1964-12-30 - Project Leo: Missing in Normandy
Summary: Several families say their sons vanished in Normandy. What do these men have in common? They all served in the 107th Infantry Division… same as Steve Rogers and some other local boys. No one has heard boo from these vets since November 11. Smell a coincidence? Smell a rat.
Related: If there are no related logs, put 'None', — please don't leave blank!
Theme Song: None
bucky steve-rogers morgan strange tigra 

24 December. New York City.

Christmas is a time for family and friends, shared experiences around a dining room table and singing carols with comrades arm-in-arm. Reviewing photo albums should bring smiles, not sorrow. In four households of varied wealth, the empty places and cold rooms bring only aching hearts. Such as it is the Cicero, Moynahan, Davis, and Watkins families collectively send their letter to Steve Rogers beseeching him to find their missing sons.

Clippings of papers, letters from the gendarmerie and village mayors, and apologetic switchboard operators in local hospitals across Normandy know nothing of their boys' whereabouts. Telegrams speak to a fruitless search for them. They're all in Steve's possession with the plea for aid. Everyone else has failed them.

After all, if the Man with the Plan can't find a trace of the vets of the 107th, who can?

0544 hours. 28 December. New York City.

The ancient Greeks held Dream's kingdom lay adjacent to his brother, Death, and they traveled occasionally arm in arm. While certain marked souls slumber, they feel the faint rustling of blue-tinged wings and smell the mouthwatering aroma of fresh apples and bubbling water. The reverie runs the same pattern regardless of whom: they find themselves standing in a paved round courtyard, staring out over glittering, smooth seas. Plants grow in wild abundance out of crude stone boxes. They are alone.

A woman in white stands with her back to them, hands clasped behind her. Impossible to see her face, though the white veil banded in silver marks Viviane's rank well enough. "You know I would fain to leave you to peace, did the circumstances allow any other choice." She sighs. "'Tis not to be. Feel you not the stirring of discord and unrest? They are harbingers to a broken pact. Mighty bindings upon the treasures of Britannia vouchsafe their use against the people. Somewhat disturbs the protections. Our allies over the Narrow Sea shudder with seeping shadows and a most familiar darkness. I wouldst call upon thee to honour thy promise to protect our land and sail to Neustria. Our brethren there are sorely tested, but that bright court knows naught of the risk under their very seats."

1045 hours. Carentan, Normandy. 29 December.

A thin veil of snow peppers the hard earth. Wind moans off the English Channel, chattering with polyglot lamentations of two millennia of war. In fields, cattle cluster together. Smart little Norman towns bear the chilly weather best they can, plumes of winding smoke haloing steep Gothic cathedrals. Each hamlet has its church, each arrondissement its scars two decades on. Aside from puttering car makes and lack of German, La Manche hasn't changed much since the Nazis stormed the Ardennes.

Sleepy Carentan, with five thousand souls, marks the spot where four Americans of the 107th last stayed in a rundown hostel. It lies equidistant between Utah and Omaha Beaches, a vast string of no-man's lands at its back.

An ancient place, its market served as one of the more stable harbours for trade out of Portsmouth and the south of Britannia, and the drag of mystic promise guides those with a mystic compass. Well, that and the marching orders on parchment.

Christmas is a bittersweet time for Tigra. Ever year is a little easier to bear than the one before, missing her slain husband. It helps having a purpose to her life, and her exceptional friends. It is to one such friend that she goes, after jerking awake from a vivid dream. After checking on a particular Sword, she travelled across town to Greenwich Village, there to find a particular Sorcerer. "I don't have to ask if you had the dream, do I?" she does ask after seeing him. "I think we're needed."

There's a pair of travellers on motorcycles heading in to that town, the roar of the bikes' engines resounding off cobblestoned streets and down narrow alleys. It's bittersweet indeed to be here again, the sight of an old victory, back when they were hero and sidekick, arm in arm with the Howling Commandos. It's in the main square that Buck pulls up, curling into a neat curve, a few lengths behind Steve. "Been a long time," he says, and his voice is musing. He looks out over the snow-covered square, seeing not the chill peace of midwinter, but instead the golden light of a summer afternoon on a much more chaotic day.

Let sleeping dogs lie. The old adage is a wise one, at least in the eyes of the Sorcerer Supreme. But what if the guard dog never slept? Or if the a dream interrupts their precious peace? Abed beneath a tangled of black sheets silvered by moonlight, Strange inhales sharply and turns his head on his pillow, unerringly towards the Atlantic.

Crisp Jonagold interrupts incense and even as he opens his eyes upon the aspect of the Bright Lady, he can still feel the slight brush of feathers, hearing the rustling of wings intertwined within the rushing hiss of distant waves. He recognizes Viviane and his heart clenches within his chest, squeezed by old friends dread and pride both.

