1965-03-26 - Project Ursa: Kochab
Summary: The awful scope of Arnim Zola's work finally becomes clear in the culmination of Project Ursa. A final battle between the Soviet bear and SHIELD rages under The Motherland Calls, and let's hope Peggy's assets are in place for an exfil. Blood will run.
Related: If there are no related logs, put 'None', — please don't leave blank!
Theme Song: None
steve-rogers bucky rogue 

Vault 13. Cold Storage. Closed City 53.
"I am prepared to continue with the experiments." Russian, as all language has been of late with few exceptions, announces the Swiss doctor's departure.

Volga raises his hand to his neck, the stain of blood bright as poppy petals on his skin. He clamps his fingers tighter, murmuring an incantation in old Russian, perhaps a language older, closing up the bite ripping into the flesh. Fresh, pink skin sealing up the tears shows above the collar in short order. «Come with me. There is work to be done.» He gestures to the stairs leading up to a wall, splitting around the raised platform into a deeper part of the storage facility.

Vault 14. Laboratory.

Zola trundles back to the lab, purposeful as he approaches one of the control panels. Switches flipped and turning dials engage a sequence of pre-programmed executables. The low hum of the metallic track that delivered Bucky into storage comes alive, the lights dimming for a moment as the current builds. In response, the spherical water-filled pods plunge down through the floor via open apertures into the brilliant turquoise water.

Arkady watches, ambivalent and mindful, the occasional tap on the glass cage keeping the shuddering young man there from ever sinking fully into unconsciousness. Desperate gestures build when the floor shrinks back, retreating in a series of clicks.

«Enough of that,» Zola calls out, shaking his head in disapproval. «No cause for alarm.» Easy saying that as the one not dumped unceremoniously into the actinic indigo tank, the flail of limbs and wires visible in the glass-panelled floor below.

Someone's had his stars spangled, that's for damn sure. With a groan, Steve works on getting himself to his feet. The shield is momentarily left off to one side, inverted like an ignominous turtle, as he grabs at the bent handle of the deformed metal door which lead into…a locker room. That's most definitely a body-shaped imprint within the surface of the door itself.

Another grunt, indicative of regained wind, and once he gathers up the shield, he stumbles back out into the mech bay. It's a single-minded approach to the sealed dual panels that separate him from the medical lab. A fist pounds once upon it, part due to temper, part due to testing the density itself.

To his own bemusement….Bucky follows along, tamely. His mouth is still red with blood, though it's being licked away, little by little, and then the smear on his hand. Blank-eyed and bewildered, but no longer ravening with hunger.

Grey lockers in a row indicate the use of facilities for the mechanics and engineers in the adjacent bay. The lights are off within, but sufficient illumination leaks in through the air to show an orderly procession that bends around a corner. Steve passes another solid metal door, currently shut and locked, immediately to the north past a selection of empty tool cribs and one calendar featuring the East German gymnastics team. They're handsome gentlemen in their tight, legless leotards.

Yon adjacent door to the laboratory possesses a core of tempered alloy and an exterior given natural smoothness, polished and fitted together in a near-hermetic seal. Magnets hold together the sides, making for a naturally challenging barrier against anyone unwelcome entering; say, men with repulsor beams in their hands, shields, and tank rounds. Volgograd was besieged once by the Nazis, it stands to reason nearby facilities were conceived with a siege of a year in mind, and that to handle supernatural creatures. Punches clamour and raise an unhyoly racket from one side, denting and beating in the outer layer, but the process is a slow one, like digging a hole for a coffin with a teaspoon.

Vault 12. Amphitheatre.
Bucky takes six steps and emerges from the other side of a partition wall into what might as well be another world. The place resembles something of a cathedral mixed with an art gallery, plunged back before the Revolution. Exhibitions in the Met might spring to mind. Sculpted 'forests' limn the archways leading into a half-shell faced by steep terraces of bench seats. Greco-Roman mores meet Russian sensibilities, segmented by a babbling waterfall leading down into a 'moat' of sorts. Beyond that lies a yard, the stage proper, a halfmoon up against a wall currently decorated by twisted barbed wire and remnants of materiel — Nazi, Italian, Hungarian, Romanian, Afghan, Iranian, Ottoman, some much older, including an honest-to-God chariot. It soars up twenty feet tall, much broader, as a backdrop between twin red banners marked proudly by the hammer and sickle. From the east, workers on the first shift are filtering in to find places to sit, murmuring excitedly among one another. A performance, as it would happen. There are no specialty boxes to separate Volga from the crowd, nor Bucky, as the sorcerer descends to join the gaggle. Some of those workers may be vaguely familiar as those working in the factory bay, others fresh-faced, one or two guiding children. Hours in a closede city are never standard.

