his head.

He's a man of no particular age, youthful, but then all terrors ought to be. The disgusting good health demonstrated by his golden hair and healthy — if very pale — complexion are so at odds with Bucky's dishevelled state. No evidence of taking bullets, all hint of that is gone.

Upgraded equipment indeed. «What's your story?» he asks, apparently idly. «Why you, of all the Motherland's children?»

«I am not the storybook for children.» Those ruby red eyes shift towards Bucky, so terribly inhuman, the colour of fresh-spilled blood. «I saw how they killed families in Stalingrad. We starved. I was a boy. We had no man with a star on his shield come to save us. We had our misery to eat and our patriotism to drink. Not one step back. So here we are. Not one step.»

«But I am? Why aren't you the Champion of the Motherland? Whose idea of a joke is that?» An idle look around, but he's back, focussed on Arkady. «I mean, I'll give you that this was the real war, all that stuff in western Europe was kind of a sideshow.»

Arkady says dryly, «Because I am too smart to be a sideshow. I am my won man, and too beautiful to risk.» He rests his hands on the railing, clearly admiring the welding work, the magnesium torches and the orderly array of people moving around the floor below like so many ants…

Two kinds of landings exist in the world down a deep boreshaft: one can be graceful or one can face-plant cement. The matter of arrival falls more to the latter instead of the former, as it goes for the two newcomers to the vast cavernous city-within-a-city. Their arrival merely serves to accentuate the scale of the place, dwarfing a single man or woman. Simply put, the factory floor is huge. Gaining any sense of direction can be a challenge.

The workers continue at their own pace, overnight crews dedicated to installing batteries, shoring up metallic plates, wiring miles of internal passages. Industry hums right along.

|ROLL| Bucky +rolls 1d20 for: 1

From the heights where Omega Red is holding him - a crow's nest that surveys the immensity of the gallery - he can see those two drop out of the same shaft he came down. And any attempt to dissemble this….fails. He can't help but gasp and flinch, pale eyes widening. Then, realizing the jig is up, he bellows at the top of his lungs, "STEVE! RUN!"


After rising from the botched landing and wincing as the immediate pain of impact on concrete fizzles out to a dull burn, Steve has time to take a few steps forwards, into the slanting light of the room that expands impossibly large beyond them. His jaw drops open.

The factory floor itself stretches on and on, disrupted by the bulk of the super-sized vehicles being constructed; he can see the welding sparks here and there, mark the movement of works both near and far working by the muffled sounds of their hammers.

Wait. That sounded like his name, albeit through cotton?! Steve immediately looks for that familiar voice, his eyes skipping about, momentarily frozen in space by the sheer shock of actually finding the erstwhile Soldier.

«Yes,» is all Natasha offers when Steve seems confused by the name Omega Red. She doesn't explain any further, because she truly doesn't anticipate running into Arkady again. Last time she had a perfect cover, as far as she's concerned, now, would be a lot harder to make trustworthy, when she's apparently working with Captain America.

The trip down is a harrowing one, cut and sliced along the way by the misshapen grate, there are tears in Nat's suit that soak up with blood. The unexpected cuts shift her position, and by the time she realizes how badly she misjudged not only the jump, but the affect of the screaming metal and gunshots, well, she lands in a less than perfect manner, knees bashing into Steve who had the misfortune of being directly underneath her by a few seconds. From Steve she rolls to the ground, and while writhing in pain it seems, she also steals a moment to try and study the area. Maybe she's not as badly hurt as she plays it out? Either way, it didn't look good.

Bellow into a cave, the voice might rebound to fill the night with resonance deprived mortals.

Bellow into an industrial complex throbbing to the bodies electric in black carbon and fired steel, tempered glass and lithium encasements, the effect becomes so much less impactful.

High on a metal catwalk definitively out of sight from the entry, men patrol in an orderly fashion. Sooner than later one takes note. How not? Some are below, foremen and chiefs to aid the business of building transports, giving warm encouragement to their workers. Seeing Omega Red or the Winter Soldier is infinitely more difficult, given interposing pillars and superstructures in the way of the floor.

