1965-04-03 - Project Ursa: Dhruva
Summary: The lengths to which Bucky will save friends and family.
Related: Project Ursa
Theme Song: None
steve-rogers bucky rogue 

0540 hours. Closed City 53. Astrakhan Oblast.
The pull of danger inevitably draws men of war. They are tempered in a martial crucible, such their makeup permanently points their magnetic north towards its source. Risk is their bread, reward their butter. Those drawn by noble purpose or foul ambition, weak though it may be, inevitably march straight over the coals to once again embrace the fire kissing their limbs. Either they lose their skins, consumed by what they court, or come out warmed by the experience.

Havoc settles upon Medveditsa, Closed City 53, one of the hidden ZATOs in the southern Soviet heartland. On its borders the forest shivers in violence, and sirens wail topside to alert the forces to their stations on border patrol. The double-ringed fencing bears far more patrols than before, aided by sharp hound senses, redoubled at the checkpoints with no hint of the dull, lengthy procession to predawn breaking with signs of relief. Something has gone awry; that unknown incident still requires protocols to follow, rules to execute, routines to perform.

In the hangar bay, full security teams go on lockdown around the three transport vehicles beyond the understanding of NATO's generals and tacticians. Shoot to kill becomes a matter of truth while the few engineers scooped up from their sleep are cycled down through hallways under armed escort to man certain armed systems, should certain events come to pass.

Elsewhere, lovers reuniting under cover of shock and darkness tread their own path carefully over tea and the occasional interruption of a patched line down to their suite. And they surely look upon one another.

Startled nurses try to save lives in an infirmary depleted of confidence, having watched two living men reclaim a dead one with the same face. The physician can only work on the bodies on the table, struggling to save his comrades, unaware whatsoever of the felled, unconscious lives in a theatre who will never again rise to embrace their children, pore over blueprints, argue the finer points of a titanium structure or covalent bonds or the benefits of lithium in an enclosed system for a battery for weapons turned upon the western world.

Somewhere, a Swiss scientist follows his contingency plans and runs for an irritated, black-haired woman bestirred from her sleep in a bed.

Somewhere else, a man dons his armour, machines whirling around him, and his counterpart on the ground calls out to the swiftly moving forces, questions of Volgograd and Astrakhan and sister sites speckled along a fluid battlefront.

This is madness, this is a riot, this is order turned on its head in the name of war.

Through this, a party of less than twelve must find their escape. Their path out, the clearest route, is by exiting whence they came, past a sea of barriers and shadowy portals in lockdown. Climbing ufifty-footy foot shaft gone vertical is not the trouble it should be for super-soldiers, much less someone able to discard gravity at a whim. Sealed doors stand to be pried open by force, but sticking to the plan — exit, undercover — isn't impossible. Lives lost on the way eventually total up to the count of two or three hands, something to worry about later. One guard here, two men shooting at them there: Medveditsa runs red with blood as they claw their way up to an elevator shaft in the dark. Past that is a street in sight of the gates, but a guarded spot at that, then a forest to take.

Buck was never a trophy taker, even in the darkest days of the war. So there are no bloody souvenirs beyond Volga's heart and body to take. Now the question is a vehicle sturdy, swift, and capacious enough to get this whole party out and away and over some border, before they get bombed into nothingness.

So he's off creeping ahead, trying to find a van or truck to hotwire.

Steve elects to head up the back of the gathered host of Winter Soldier look-alikes and the red-headed woman. Portions of his body, where Arkady's tentacles did their malicious touching, burn and ache in something akin to a bone-bruise, but he does his best to ignore them. After all, he can't lose track of their little gaggle.

He lifts and turns his head at every odd sound, very ready to throw a shield into whomever encroaches upon their furtive travels.

They go in two-by-two, children escaping from a warped and slant arc. Dark-haired monsters distinguishable only at close inspection, save the few: the unconscious one riddled by bullet wounds in a white cotton shirt, the tattooed one carrying him. Wolves operating on a fractured link react sharply, intuitive in a field of battle. Theirs is a curious awareness where Steve is involved, since Adam and Kyr rotate to fan out in hiding and Matvei takes steady aim at Bucky before he even emerges from the gloom. Say nothing of ghost on a balcony not so far out of the way; Volya doesn't speak anymore than Nikita does, the two of them on sentry duty. Anyone getting too close is bound to take lead or end up with a broken neck, since none of them have Steve's inherent programming to do no harm. They kill.

The redhead does worse than kill. She kneels on the ground, hugging herself in that bloodstained shift, clearly an escapee of the infirmary.