Dents are cathartic, but ultimately useless. A last punch resounds through the metal before Steve takes a step back and kicks. Ooh, a bigger dent this time, such a discovery! It opens up the main sealed seam of the doors and therein lies the method to ultimate entry into the lab itself.

The sudden insertion of the shield's edge into that faulted break is rude and loud. Surely the entire lab knows that someone's dead-set on getting into it, come hell or high water. Steve grits his teeth and cranks counter-clockwise on the half-domed buckler, putting maximum effort into the torsion forced upon the dual panels.

Of all the things he expected - a dungeon, more cryo-storage, some other lab or hangar - a theatre was never among them. Bucky's a silent presence, heeling at Volga's side, ragged and pale, the Soldier less a paladin of the Motherland than one of the revenants keeping watch along the Volga.

The noise of the door suffering a sparkling breach alerts the Soviet warrior of everything he needs to know. Arkady rolls his shoulders when the clamour crackles through the ends of the laboratory, the carbonadium tentacles swiveling to point at the rupturing doorway. Rocket launchers may be verboten underground, but he turns a slow, slow grin — the death's head rictus.

A positively irked expression pinches Zola's face. «Does no one appreciate my work? Take care of that. I have better things to do!» Hustling in his way, the portly Swiss doctor palms several switches in passing deeper to the hall. His bowtie needs correction and straightening.

Vault 12. Amphitheatre.
Further men and women stream in around Bucky and Volga, giving them barely a wide berth. The lower and middle tiers fill in comfortably, the upper shared by teenagers ready to chew on their loaves of bread and guards from elsewhere. A young lady with her hair piled up under a flattened flight cap joins them.

The sorcerer sits, gesturing for Bucky to do the same. Whether the brunet chooses to is up to him, but hale and vital to a fault, he stands out nevertheless among his fellow Soviet comrades. They have not long to wait, for the water level in the 'moat' increases in preparation for the spectacle. Discharged on a wave goes a young man, hair wet, tunic dripping. He rises up, and earns a collective cheer, for the green jacket with its raised collar and red trim is immediately identifiable as a hero of the Great Patriotic War. Staggering footsteps put him onto the rough stage, wading out from the water. Fanfare trickles through; who knows who makes the music? A hidden symphony in an adjacent chamber, a recording? Of course, every soldier needs an enemy.

The Rusalka is an odd choice.

Steve pauses, taking several deep breaths, as the faintest issuance of sound reaches him. Voices. One voice in particular that he might know, given how his nerves jangle and he inhales sharply. Another baring of white teeth and he wrenches at the shield again, fighting against the natural magnetic field keeping the doors shut. Little by precious little, they begin to part, even as beadlets of sweat begin to appear at his temples.

He does sit, and his stare is blank, puzzled. What's the point of this pageantry? BLood and circuses, Arkady said. Presumably this is the circus, but….what for? Buck's mute, tense, miserable. Humiliation as well as torture?

Did Bucky but ask, he might have received the whole of Juvenal's Satire: Iam pridem, ex quo suffragia nulli / uendimus, effudit curas; nam qui dabat olim / imperium, fasces, legiones, omnia, nunc se / continet atque duas tantum res anxius optat, / panem et circenses.

How little things change from the imperial era to the Communist, the struggle of two superpowers at one another's throats while the starways bleed with advancing horrors. Those nearer at hand hold the rhythmic sense of performance well-practiced. The brunet soldier retreats to the wall of weapons, scaling on the torn Panzer turret for height, grabbing for a bayonet knife in one hand. Sighing, the crowd murmurs their displeasure; then the Kalashnikov, a smattering of cheers here and there. Favourites drawn, their voice is a collective hiss riveted in perhaps dismay or fear at the rusalka. Soaked to the bone under a plain shift and wired in a coronet of moss. the auburn-haired woman abandons her traditional watery lair at a near frantic leap, zagging to the far end of the stage, hemmed in by the amphitheatre walls. So be it; she drops, hands over the back of her neck, turtled. It won't do a thing to the resonance of bullets fired indiscriminately in her precise direction, a hail of them barked out one after the other to the soaring fanfare of Soviet anthems.

The crowd picks up the hymn: Rodina-Mat' zovyot. The Motherland Calls.

Vault 14. Laboratory.
One voice on the other side only remains through the cacophony, and not even that one now. Wherever Zola hastened off to, evidently he trusted the angelic blond sociopath itching for a fight to take care of matters. Especially given how patient Arkady is about standing as a barrier to everything, the tearing barrier meeting with that low-level hum of death energy turned up. No longer does the needling discomfort have to be held in check, though the man's perfectly satiated. He sweeps one of the carbonadium appendages back to pull up a chair on casters. «Sorry, I ran out of cheese. Pull up a seat, let's have a chat.»