«That's it. She did her job and you do yours. Who knows, you might just win yourself a few good words in with Zola.» Arkady rolls his shoulders back as the inevitable thrill of the hunt slots right into place. Not so different from a lonely village shredded to pieces by a good walkabout. The taut play of metal on metal produces that same warm friction as before. Carbonadium flexes, secure in another neat wrapping coil just a touch higher. One half-turn span. His wrists come off the rail, straightened up. «Bread and circuses, Yankee. Bread and circuses.»

An unescorted brown-haired man, broad of shoulder and tapering of waist, sprints out from behind a centrally placed box containing any amount of electrical equipment. "Steve! GO!" That's how you run when the guards swivel, reacting to English in a city where definitely no English is meant to be heard.

He's still screaming for Steve to run, only to choke off for a moment at the spectacle of the other brown-haired figure. "Steve! That isn't me!" Is that one of the pups? He can't tell from here…..though it was inevitable that there were far more than the eight he's met. Bucky's thrashing helplessly in the grip of Arkady's tentacles, trying to free himself.

He's still searching the near and far distances for the source of the intial shout, nearly lost as it is within the cacophany of welding and the still-fading ringing in his ears, when that figure shows.

The impact of the sudden appearance can be seen by Steve's full-body flinch, disbelief warring mightily with the wash of relief, a combination that leaves his skin prickling beneath his suit.

"Bucky, how — " Then comes another shout from on high and the Captain narrows his eyes, beginning to crouch as he pulls the shield up before him. "Lead on then," he challenges this…particular Bucky.

But for a knife, sheathed and visible at the back, the brunet soldier isn't armed. At least with any visible weapon. He seeks cover where he can from the rotating guards calling out in Russian.

There are many assumptions to be had about different people. Was the Black Widow lying to Omega Red when she told him Winter Soldier was a traitor and she was leading him to a trap? Was she working with him and Captain America? Is she hurt? Has she infiltrated SHIELD as a double agent as she reported to the Red Room? Does Omega Red even cares about her reports assuming he's even privy to them? Regardless of who believes what. Natasha gets up when 'Bucky' calls out to Steve, and she draws a pistol at him and rushes him, firing shots, apparently not even considering her injured shoulders, or the fresh wounds along her sides from the fall. «TRAITOR!!!» She screams at him with a surprising display of venom. Should Bucky be concerned? Does she even know it's not him?

All too aware of the men on high, the brunet — Bucky by any other name — swings a look back at the catwalks. He moves fast, evincing all the unnatural speed of the serum with the soft-footed way of bringing down his boots. "Can't stay!" he hisses over the cacophony of thumping footfalls, shouts of alarm above, the initial wide cracks of gunfire. Screaming across the chamber blends and blurs. Workers are caught in the middle to make sense of chaos.

"Out the way you—" The words stumble from the bullets impacting him in the side, shots plunging through meat and solid bone. He jerks with the impacts, the run faltering as he slaps his palm to the blossomed wound on his torso. Blood runs hot around his gloved fingers, and what choice is there for someone who went nearly unarmed? Backtracking in Steve's direction, he drops to the ground.

Those carbonadium tentacles are made from arguably the sharpest metal known, albeit turned into a supple form. Bucky grapples with an anaconda holding his ground, keeping the soldier elevated some, perpetually twisted back to watch and bear witness. «Look. I told you they never put up much fight.» He muses on the point for a few moments. «Let's see what happens. If she takes out the Yankee, you can deal with her for insubordination.»

|ROLL| Bucky +rolls 1d100 for: 1

There are still those distant screams - Arkady has made no attempt to shut him up. "No! No! Natasha, don't!" And then he's echoing that in Russian, desperately. God, which of the kids was it that the Widow just shot up? "Steve, Steve, run!" Then, bizarrely, a phrase in Irish. Something about what mother used to say, maybe?

Then…..then it's no longer shouts of warning. It's screaming, the raw-throated animal howling of the damned. Without words, without thought. Bucky spasms and thrashes in the metal grip, hard enough to do himself injury, as if Omega Red's grasp were suddenly torment unendurable.

Bucky feels…
Lightning bolt scream explosion pain chest flames — hurts oh god hurts — howling empty hole burnt wires — drowning drowning drowning water stop please stop can't breathe no breathing — no, no no no, the thousandfold chorus screaming over and over under the water, green eye staring bright in blood-red cloak of darkness — river cracks, turns — black hair, smile in the dark, thrust, hurts, no, deep too deep get out — out out stop stop — out can't break — down water dark why why why — lightning halo burn teeth chatter cook crack skin out death wings white-black-burn — the face lifting, wolf, storm, serpent, ermine, beautiful, horrible, eyes lightning hair black lips curved

You never learn.