What Bucky has to do isn't easy: that means going into a city he hasn't reconnoitered, making sense of a layout meant to confuse, all jagged lightning bolt alleys under Lenin's serene gaze. Crawling past the soldiers taking up their posts at intersections and high areas isn't so hard, surely, but finding a vehicle bigger than a garbage Lada is tough. There is a Volga out there. Unfortunately that Volga is owned by Vanguard. And the man standing on it, giving orders in timely fashion to his comrades? He's looking right at the Winter Soldier.

Oh, poor Vanguard. One of the so very few men in this place that Bucky would hesitate to kill. But that's enough to have Buck gesturing to the others not to shoot….and then he's making a hopeless, hushing gesture at the man himself.

From where Steve's standing, wondering where in the hell the especially-sneaky Buckling got off to this time, he suddenly sees the distant outline of Bucky making those motions. It brings him to stare and then quickly hold out a hand at the nearest cluster of clones, intimating for them to stay put. He darts forwards at a hunched pace, the better to see what's going on, and it makes him see red — but it doesn't last long. He might hate to admit that the man's previous actions were honorable, at least from another perspective, but he never neeed to drop Bucky like a marionette without strings. That one — that one still stings in the deeply-protective blond's heart.

Vanguard stands out for the scythe in his hand and the crisp hue of his uniform, entirely outlined against the slash of a floodlight skimming over him. The bright beam rushes over him and highlights the narrow width of the street, and he crosses his arms, swiveling. His counterpart, wherever he may be, is the true leader of the Winter Guard, but Nikolai gains enough respect from the men around him that they don't immediately fire, dispersing to the fringes and seeking coverage. For good or ill, training goes down hard.

Volya moves like the Hunter they call him, capital H, dancing from balcony to roof at a run. No assistance needed there to spring along, if he's anything alive at all.

He's caught - the beam sweeps over him. «This doesn't have to end in a fight,» Buck tells Vanguard. «Let us go. The killing can stop.» False prophecies, especially when Vanguard can shut him down in a few words. «YOu can stop me, but you can't stop them. You know what I'm saying is true.» Pale and bloody-mouthed and hollow-eyed, a weary spectre just trying to turn their noses towards home.

Steve's an equal recipient of that swaying beam, the true revelation of his presence in how it reflects from the surface of his vibranium shield.

«Let us pass,» he echoes, his voice traveling well enough despite the comparable distance between him and Bucky. He slowly tenses in place regardless, silver buckler upheld before his body.

Beg, borrow, and steal for freedom. The wolves know how to keep a low profile, even Evgeniy bearing what would generally be a burden. They all but melt into the shadows, such that Bucky or Steve may have a hard time even figuring where they were. In the intervening moments, they simply disappear, though Medveditsa topside gives them plenty of coverage. The same is true for the defenses; Soviets might be ringing them.

Wearing a sleeveless white cotton minidress gone stiff and coppery with blood is not quite so effective for hiding, though Scarlett keeps low, scrambling to put a wall between her and anything shot. She busies herself tearing the hem of her shift and hastily using it for something — possibly binding up her damaged fingers.

Vanguard stands up taller, his chin raised. The expression on his face shows decided shock and weary acceptance. «You just couldn't leave well enough alone?» Russian slices back, the search beams centered in on them. No escaping that front. His outline is limned in dust. «I gave you your lives once. Do you have any idea of what you've done

«Never more than what I had to,» Bucky says, simply. «We are trying to leave.» A kind of quiet resignation there - how many sights are lined up on him? How many fingers are on the triggers? «None of this ever had to happen. If they'd left me dead in the water…but they didn't. You have a choice now. You don't have to fight us. I killed Volga, I don't want to kill you. You're a good man, and your people will need you now than ever. Let me take my girl and my friend and my children and *go home.*»

Emotions careen over Vanguard's face. He isn't that much younger than them in the flesh, though in actual birthdate counts as another thing entirely. «You… what?» Confusion clears and resolves into a slowly advancing resolve, horror not fully formed. Brought stillborn into the predawn, darkness gathered around them, he asks, «What do you mean you killed the river? You didn't… the cores?» A shaking swirl of that sickle cuts a fell ring through the air, nothing visible but the metal, snatched back in gloved hands. His eyes move from Steve's shield to Bucky's arm and back again, taking their measure. Possibly outnumbered doubly, maybe not. The children gives him pause. No sign of that redheaded Widow around either. It's only a matter of time until one of his own people shoots, and he has the reflexes to channel a wall of energy vertically briefly behind him, drawing a hemispherical dome that swings around from the side. Sure enough, rifle shots crack and impact that with a blaze of barely distorted ripples, red-shifted energy suspending their conical arcs.