The door finally gives with a spectacular grind of failing gears and 'bent out of shape' applies in spades. It takes another strong kick on his part and that is most definitely the shield preceeding Steve Rogers into the laboratory itself.

The sterile lighting flatters no one. The Captain locks eyes with Arkady and there — the first sign that he senses that draw upon his own resources: the roll of a shoulder, as if shifting bone beneath muscle will shoo away the stinging bite of a mosquito.

«Thank you, but I prefer to remain standing. Where is the Winter Solider?» Not Bucky. Not to these people.

He pulls himself up, slowly. Achingly so - his body's exhausted, and his will is weak before Volga's. But that's his girl they're bothering up on stage. So Buck's slogging wearily towards her. Apparently prepared to defend her from whatever Buckling might be the chosen soldier. Still bedragged and ragged after multiple submersions, he looks like nothing so much as a rusalka's victim himself.

Vault 14. Laboratory.
Admittedly no amount of light completely flatters the ghostly pallor and shining gold hair of Arkady Rossovich, though certainly the exquisite archaic Soviet-red armour he wears looks good in any light. «Of course.» No need to tell Captain America to suit himself, he gives the chair in arm's reach a nudge back to roll up harmlessly against a wall. The nuisance of the glass cage at a distance reflects the fell, faded blue light of the waterway below, whereas the rest of the laboratory is in fine working order, if perchance dimmed for the predawn hour. Night lives very long in the north. «I've had no way of knowing since the Widow gunned him down. You do know she intends you next.» His brows raise over those blood-red eyes, reinforcing his point. «Did you leave him to bleed and die on the factory floor? Surely you could have found the medics. They're on the opposite side of the city.»

Sonnets proclaim the Sacred War, an anthem known even to the children. Volga hums the tune while dozens upon dozens of voices cherish the battle-hymn, encouraging the young man to empty a magazine upon the enemy of all they hold dear. He gasps for breath, broad chest heaving against his sodden uniform. Water drips off him onto the black sand and soil, mouth pulled taut. Smoke and dust pockmarked in a circle around the prostrate figure reveals the only source of blood on the upper bicep, livid carvings from pale skin: a five-point star. Their song never ceases, and the man rounds, slinging the Kalashnikov over his shoulder, running for the wall. Something bigger, then, an assortment of fell martial fruit: grenades, blades, axes, scythes.

Water drips out for the oncoming second, for surely that has to be either friend or foe. What performance is fit without adding contenders? Bucky is headed down, and a sluicing torrent fills the moat, leaving another marine wasting no time bellying up through the water. Matvei, in all his wordless skill, goes at a dead run across the stage, his compact form dislodging that fur hat. Cheers for this too — here, a child of the snows, out to reclaim the fallen bayonet blade and hurl it. Maybe. Two against one, soon to be two. How fast does the first James Barnes move?

|ROLL| Rogue +rolls 1d20 for: 16

|ROLL| Rogue +rolls 1d20 for: 3

|ROLL| Bucky +rolls 1d20 for: 12

«That was not the Winter Soldier.» By the tone of Steve's voice, no one's convincing him otherwise of the body left prone and bleeding in the huge hanger. That one didn't throw a snippit of Erin wisdom at him from above — and he knows of the Bucklings. «You took him into this room. Where has he gone?» Still more of that discomforting crawling beneath his skin and now he rolls the other shoulder, grimacing through his frown. What is that?

Fast enough for one, not the other. But he's interposed himself between Scarlett and his kinsmen, shedding that tattered coat and even the soldier's jacket beneath it, leaving him in shirt and pants and boots….the former rolled up enough to show an expanse of metal arm. «Matvei Yegorovich,» It's too raw and tired and desperate to be scolding, just a weary remonstration, «Shame on you. Scarlett never did you any harm,» Dealing with them as if they were rational beings, even as he faces them like a bull confronted with banderilleros. They'll take him down that way, certainly.

Vault 14. Laboratory.
«Romanova thinks so. You do not. I will not argue with lovers and friends, eh?» Into that terrible country Arkady does not go, favouring the relative safety of his own death-ridden hellscape slowly leaching out vitality from the very air. He rolls the silvery tentacles like a cat's tail, a bolt of lightning on a clear, dark night. Life finds him on the ends of those feelers and through every margin of his flesh, pulled down, saturated aura of the man in front of him tempting. «Her Winter Soldier is dead or dying. Yours? I said I'd put in a good word for one of them. Who knows. Getting breakfast, cleaned up, ready for meetings.» Chatty fellow, maybe the sheer fact he can with someone different than the usual mix of folks in a closed city is fascinating. «They don't tell me, I'm not in that rank. Are you told everything they do in America? You realize they lured you here, right? The Widow sold you out. They've left you alone. Not sure really how I feel about it. I can give you to Red Guardian and let him sort out of the details. His bag, the resources. He still out there? Turn around and go shout him in, he can sort specifics. Rooms and shit.»