Volga Svyatoslavich in the link in the mind in the self in the blood

snap crack split sob arch hurthurthurthurtstop STOP Stop

lungs filled, nose filled, no light, reach forgot left me to
to die
daddy it's cold

The rush of the Widow is enough to make Steve slow in his beginning lope. The gunfire — the sudden spread of red — the crumpling — it all crystallizes as adrenaline sets fire to sudden protective rage. With a choked sound, he changes direction and charges the Widow in her lean stance, teeth bared. What temper glazes blue in his eyes.

Then, from on high, the distant lilt of Gaelic, panicked as it is. That's enough to penetrate the haze, only barely, and the Captain draws up short. From on high. Hesitance wrenches his innards into acidic coils, but with a final burning glare at Natasha, he turns and darts away, heading deeper into the gallery itself. The shield and sheer speed is his main defense right now. The sudden echoing of tortured screaming is something he recognizes and he shouts back, "I'M COMING, BUCK!!!"

Natasha is apparently adamant that this specific clone is the one who brought about her failure, nevermind all that happened since, the explicible and inexplicible alike. She wants a payback, and she will have it, not a care in the world for anything else, she rushes after the collapsed 'Bucky', preparing to ascertain death with a coup de grace. Naturally, being who he is, she may well be the one who is being played. Either way, he makes a more attainable target than either the actual Bucky who is somewhere screaming. Or was it objective? Probably the latter.

A shudder rocks through the blond titan on the catwalk, for even those degrees of screaming approach to curdling high. His eyebrows lift in mute question. If anyone were to see that, the conclusions they might draw from the loose cannon of Department X, the Soviet horror unleashed only to kindle chaos. Armour slides where he pops the tendons in the neck and spinal column, driven to glide like a wraith upon the high catwalk. Arkady releases one of those dreaded carbonadium tentacles, the other wrapping around Bucky in a tighter clasp that spans his chest. A risk there; throw the shield, he might just snap the Winter Soldier in as a bodily hostage. Or he's carrying him as a cat uses a mouse or a seizing bird or its kitten. Hard to be sure. «Not what I had in mind, but whatever works. Such performances, soldat!»

Spooked guards fire pistols in retort from lower catwalks at the captain and the redhead, lacking much by way of accuracy.

Frightened workers huddle in the bays, guarded by foremen wielding welding torches and large steel wrenches or mallets, nothing useful against the superior firepower of trained assassins. Those in the lowest bays have water startling to trickle around their feet, puddles spreading out here, there, and everywhere. Ever have serfs fallen to mighty powers, the tithe of the Motherland.

Sprinting down one of the catwalks, a figure in red and charcoal, he may not be subtle with that particular shield. Screw the drop, he seizes the rail and drops. Ten feet, down. Close as he can get, the Red Guardian hurls himself into the brink. As the Widow moves to finish the man's life, and she may well succeed, an electronically magnified voice booms out. Behind?


Many a moon since she heard that voice…

The Winter Soldier - something must have broken in that already fragmented mind. Because he's still screaming like a man under torture, though it subsides into broken, breathless whimpering at points. Not fighting Arkady, not aware of Steve's frantic rush for him.

The shrieking, audible in blips overtop the gunfire from above and random zings of deflected bullets from an upraised and angled shield, leads Steve in the direction of his agonized friend. Someone's yelling behind him, but it's no name of importance to him, and so he continues on at that turf-covering pace, limbs blurring.

At one point, he can't pick it out, and that's when he begins to feel the first inklings of panic — because no hero is born without fear. "Bucky!" It's a panted rendition of the man's name even as Steve is searching the catwalks overhead, looking for the telltale glint of vibranium.

Natasha has been through a lot over the last year, and regardless of where she finds herself today, if her mind is even settled. After all, she's still on a leash as Peggy's project. Few even know about her in SHIELD, and it's guess work who in the Red Room believes she infiltrated SHIELD and who thinks she's just another Winter Soldier case waiting to happen. But through it all, one memory has been plaguing her, the day when she was bested by Peggy Carter. Something she cannot accept, and as she cannot explain what happened when she couldn't fire at Peggy, she puts the full brunt of the blame on that Winter Soldier clone that stabbed her with the freezing dagger. For all intents and purposes, this particular clone, in her eyes, is that very same one. And she will have her revenge.