"Aye, my lady." His reply is quiet, respectful, a good part rueful. The breeze off the ocean plays through the greenery in the planter boxes and tugs at his locks, the shepherd-hood in scarlet-cloth. "I will honor my promise." He swallows down apprehension even as the dream dissolves around him.

With a gasp, he's awake and sitting upright. It takes all of a frantic…eh, three minutes, give or take, of finding strewn clothing and finally remembering that he's got magic, hello — and the Sorcerer vaults the second-floor banister to land on the foyer floor below. Thank the Cloak for avoiding the splat. Not a second after the knock on the door echoes, he's flung it open. Tigra.

"Yes, we're needed. I shared the same dream." Something blows up against his shin from upon the sidewalk, a stray scrap of paper. It clings to him and with a frown, Strange plucks it from his pants. An aborted toss means a second, more lingering look. "Carentan…in France." Folding up the small shred, he stuffs it into an inner pocket of his tunic before glancing to Tigra. "Let's go then. Bring a feather for your helmet?" On that slightly wry note, he opens a Gate in the general direction of the distant clamour and call from across the seas.

"Longer for some," Steve replies to his friend, reflecting on the time lost in the ice, for both himself and Buck. The ice of the mind, as it were, in Bucky's case. "They deserve to be able to put all that behind them, now. Something's pulling them back in because of it. We owe them an extraction."

Paratroopers once landed on the beaches below. This town was scraped from basement to rooftop by bombers and Nazi snipers. Scars lie in sight. Carenton has weathered Vikings and Englishmen, Nazis and Romans, and about everything in between. It huddles low and quiet in the grim daylight. People go about their tasks solemnly. The seafront street features most of the B&Bs and hostels, whereas the next street in has the services and shops. A small map posted on a wooden info station, forerunner of tourist information sites in the National Parks back home, outlines a bunch of skulls and crossbones. Like most places, outsiders stand out.

"I think having a feather in my helmet would be a trifle out of place," Tigra tells Strange with a quickly flashed grin. The Knights of Caerleon ride again, at least some of them. As soon as the gat'es open, she steps on through, nostrils flaring as she breathes in various scents, getting a feel for the place. Outsiders stand out here, but even where they don't, she tends to do so. "I'm not sure what we're supposed to do here," she admits. "And by 'not sure,' I mean, totally don't know."

Especially *these* outsiders, so little changed from the days when they led the liberators in battle. Oh, Steve and Buck are dressed in civilian clothes, leather jackets to keep them warm and hide that distinctive metal arm, while Buck has that long hair tucked up under a watchcap….but the faces are still the same, and it's not so long ago that these two were all but daily coverboys in the papers and magazines of Europe. Ghosts of Christmas past, really. Settling the bike in a corner of the square, Buck heads towards the hostel where the missing vets stayed, boots crunching on the snow.

Steve Rogers raps on the hostel door a couple times with his knuckles, a confident rap a bit lighter than the strident knock that indicates a visit from the police. This is one reason why Steve tends to be the face more than Bucky. He has a talent for putting people at ease. Also, Bucky's robot arm sounds like someone trying to crowbar a wall down when he has to be the door-knocker.

Between the stripes and the vibrant crimson Cloak, the only thing that the Knights are missing are the fireworks and perhaps a marching band. And a banner. Definitely a banner. Strange gestures behind him to collapse the crackling Gate as quickly as he can before they attract any more attention and glances to Tigra.

"The Mystical nature of this draw will have the aspect of a double-edged sword, I think…" His smile is a bit grim. Call him a realist at heart — this is going to get messy, he can feel it in his metal-plated bones. "Give me a second, I'll see if I can't See if anything lingers nearby." Closing off his view of the surroundings, he blinks on the Sight. Immediately, a resonance eminates from the nearby wooden station rings to him. Turning on the spot with irises a-glow, he strides with enough speed to cause the Cloak to flutter. "Here," he calls over his shoulder to Tigra. There's something…off about the map, with its markers of stylized death. His heart is in his throat yet again.

The hostel, La Caligny, isn't much to speak of. About its only fine quality is its proximity to the port and a halfway decent bakery. It's a short, grey affair of two storeys. Smoke fills the foyer, a Frenchman behind a desk reading a newspaper and smoking Gitanes like they're going out of style. Anyone coming inside earns a gruff greeting. "«Forty francs for the night, paid up front. Bathroom at the end of the hall.»" He doesn't even look up. Reading about protests is more important.

Strange and Tigra face a French map. The labels are clear and crisp, and some effort at English exists for those Yanks and Brits. Notably the screaming Danger - No Entry! Deadly! messages stamped under the skulls and crossbones. Whole stretches of field and beach are marked. A perimeter surrounds a church. Tiny stamped crosses fill a field, probably for the dead. A crossroads lies below it, and in tiny English print, "Dead Man's Corner Museum."