Children of the Volga, children of the Motherland, give no quarter. The flash of the metal knife swings down intending for bare skin and scours cloth, cutting into the vibranium alloy. A screeching scrape throws sparks. Collective gasps come round when they realize, voices in Russian a hollow chorus: «The Champion of the Motherland. It's him!»

Volga wears only that reflective gaze, his long fingers steepled, elbows locked to his knees. Around him others have arrested attention upon the stage, and how the throwing axe of a heroic woodcutter goes hurling right past Bucky into the rusalka's supine side. Not even a scream — they don't know any hope of sound is dead, wrung out over hours-days-weeks, shattered. Only a quiver of pain, white on black on red. Kyr is hauling at the wall, Matvei braced as though to a charge. Those frosty eyes hold all the grey, cold relief of the mother singing to them from far, the river howling in their blood, a poison shared through the link radiating in a backflow through them all. Two on two becomes three against; with Kyr always goes another, and Adam takes a different route by half, hopping over a balconette to land heavily. The hollowed out madness of lack of sustenance is gone, but his face is set and drawn. Who howls the loudest, who is alpha?

|ROLL| Bucky +rolls 1d100 for: 79

His spine straightens and he grows an extra inch in dignified and quiet affront.

«He wouldn't do that. I know him better than that. What they attempted here — what atrocities they put him through? He did not break.» A slow sigh shivers, leaving through his nostrils rather than the tightly-clamped mouth. Finally, he speaks again. «I will only ask you one more time. Where did they take the Winter Soldier? The one you pulled into this room?» Steve tests the familiar weight of the shield in his hand, the laboratory lights glinting from its burnished surface.

The strength of the pack is the wolf, the strength of the wolf is the pack. Maybe it's the blood he's drunk. Maybe it's some side effect of the touch of the ultimately masterless, a last generosity from the Morningstar.

For even as he's crouching over defensively, tearing at his shirt to have something to staunch that wound with, his will's on the link. Let them attend to him, rather than attack. *Come to me.* It's an order. And let the crowd see the metal arm. Whatever that title is worth, here's the Champion.

Vault 14. Laboratory.
Arkady rolls his shoulder, the armour going smoothly with that. «Seems to me you were lured in.» The terseness of the discussion is permeated by irritation on Steve's part and the slow death by inches on his, a calculated slowness of something he cannot suppress. For good reason Natasha took her leave, surely. «Maybe I wasn't clear. Dunno.» Simple, flat response without sentiment there but for that edged bit of annoyance that comes with hearing the same question multiple times. «It's a city, I wasn't paying attention. Now would you get lost. Go badger Red Guardian. He gets to know shit, I don't, and he's probably still out there where you left 'im last.»

Black earth, red blood, cold water, white snow; those elements of the Rodina link all who stand on it, to some degree, even bastard-born adoptees. The rapt audience praises strikes and cheers on favourites, some still singing the anthems that play over the speakers. A loud groan disapproves of Adam as a pugilist, and much more snatching purpose in a gun from Kyr's ransacking of that huge wall. Matvei curls his lip slightly, poised to respond in some physical fashion when they stutter to a stop, needle off the track, hauled up.

Snatch the marionette strings, haul them in and they go, heels in all the way, the lures set. Too late to avoid crossing the Rubicon, one by one they follow except for the shattered doll sent to death's doorstep and through. They rise from the water, flint-eyed Volya, broken Orel, and water-washed Nikita, absent of Lazar and Evgeniy.

A girl in the crowd sighs. Scarlett convulsively lifts her head, eyes empty, white snow on white skin, a death-trap of the watery depths. He called. She may go, answering even that call to action.

The crowd cheers that. Enemy downed, no?

Steve risks a glance towards one of the corners of the laboratory, beyond the lights and empty tables, pods and flickering boards that reek of mad scientist.

«I have no interest in this Red Guardian of yours. If you'll excuse me.» And with that, he goes to turn and, frankly, walk away across the open space, headed for the one major doorway he can see that leads out of this place. He sure as hell isn't headed back the way he came, since that is not where he last saw his erstwhile puppet of a friend go.

Vault 14. Laboratory.
Two major doorways, the one directly north beyond the parallel lines of beds; the archway to the right, as it were, into the Cold Storage area requires a few steps to ascend up.

«I'm afraid I can't. No authorization for you in there.» Arkady may be itching for a fight, or just to get a nap and read whatever the hell he reads. Probably trashy German novels. The silvery carbonadium bolts of lightning wreath out and slam into the wall, impeding easy movement. «You really don't get to pass that way. That much applies to everyone. You want access, take it up with Red Guardian. Or I'll be happy to dissuade you the old fashioned way. Really doesn't matter to me.»