Inches away from putting a hole in the clone's head, Natasha hears a name she hasn't been called in what seems like a lifetime ago. By a voice that has long been mute, silenced by American assassins she was told. She is already wounded, hungry, and not in her finest mental sharpness after quite a few ordeals she's been through. The sound of -that- voice, calling her by -that- name, sends chills through her spine. Looks like if Bucky clone wasn't already decommissioned by her prior shots, he may have his chance to turn the tables on the Black Widow, because the pistol falls from her hand. Her shivering hand. The Black Widow doesn't shiver. She braved a foolish attempt of facing Omega Red earlier in this very operation.

But right now she was not the best Black Widow ever produced by the Red Room, for a fleeting moment, she was Natalia, the ballerina from the Bolshoi, and she was hearing the voice of an ace pilot, in Alexei.

That was a lifetime ago, when she was married to a man she loved, before the Americans took him from her…but if they did…how is it she is hearing his voice?

For all intents and purposes, the arrival of the Red Guardian seems to have taken the Black Widow directly out of this entire operation, as she slowly turns to face him, pale as a ghost, she stares at his face and asks with a brittle tone, "Alexei…?" She's not sure if she's delirious from some gass she didn't anticipate, or some other chemical she may have been exposed to. Hell, it could be another demon, come to stop her. A far more effective one. But this time, she doesn't fight, she just stares, frozen.

Vibranium wrapped by coils of serpentine carbonadium dulls the glint, doubly if the gentleman thought to wear any kind of covering — black greatcoat, stiff with blood and dirt, say. Either way, the loud noises make Bucky an excellent receiver. Arkady swivels to the rising tide of action bounding his way, a juggernaut in a navy costume. «And here we go.»

His shrieking, writhing teddy-bear of a Winter Soldier in arm, Omega Red uses the spiderweb of steel-dark catwalks for fast retreat towards the only viable exit, one that cuts further west and might be difficult to notice from where Natasha faces off against the Red Guardian. All said, Steve is not without means to track the strategic retreat to that shorter, narrower door than anything else. Metal stenciled with 'AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY!' separates him from the pair. His boots splash through puddles, prints left in his wake on the concrete.

That Bucky can be handled by one of those metallic appendages is a testament to the angelic blond's strength or gross motor control.

The red-and-black clad soldier rises from his crouch, holding up the shield as a defensive measure, more for the people in a line of shot behind him at the first hangar bay nearest the door than strictly himself. The faceplate shines an anodized black, glowing inlay a radiant white at his chest and knees. Additional armour-plating is something new — that much Bucky in his right mind might attest to but here, now? Who knows. He taps his glove to his temple and the mask unseals, puffing air over his face, pushed back. That face is more careworn, perhaps, lined some, a prickling of bristles shadowing his jawline and the crowsfeet in the corners of his eyes speaking to not perfect immortality, at least not now. The thousand yard stare moves from the bloodied man on his side, a threat incapacitated, to her.

«What are you doing here?» Russian carries the darkest wounds so very well, beautiful in the sinister elements — what other nation knows the pain or the scourge of suffering so well as the children of the Motherland? «Natalia.»

Her name is the prayer of forbidden saints in their facedown icons, buried under the barn. It is the reverent prayer and the disappointed murmur of Odysseus returned to find his Penelope has not unpicked her wedding veil woven, but instead apparently run off to leave their house empty and their hearth barren. «Natalia, you shot this man. He was not armed, he had his back to you. What is this that you do?»

Sins upon sins. The closer Steve runs after Arkady, the clearer a tremolo vibration to the air. Behind Bucky's screams, the counterpoint of a harmony is so very difficult to make out. Broken wails, glass-stab resonance parted through shredded tissues until sound cannot be given full volume. One chattering high melody evoking the gnawing terror in the hindbrain, a little whisper in the skull all is wrong, wrong, wrong, against the dull background noise. German, of all things. «Still with us? Amazing. Not for lack of trying. Raise it to nine.»

Lights flicker. The wail builds. Not one throat. Many.

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