"Should I have brought my pawn ticket?" Tigra can't help but lightly tease Strange when he says it will have the aspect of a sword. She goes quiet to let him use his Sight, looking around as well more mundanely to keep those curious clear of him. "Doc, I think we're not the only ones called here," she tells him, following him towards the map. "Got a familiar scent, but don't know if they want us to notice them or not." She taps a clawtip against a skull on the map. "Probably minefields, or UXBs here."

The crackle of a Gate opening and closing has Buck turning in the doorway, behind Steve, instantly on alert. He has no way to hurl water at Strange, but he stoops to scoop up a snowball in one leather-clad palm. The tradtion must be observed, right? To Steve, he observes in English, "Sorcerer incoming." Like Strange is some kind of ballistic round. Blocking the door, like Steve's the guy who needs defending.

Steve Rogers does, admittedly, have less body armor by virtue of having more body that isn't made of armor. He's learned long ago to not fight with Bucky over who's going to try to jump in front of a bullet for whom; they would just end up holding doors for each other until it gets obnoxious for everyone around them. "I see it. This might be more complicated than Hydra shenanigans after all."

"Ah-hah." Tigra gets another wry smirk, complete with arched brow. Strange continues in a deadpan tone. "Spare me another ticket, I beg you." Back to the map. Where her claw taps, he notes and he nods in agreement. "Yes, no need to go walking there. I'm not about to traipse into a minefield. Crossing them in flight is much handier. You tend to keep your limbs as well."

At the mention of scent, however, he sniffs — however useless the reaction is. He's not got the nose of the tigress; all he can smell is the incense lingering about his battle-leathers and the salty ocean air. Looking about, it doesn't take him long to catch sight of a familiar form not a building or two down the lane…packing a snowball. Those faintly-glowing eyes narrow. Perhaps Barnes feels the metaphysical weight of the stare fully narrowing in on him.

"What in the seven hells is he doing here?" It's apparently, at least to those immediately nearest to him, that he's baffled and annoyed at being as such. Behind the brunet is another man with blond hair. Strange squints. Well, gods be damned. He knows that face from the newspaper that arrives on the Sanctum stoop now and then. He can sometimes even beat Aralune to reading it; otherwise, it gets shredded by Malk claws. "Put down the snowball, Barnes. I'm not in the mood," he calls out in sternest Sorcerer voice. "We should speak." With that, he begins walking towards the two soldiers.

"«You need two or one?»" The grizzled hostel owner taps his cigarette into an ashtray. He has roughly three of them in arm's reach, and a few more cooling on the windowsill like an apple pie. They smell a lot less pleasant than apples. His paper rustles. Nose and eyebrows slant over the edge and he stares at the pair. "What is this, Captain America? Les anglaises come to beat down my door for three rooms?" He chews on the filter slightly, squinting at them and Bucky taking up a perfectly good doorway. Americans. Weirdos.

"Well, the bright side is there wouldn't be anyone around if we went there. Might be something to keep in mind, actually," Tigra muses. If dark magic's going on, a place in the country unlikely to have people wander by would be a good place to conduct it, wouldn't it? "Was he going to throw that at you? Almost wish I hadn't said anything," she says, tail flicking mischeviously as she walks along with Strange, offering the Captain a friendly wave in greeting.

IT's like a dare. He knows Strange vastly outclasses him, but Buck doesn't immediately drop the snowball. A moment of contrariness….and then memory supplies just how much he owes the magician, and he tosses it idly to the side. "What're you doin' here, Doc? Steve and I are here to find out what happened to some old buddies from the 107th who basically came over here, stayed at this place, and then more or less vanished." Then he squints past Strange at Tigra. "Ma'am," he says, politely. Then he's stepping aside to let them join them in the hostel. "Steve, d'you know Doc Strange. He's like….head wizard in chief for earth."

"One's fine for us," Steve replies, indicating Bucky. "The other gentleman and lady, I can't speak for." He touches his brow in an amiable half-salute to Tigra and her escort.

"Can't say I've had the pleasure," Steve adds, happy to meet the Doctor, regardless of how strange he might be. "Steve Rogers."

Thankfully, the snowball is abandoned and Strange relaxes the fingers at his side from the impending mudra. He stops short of the two men lingering in the doorway to the hostel and nods to each.

"Barnes knows better than annoy those with knowledge of the Arts." This is mostly for Tigra, though Bucky gets another sly side-glance. Steve is given a terse smile before the Sorcerer gestures past them and into the entryway, holding out an arm as if to direct. "Mister Rogers, I never expected to see you in this neighborhood, much less outside of America. I have the distinct impression that we've all been drawn here for a reason and it bodes less than well. You have friends who have vanished, however?" The Sorcerer frowns. Wonderful. Missing people on top of a bad case of Mystical heartburn.