Reaching down the link…..and she too is part of it. Buck lifts her in his arms, cradles her, and bends his head to kiss those pale lips. Strength there, if she cares to take it, and the taste of blood. Not just his, but all the wolves. He'll throw them all collectively into the pit, if that is what it takes to save her. Volga is there, and a river's strength is bottomless.

That way lies death, the cracked vessel of the void stripped of restraint. Does the sorcerer know it? Certainly he fails to look alarmed at this pas-a-deux, any more than he expressed the least concern for the soldiers in multiple forms appearing on this dark stage. Ever fascinating to witness mutual destruction, however that that comes to pass, with an articulated choreography seldom seen. He has likely some sense of the will through the link. Maybe the ecstatic bliss unleashed in murder for Scarlett is a bear-trap sprung, seizing life through the accursed nature of her DNA. Not for nothing all that equipment, the gloves, Arkady.

Only excess stolen, eyes frost blue swiveling up where everyone of the wolves' collective noses point. Throw them where? Soon as Bucky thinks, she stumbles to act. Until then…

Whispers race among the crowd, and if nothing else Steve can hear the supple, gothic grandeur of the soaring, mingled voices together from a choir young and old.
The black wings shall not dare
Fly over the Motherland,
On her spacious fields,
The enemy shall not dare tread.

The sudden appearance of those silvery tentacles whipping and barring his way is enough to bring Steve to an abrupt. The half-step of retreat is followed by a sharp look in Arkady's direction.

The rising sound of voices implies multiple people beyond the doorway, with those short number of stairs leading beyond and to where he suspects his friend to be. Another glance in that direction and Steve sets his jaw. He remembers the strength of the appendages on display when they were wrapped about Bucky; he remembers the reverberation of the shield against their tensile strength in return. Still.

«Excuse me.» His cool words are unfailingly polite as he suddenly lunges at those tentacles, shield-first, intending to part them as a set of Old Western doors and then beat feet as fast as he can manage.

Act. As if he's the one driving. This may only be an amusement to Volga. Let it be. How far does the leash run out before he chokes himself on the collar?

But if there's direction to be had, it's for her to heal herself. To take what she needs, if they can offer it. Buck is bowed over her, curled around her, the instinct to defend the wounded mate. Can they tap into Volga? Maybe not. But it's worth the attempt.

|ROLL| Steve Rogers +rolls 1d20 for: 19

|ROLL| Rogue +rolls 1d100 for: 51

Vault 14. Laboratory.
At least someone in this gods-forsaken hole stripped of religious iconography and overt divine trappings shows proper manners. Politeness might save a man from the goriest of ends, being turned into a human scarcecrow by a man both fast, strong, and endowed with carbonadium appendages. The two extract from the wall, leaving a thin hole caved in on itself, the serpentine coils recovered. Pressure from the branium shield parts the interposing barrier long enough for Steve to bolt through, tucked low behind that glaring white star. Electric threnodies shrill along the storm-front of their short-lived kiss, humming in basso tremolo fading out.

The dash leads him into the blue-lit cryo chamber, its glistening pearls jewels fit for an eastern potentate, a great khan collecting the wonders of far off Araby and Magyar lands. Gone are their occupants, the trickling water dripping through grating into a wave-sheared sea. He might have long enough to see the entrances flanking right and left around a broad wall, secure past another set of steps he'll never reach.

Arkady Rossovich is trained for war, fed on the fat of the land, and fast. The slivers of flexible carbonadium lash out and whip around Cap's right leg below the knee, hauling him backwards to a dropped lunge. Momentum ripples up in a whipsnap as the second tentacle seizes him around the shoulder and torso, a placement sufficient to build up orbital spin. It matters because a coordinated, synchronized snap worthy of the greatest field athletes alive — and several times over better — sends Steve hurling just like his shield does into the amphitheatre. The big man has just enough height to know roughly where the stage is, and no one expects the American Inquisition flung with terrifying accuracy at Bucky himself. Catch that, princess.

Vault 12. Amphitheatre.
Regret that impulse, for the frost-eyed rusalka risen from the drowning-depths of the abyss stares at the half-moon tiers singing their paean for glory and self-defense. Neither hysterical or a lunatic, some other primordial impulse rules her, one on the bond made of cold and starfire and the dying breath of empty spice. Every last one of her nails is broken past the quick, fingernails moons of blood and shredded flesh, and they impulsively flex. Just one thought flickers at the cracked, twinned nexus on the link in there — death stop fatal fall for touch — and she's rising. Of course this times to Arkady flinging Steve at them, and as the rising pair, it might be her bowled over. Maybe not.

Volga is bound to laugh, his hand raised in some kind of mocking salute. The wolves at the beck and call churn through the confused morass, commands uttered at odds with the impulses given, and their fraught violence waits. Take aim, and snarl.