«Go. And if I see you after this, I'll break your neck myself.»

There's only an inclination of his head at that. Vanguard's betrayed himself. «The time will come when you need my help,» Buck tells him, wearily. «And I will remember, and come.» Is that a threat, or a promise? «Vyatoslavich,» he adds. «Look to the old stories, Nikolai. The Union may have forgotten them. Russia has not.»

With that, he's trying to fade into the shadows, too. There has to be another place,a way for them to steal wheels.

Seeing that a potential crisis has possibly been averted, Steve lingers only briefly to see what comes of this man's abilities. He marks the supernatural halt of the spray of rifle fire, stopped by that barrier of energy, and marks it well. If Bucky ever comes to this Vanguard's aid, he'll find the Captain following in his shadow.

He quickly moves to gather up the — the…Bucklings. With a scoff, he reminds himself that they are far more than able to care for themselves, and instead, homes in on the redhead herself. "Miss Scarlett, we need to go," he urges her with quiet forcefulness in tone. "They won't be held off long."

Where oh where did the Bucklings go? A question for the masses, since nary a trace of them remains but the vague electrical charge at the back of Bucky's thoughts. Drifting leaves on a surging river, incandescent pressure erupting like static only if he concentrates on it.

Hell, even Scarlett herself is tough to spot despite the dirt on her soles and the hollow blackness of her ice-rimmed eyes and wild, tangled hair. Anyone addressing her, Clue-style, in English receives that blank stare for a moment and then the shadows roll, movement under the surface, resurfaced with a blink. That's old and new at once; the Avengers don't know much of what she does other than hit hard. Ruthless decline finds her shifting, a wordless inquiry at Steve for direction. Run where? She likely didn't show up the way they did, more's the pity.

Vanguard barks another command at the men firing at him, though whether they've just decided he is a traitor to the Soviet Union remains to be seen. Considering that barrier is up, he's not about to be shot in the back.

Away they go - Scarlett sheltered by both shield and metal arm. Maybe the kids are having better luckthan he is in finding a way for them to leave. "That guy….if we weren't so bad off, I'd knock him out and kidnap him. He's not going to survive long here - someone that honorable is gonna end p put up against the wall and shot," he tells STeve in English.

Once he's certain that Scarlett is following along, he keeps pace beside her as best he can. This puts him in hearing distance of Bucky and he replies as quietly,

"I don't know how well he'd respond to kidnapping. I'd turn around and fetch him myself — though if he pulls that same sh- …stunt as before, with the word, I'll also punch his lights out myself." The set to Steve's jaw suggests that he will follow through with this. "But we need to leave. He looked like he could hold his own."

Tall enough, she eats up the ground with her stride. Any random shots pointed at the easiest of them to see — white does that — have the unnerving quality of ventilating clothes, not the woman. A few of them scud off the ground to hasten their retreat, sending the trio scampering with classic Soviet fanfare. Gods help whomever has Volga's body, whether Bucky stowed it or entrusted Evgeniy or Scarlett to drag it along. Soldiers react as the floodlights swivel and chase them through the low-lying blocks of apartments. Scarlett is half-blind, arm raised against the glare, like any other civilian on the move. Blood clots along the star carved into her bicep, but any exertion may well just rip the thin, deep wounds open. Artistry it is and isn't.

Vanguard drops the shield protecting him and darts off, well out of sight from Bucky and Steve. He has his own war to fight, one that probably involves them or explaining to a certain Dynamo or Guardian why he isn't out there engaging. Call it a case of 'you're the boss.'

He shouldn't've left it. Because Buck's attempts at chivalry extend only to Vanguard getting out of sight of the car. He may have to stuff Volga's body in the trunk, but they are going…..only to fumble with the hotwiring. And Steve, exhausted and traumatized, fares no better. But Scarlett herself…..well, the engine zooms to life. Here's hoping they can cram everyone in. Lazar may have to ride on the roof.

Steve calls driver, in his own way — mostly by getting into the driver's seat and handing off the shield to whomever is seated shotgun. He puts the car into gear and guns it.

"I hope this can handle a bit of damage!" He calls out, likely enough overtop the impact of bullets and some turning maneuvers that test the car's suspension rather rudely.