The Captain never expected to get away scot-free. Reflexes can only accomplish so much against appendages with telescoping panels that reach farther than the average man can sprint, much less one blessed with the serum of a super-soldier.

The slap and twisting pressure of the tentacles immediately hamstring Steve, in more than one way. By the time his knee hits the floor, dragged down by strength and sudden lack of thereof, a scream is building in his throat in a ragged bubbling of sound attempting escape. The problem is that his vocal chords simply can't conduct the seizure of sound. That secondary tentacle trapping his arms to his sides bows his spine, the sheer magnitude of agony impossible to ignore.

Yep, that is Steve Rogers flying towards both Bucky and his partner, somehow still clinging to the half-shell of a shield. He's all stunned limbs and solid weight upon collision, the dying whistle of that cry leaving his lips repeatedly. What is there to do but to curl upon himself briefly, one half-gloved hand spread across the white star while the other buries itself near his stomach?

|ROLL| Bucky +rolls 1d20 for: 10

He should have gotten used to Steve Rogers coming in from left field years ago. But that doesn't prepare him for Rossovich hurling that big lump of muscle into him. Buck's got only enough time to brace to protect Rogue from some of the impact. And then he's dragging Steve into the huddle - trying to plant a hand of the Captain's on Rogue's arm. Bring him in to the link, if he can.

We all go down together.

Some of the crowd shout their displeasure, a frisson of boos interrupting the parade of triumphal song. Anger teases the waves of a population devoted to their tasks, proud subjects of the Motherland seething in the stands. Men stand on their feet and shake their fists, teenagers hawkishly snarling. «Kill him! The enemy of the people!»

Without the direction, the four silhouettes hunker lower, fanning out in triangulated forms practiced again and again on the field. Kyr to Adam, Matvei anchored, and Nikita showing that uncanny grace scaling the wall over chariots, bitterly sharp swords, and even a studded horse harness with no real care. Like he wants to find a nest to shoot from, the high-point to do real harm. Arkady is somewhere, smiling.

What they don't know just might slay them.

Planting anyone's hand on Scarlett's bare, bloodied arm is a death sentence faster than Arkady Rossovich. Death wearing his golden mien takes time; she is the compressed instant. The curse has no check. The ecstatic bliss of her unraveling curse might reinforce the bond but rips down what segmented identity lives inside that shattered psyche, and whatever rises to the top feeds on the fear, rage, ice cold inspection. Shaking them off is easy enough, stumbling to the water's edge. She looks up there, lone nightmare. Heal doesn't mean anything. But jumping eyes-shut at a run into the nearest angry mob of theatregoers probably upsets them. It should. The herd can be thinned with a touch and whatever else, they're only mortals — scientists, teachers, researchers, students, mechanics, engineers, each felled by five or six seconds of contact to collapse to the ground.

Steve flinches away from the grip at his wrist, still all hind-brain reaction to the touch of death via carbonadium, and for a split second, Bucky nearly takes the shield to his person out of sheer panic on the Captain's part.

Panting, he stares up at the dark-haired scarecrow of a man for a battered second before realization overrides the panic.

"Bucky," he breathes, trying to get to his feet as fast as he can manage. It dawns on him, slowly, that this is a much larger room and there are a good number of folks very unhappy to see him present. There are a few of the Bucklings, those lookalikes, all in generally bad shape. This he can compartmentalize. But who — she's the redhead, Scarlett, Bucky's girl — she's flinging herself into the crowd will-she, nill-she. "What is — " He looks to Bucky as if for answers, wordless and mouth agape, bringing up the shield out of long-ingrained habit more than anything else.

It's hard to think, with all of that boiling along the link: Buck's something out of Steve's old nightmares, pale, hollow-eyed, dried blood at his mouth. «Scarlett, take him,» If anything can bring down Volga, it's got to be something in his girl. There is no dismay at all at the start of her rampage. Steve, on the other hand, he yanks to him, his right side to Steve's - armored by the shield on one side, the metal arm on the other. Raging back at the crowd, standing as he tries to keep Steve in the half-crouch that leaves the least vulnerable flesh exposed. «NO. He's MINE.» James Barnes and Steven Rogers against the very essence of this particular motherland, it seems.

Their moment to leave may be then, when the startled shouts become screams realizing what ill is done. A feverish crackle on the speakers terminates the triumphal music, when the electrical pull or some engineer in a booth paying close attention.

Lights fall. Darkness drops in a cloud from on high, only the gurgling splash of the waterfall constant. Laughter seethes through the wanton shadows, hard to say if it's Arkady or Volga or the hecklers at the back of the amphitheatre. Those who can run do, mass stampede in the stygian night.

The wolves slink in the nearer, Nikita leaping to land somewhere, by the muted thuds off the wall. Kyr drags Adam inward.

The scent of ozone becomes a flash in the night, plasma arcing off the walls, hammering the ceiling. Impossible to say what's found in the chaotic upheaval.

Steve has seen the crackling of a Tesla coil before, large enough to throw blinding ripples of energy across the room — there's a vague memory of Howard playing with the thing, grinning up a storm all the while. This is something else entirely, more primeval and akin to the fury of a trapped thundercloud. In the retina-imprinting flashes of light, Bucky's face looks nearly skeletal. The freeze-frames of people scattering in blinded panic appear every time he looks beyond the moat. The Bucklings.

Still crouched, linked arm in arm with the Winter Soldier, he turns towards them. «Hey, uh…» How to address these men? «Soldiers! Fall back! Rally to us!» He attempts to project his voice overtop the melee and hopes that no one's coming for him in particular. He's not the popular one here, after all.

Let all the little mortals run, or let them fall. Buck's in that terrible cold place where human lives are counters in the game, save for those he's claimed as his.

But then he's reaching along the link, trying to get his beloved to return. Is she sane enough, strong enough, to get them all out again? This may be their one chance at escape…

And can he convince her to go without him?

No need to convince the conscious Soviets to run: they do. They stream mostly through the avenue to the east, feeling their way for it. Cries of pain and anger and fear blend into a cacophony as they stumble out of the way. Splashing through the still waterway is easy, at most waist-deep, generally to the knee. They can follow the masses into the unknown or trust the path well-travelled to leave the city. No telling of Natasha's whereabouts. The quartet of younger and harder-eyed versions of Bucky linger close to him, waiting, not running, not quite fighting. Not their natural disposition in the dark.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Lightning crackles through the redhead, a bolt taken full range sending her flying. Unfortunately for Volga, the danger is when that smoking comet slingshots right back to presumably plow into that shield wrapped around him. Doesn't stop chairs from being ripped out around him. Madness is as madness does, or the eye of the storm keeps him from noticing the others.

In the flicker-flash of one of those plasmal arcs, Steve thinks he catches sight of the blurred form of Scarlett blown backwards. He knows that the Bucklings are now nearby, but this? What he's seeing now?

…okay, someone's definitely closer to believing in magic.

"Bucky, we need to get out of here!" He shouts overtop the din as best he can, looking upwards to check the structural integrity of the room itself. The idea of several tons of earth collapsing in on them? Harrowing in a way that makes his knees watery for a passing second.

Now he's going forward, trying to get to Scarlett. "I know. She's our ticket out of here." If only it were that simple, Bucky Barnes. "Stay there, Steve. I'll get you, and the kids." Dead, undead, revenant and revenger, they're coming with him, if he has anything to say about it.

Matvei has the AK-47, Kyr a knife, Nikita wit and Adam, he gets to be good-looking. Steve has the shield and voice to guide them, Bucky has the better part of foolish valour.

Wading through trampled bodies is an unpleasant experience in poor footing and pained cries; the one the redhead laid low aren't getting back up, and won't do so in a human lifetime. Lights stay off, stripped free. Whether Steve has a lighter or an instinctive way out, he can certainly flee.

Bloody resistance rises on the bond in a black tide, the very earth surging into the man shifting from coal-haired sorcerer to hoary bear or shrieking eagle, something fluid and in between. Claws and savage teeth whirlwind, another of those painful collisions smacking a hideous corporeal melody. Staccato tears respond, a screech of metal where someone forces the doors open below. A brush of fingertip over shredded cloth and violence fumbles, but squeezed, a death lock on the sorcerer stops that problem.

"You get five minutes!" This, Steve is yelling at Bucky's back, even as they part ways in the chaos only lit by those raw flashes of electrical mastery. What he doesn't mention to his friend is that he's going to cautiously work his way towards the door of Cold Storage, that portal he flew through not minutes back via Arkady's cruel inclinations.

«Men, stay with me!» This is a command intended for the Bucklings, rag-tag band that they are in the end.

He joins the knot that is Volga and Rogue - the mortal hand for her, trying to reach her. Take us out. Take Volga out - Steven and the kids, too. Can she do it?

The metal hand is seeking, though. Volga is immortal, but having someone try to rip his heart out should be enough to bother him a little, right? A command to go with Steve, to obey him, an urge sent along the link.

|ROLL| Bucky +rolls 1d20 for: 3

|ROLL| Rogue +rolls 1d100 for: 41

Scream into a hurricane, lash a rogue wave into submission. Communication through the link is a fractured process and agony, a chant of a hundred separate souls screaming, moaning, sobbing, laughing, wailing in concert. Some are mere spindrift, and Volga shrieks in pluriform animalistic tones — mentally — that send Nikita to his knees behind Steve, poleaxed for a few moments. Matvei snarls. Kyr and Adam cling to one another, exiles from the battle hastening after the American commander.