All of them traumatized, but the mute woman sometimes can mirror another person with alarming accuracy. This isn't parroting nor mimicry of a mime's sort: her bloodied, damaged fingers have all the agile finesse of Bucky's metal ones, possibly the flesh. It's just the same as watching what he did, in the extension of another independent body, one of apparently several he has to call on. Never mind someone ripped her fingernails out in places, she pushes through the pain. Spark, fire, and the wires fit together just so. Hardly anything about the saloon car is small, and as long as the window is down, she can manhandle holding onto the top. That means literally slithering out the window by the time Bucky and his favourite corpse are tossed inside. The children are another matter, scattered in the dark.

Several of those shots headed at the car, however, are alarmingly accurate. Another issue, there's exactly one road out through a checkpoint wrapped in barbed wire and another layer of barbed wire, probably a minefield, and very probably lots of trees. Trees maybe hiding bears. Or Omega Red.

He's got a pistol from somewhere, the better to return fire, if need be. "No gunning it until all the kids are onboard," he says. "No one left behind," Buck's adamant on that front. Volga may have to go in the trunk. At least it's a limo they've taken.

Steve slams on the brakes, bringing the car into an expert half-moon turn that tests the seatbelts on everyone involved…if anyone's even wearing one.

"Shit, the boys," and he means the Bucky clones. He tightens his jaw and cranks on the wheel even as he spits, "Can you do something to bring them in? They need to get in the car right now!"

Yes, he trusts these clones to engage their athleticism and skill to get into the saloon car while it's moving. Hey, if their pseudo-father could do it, they can do. Uncle Steve has high expectations.

The Volga at least goes faster than a benighted Trabant, which goes absolutely nowhere on its anemic engine. Mind you the death-grip on the top of the car means steel crumples to dainty feminine fingers, the sound of protesting metal a moan against the staccato confetti filling the air. They need to get in the car right now, which means a look from the window. Steve gets to negotiate his way through the checkpoint if he tries to blitz it, or turning in the narrow streets back towards danger, and with it, lots of people with lots of bullets. Soviet steel is good, but not that good.

Even if they come at a run, that's at least seven grown men trying to fit in the back seat of a vehicle built for six, if someone squashes into the front seat, all popped atop Volga's corpse, and squeezing into the trunk for that joyride. Maybe one can water ski on Steve's shield not child autocorrect by human chain.

There's him yelling for them, both via voice and link. The bus is leaving, and Uncle Steve won't be waiting. C'mon, kids. Volga's body does go in the trunk. Hell, Buck will, too, if need be.

It seems like blitzing will be the best of the options available to him in the end, but that's only after they've gathered up the pack. Steve steers the car briefly back in the direction that they came from, weighing the capabilities of the Bucklings as higher gain verses the risk of those well-aimed shots doing more than denting the steel body of the car itself.

Another of those loud pings hits right on the long black hood, planting lead into a piston. The car squeals and keeps managing along, though the struggle of that one piston of eight counts for something. The patter spreads a crack on the windshield, and the exit wound puffs dust into the air. One wild turn produces a howl of the tires, a stink of rubber in the air, a face full of bright lights shot from the spotlight tracing after them. Flash in the pan, a seething brilliance hurts the eyes and probably amounts for why the redhead roof-rack becomes a trunk ornament, bouncing off the back and landing in the dirt. Nothing like grabbing onto a chrome bumper and glaring at the space from whence they came. Go ahead, shoot the Captain America driver or the Winter Soldier with that shield. They weren't on the Western Front, those boys taking aim and shouting from the checkpoint, or else they might be afraid.

Be more bothered by the fact a juggernaut version of Bucky literally comes materializing out of the dark and tosses Orel's prostrate body through the back door of the car, and after that goes Matvei. Nikita is a tad more circumspect: he just wall-runs and leaps his way through the window left open by the redhead. Poor car is probably bouncing on its axels. Those boys aren't light.

Where are Volya, Adam, and Kyr? Finding their own way out. "Not yet," he tells Steve, urgently. The redhead….Buck doesn't want to leave her back there. Even if she can take it. "We're missing three."

Steve cusses in Gaelic this time around, keeping the car on the move as to make for a more difficult target. He doesn't travel far, cutting another ridiculous donut in order to travel in whatever direction is needed to keep Scarlett the safest. Imagine the tire marks left behind. Here's hoping the tires hold up!

Moments to recount.

The car bouncing on its tires heavily with the cursing and compaction, the way three conscious men twist and fit to put Orel out of harm's way.