Bucky's hand punches through unraveling shield into the cavern of bone and blood. Fingers can close on that strongly beating muscle, hear the squelch around blood.

Black hair intermingle among the bloody strands withering to shadow, frosty eyes rimmed in bloodshot novas and inky darkness. Fingers spread wide measure salvation in death by inches. Consciousness slides in and out as his splinters, devoured the more into the feminine void, communing with the Rodina. Salt drips down fair skin, mouth a white rictus. To destroy is to become.

Steve may never understand precisely what traveled along the lines of their shared kything, between his friend and their brothers-by-blood, between the belle dame of Death and the sorcerer — but what he can see occurring in the heat-lightning of the moment brings him to freeze in the moat. The white of his eyes flash even as his brain tries to understand what the hell is happening.

This is so very much beyond his paygrade.

"GET OUT OF THERE!!!!" What more can he commit to the situation at hand but barely-restrained fear? Hold it together — hold it together for the band behind him, at whom he looks back to and offers a free hand in case someone needs one.

He's been a god, as well as a beast. For hours had ichor in his veins, rather than blood, trembled caught in the Morningstar's halo.

The shining hand runs dark with blood….and better pray darkness has shut down in time to keep Steve from seeing his friend bring it to his lips. IT's hard to resist the taste of that particular blood, hunger satisfied or no. But he's reeling from all of it….and his other hand is still reaching for Scarlett. EVen knowing how foolish that is.

Nikita regains his nimble footing with a bit of help from Steve. See, the hero isn't beating him half to death. That work was already done. The run through the dark storage facilities into the abandoned lab takes little time at all. Pinballing through the mechanical bay is easier with fewer pieces of equipment to obstruct a clear path, though none of those spots have their own power source. Not until reaching the research labs — with a plethora of generators and batteries — will artificial light be a common feature for Steve. The trio of wolves dart around objects, following the footsteps into clear ground.

Volga's incandescent rage batters along the white-hot line until the core of being is ripped from flesh. Maybe the organ keeps on beating past the hour of death. His body convulses and shudders; try being the one locked mentally in the final throes. Dragging the redhead away by damp tunic or bloodied hands holds its own risk, but she complies, staggering through fugues. The gleaming black eyes and black hair aren't visible in the night. When the Winter Soldier emerges with some diminutive terror?

It cannot be. That was not his friend suckling at the newly-removed heart of some ghastly man far too tall and gaunt and the source of the supernatural lightning. In the manner of the shocked and sane, that little image is tucked into the deepest, darkest corner of Steve's brain, to be better revisited in the hours of the night. Preferably between midnight and three, when all the world is ugly and raw. Probably in the throes of a nightmare.

Once he's certain, instead, that the shambling figure is indeed Bucky, with his significant other in tow, he slips into the mechanical mind-set of the soldier.

Direction, this way.
No, leave that machine be, the current tack is 'out', whatever this entails once they reach the lowly-lit research section.
Blood is blood, so be it.
Leave the mechanic in his overalls be, he did nothing to you, let's go, gentlemen.

The shield is still upheld, spattered as it may be with random flecks of crimson.

Volga's corpse is left. But he's still got that knot of flesh in his fist, fresh blood on his mouth….and the former he offers to Rogue, unthinking. Hey, girls like nice things, too.

Then he's pulling all the wolves he can with the link, trying to herd them towards Steve.

|ROLL| Rogue +rolls 1d20 for: 14

Girls like nice things. Hearts quavering in the last beats are prettier than diamonds, in their odd measure. She tentatively reaches out her hand and halts, then strips off a chunk of the inappropriately designed shift still saturated by that water to wrap around her hand in the world's worst glove. Might as well nudge the heart back at Bucky; alpha is alpha, for all she wets her lips. Blood on his mouth, blood on hers. Whatever life it had is the stuff of massacred ruin. Snow White she is to his deadly huntsman. Bucky leads the way, else they'll be there until the psychic tumult ends and the cards settle where they lay in the crystal oubliette.

Steve moving out and on leads them through the hectic bay, largely locked down at the far end. Light here floods the dim transports hovering like leviathans in the depths. What's climbing fifty feet straight up the cylindrical shaft that dumped them down? The breached doors await, and then a dead run into a city probably full of armed guards or panicked bears, interrupted from reading Bears Illustrated.

Emerging out into that cavernous space is shocking again, in its way, so brightly lit and full of scurrying people. Steve looks around until it seems that the majority of their bedraggled group has emerged from the confines of that narrow tunnel. Surely someone moved the door that the Captain initially kicked in when following Arkady?

It seems that the only way back out is indeed up the shaft that he fell down. Gesturing mutely in that direction, he attempts to keep his pacing below that of a lope. This is difficult, given that the prickling sensation on his neck hasn't abated a single bit since their emergence into a well-lit area.

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