The squeal of the engine as it revs and strafing shots narrowly missing the rubber of the wheels. A hubcap goes rolling on that turn that yaws dangerously to the side Bucky sits on, bit of deadweight.

Spat gunshots chasing their way, the license plate hollow covered by their own personal limpet, Scarlett clinging to the bumper. If Steve's trying to throw her off, he failed. If he hasn't noticed her, one or two confused soldiers shouting have. Where be the remaining three but converging in their own paths, probably fully capable of running down the car if they want to. Shadows in the night, specks of leaf litter carried on the conscious stream of thoughts. Matvei flinches down.


"Go," Buck echoes. WHole body wire-tight - it's hard, sometimes, to keep his own thoughts separate when he's half submerged in the linkage. The whole pack must go, no pieces left behind. "Get us out of here," Flashes of incoherence, sanity only flickers. "Please," A plea directed to god knows who, where. There will be foes on the road.

With variations-on-the-theme-of-Barnes telling him in multiple languges to get the hell out of dodge, the Captain shifts gears and puts the pedal to the metal. Agonized tires squeal as he heads for the checkpoint and its barricade of barbed wire. Bullets surely chime and thunk and scream as they present a brisk if not overly-large target along the one road out of the hidden city.

"We're going to have to crash through it," he warns the car's occupants in a loud shout; maybe it carries through the fractured windows? Regardless, they're bearing down on that barrier at a high rate of speed. Vanguard's not getting his ride back without a scratch.

Or sixty.

Ignore that lost rim.

Of course, they're crashing through the gate, through the men lowering the cherry bar and pulling out barbed wire, layers in the first circle of hell's protection. Past that is another fence, taller and rimmed in sparkling concertina wires like a Christmas tree. The Volga is a tough car beloved of police and KGB officers alike, albeit not invulnerable, any more than Fords or Mercuries are. Another row of bullets crackle past and if no one sees the men ducking down, does it count as cowardice?

Foes will be on that road rippling through wires that shriek and slice, twanging metal thrown in the air, one guard smashing into the hood and bouncing off. Casualties aplenty: their own escape is a serenade of shattered glass and the lost front bumper, a man dipping down to grab a rim and hurling it like — what else, that starry shield — at some twitchy hero of the Great Patriotic War leveling a rifle. Kyr is strong, maybe not at Evgeniy's weight, but he can deliver a pounding at the right circumstance. Back of a motorcycle? Best believe it, as that laboured, miserable bike takes two; Adam gunning the engine and roaring up in their wake. And Volya? Why even ask, since he evaporates into the dark, forced to a mad scramble, and he'll need new boots by the time he ends up a vulnerable target half-hanging from the side of the car. There is a story for how he ran it, if he ran it, one that won't be told tonight. Or any night.

Words he hopes to win from them, someday. Stories told around a fire later, when this is the kind of adventure one looks back on. But they're all there, save Laz….and Laz has wisely kept out of Volga's reach. "Attaboy, Steve," says Buck, with a kind of wild-eyed enthusiasm. Volga he reaches for to haul in. Let them all travel in a heap, if need be.

Volga, the corpse squashed up against Bucky or under his children's feet. Don't say fate doesn't play with knives.

All Bucky gets in reply is a hoarse and hysterical laugh from Steve, still fighting madly to keep the car going in one direction: away from that hidden city and its horrors that will haunt them all for night upon night to come. The damaged piston in the engine he can hear and sense in the counter-vibrations that shudder through the car's frame. Speaking of that frame!

…sorry, Vanguard. But hey, it's holding together!


The rough and wild road is dangerous; too far too the shoulder, and they're going up in a fireball even the toughest of them would be hard pressed to easily survive. Shrapnel goes after them as someone lobs something heavier, and larger calibre rounds come into play. Explosive cracks leave pits in the asphalt and the car pulls hard to one side, but not entirely difficult for Steve to counterbalance now. A few hours on the road? Another story, if his arm feels like it wants to fall off.

Volya's not one to shout or yell, but he has to be manhandled and kick his way into place. Too many of them and the car labours, not foundering quite, though the fishtailing has something to do with a slowly deflating tire, a bit too much weight, the woman curled up on the bumper. Behind them, the round lamp of Adam and Kyr's motorcycle follows, their hornet buzz engine loud as it gets. Five kilometers of straight track and they can hit the highway: northwest to Volgograd, southeast to Astrakhan on the Caspian.

Regardless, the river runs high and while they thread just above the flooded valley, one thing the passengers might well notice: the crest is following them.

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