Gitane stubbed out. The next is pulled from a battered pack, shoved between his lips, and lit by an old steel lighter. Flame sparks up and he waits until the cherry is charring cheap paper. Blowing out a blue streak, he mutters en francais. Clearly he understands English to varying degrees, his shaggy salt-and-pepper brows angling down. "«One room. Sign the guestbook. Forty francs. Are you going to haul out cameras and dig halfway to Jersey, too?»"

Cue the old seawolf curling his lip and puffing on his cigarette again. He waves his hand around. French is easy. He eyes up Strange and Tigra, side-eyed, at least. "«You two pay up. Sign the guestbook, name and days.»"

"Oh does he?" Tigra asks Strange of Bucky, then looks at Bucky, waggle her eyebrows briefly. She happily annoys those with knowledge of Arts. They art over here. "Oh I'm sure these things aren't connected at -all-," she says dryly enough to soak up the English Channel. Tigra offers the seawolf a friendly smile…along with a small lean forward, and deep breath to show off…things. "I'm sorry, I don't speak French."

Steve Rogers pays the crotchety innkeep and signs in a neat, bold cursive hand for Rogers, S. and Barnes, B. "«Not this time,»" he promises. "Not just friends, but comrades. Vanished off the face of the Earth. I was starting to wonder if they were under it, but if the likes of the Sorcerer Supreme are involved, maybe that would've been looking in the wrong direction."

Bucky gives the old man a bemused look. «What did they say they were after? Digging to Jersey?» He does speak French, with a faintly Parisian inflection. It is all he can do not to whistle at Tigra, but a glance at Steve has him folding his lips and coughing. "So you got pulled in magically?" he asks Strange, and athen, brow furrowed, has to add, "…..do you ever like…take a wrong turn when you do the Catherine Wheel door thing? Like 'Man I shoulda turned left at Shangri-La'."

Bucky gets the same lingering look of mild annoyance that one might receive when tugging on the tip of a cat's tail. "Yes, Barnes knows better. And no, I've never taken a wrong turn in my life." Not necessarily a lie, that. Surely he meant to Gate into the ninth circle of Hell instead of Helinski. Sneezing in mid-cast is nothing…well, to sneeze at.

"We should continue this discussion in a quieter location." This comment is for the group as a whole, even as he's inking his name with surprisingly smooth swoops of ink upon the guest notebook. Someone's stabilizing hands with magic, clearly. "I'm following the summons from a dream and an…old friend," he continues nearly sotto-voce.

"«Just the other Americans then. Doing some sort of land survey. The ones on foot had the worst of it. Imagine trying to dig in the rain in November. Ghastly. Got their gear stowed up in a locker. They owe me fifteen dollars.»" Princely sum, that. Might buy seven steak dinners in a forgettable place. The proprietor blows out smoke and keeps sucking down the poison from the Gitane. He peers at the names on the ledge and taps his finger on the book. "Please put name here for a room." This, to Strange and Tigra collectively. Four people are not going to fit in one of the rooms upstairs. Two is pushing it, unless Bucky prefers sleeping in the hall.

"«Is there any way we could take a look in that locker?»" Steve asks, piqued. "«I'll cover the charge for them.»"

Tigra is certainly open to sharing a room, or having one to herself, as needs must. TOo much to hope for that they will be in and out and have this all wrapped up so quickly they don't need rooms, she suspects. "Certainly," Tigra says with another smile for the seawolf, as she signs an elegant 'Tigra.' At least it's not a cat's paw. "I'm with him," she says to the soldiers, with a nod towards Strange.

Two per room, it'll fit. Not like Buck hasn't spent most of an icy winter in Belgium in the same freezing foxhole as Steve. AT the mention of the locker fee, he reaches into a pocket in his jacket, produces a wallet, starts shelling out. SHIELD does pay okay, after all. "Sure, Doc," he says. "Let's go look at the rooms."

The proprietor looks at the name. He crosses out Tigra and adds «Gareth» in a flat underline. The scrawl is chicken scratch. Then he fishes around through about nine boxes of Gitanes, disorderly pencil erasers, and a box of bottlecaps. He fishes out a bit of twine with a key. There's another, similarly knotted, each bearing a number. 1 and 3, very exciting. Those are slapped down on the counter, and he summarily grumbles. "Whoever pays, is good. No drinking, no women. Locker code is 16-8-2. They go and they stay away. Bad job. Nothing done for going to Nazi killing field."

Strange tilts his head to read the addition by the hostel manager and slowly curls a smile.

"If you insist, Geraint," he murmurs, sounding ruefully pleased with at least one thing confirmed to him.

One more signature from the good Doctor and then he's stepping briskly in the direction of the nearest hallway, presumably towards the rooms. Key number three is idly spun around the end of one fingertip. Indeed, the rooms seem small, but it wouldn't be the first time that the crimson Cloak has acted beyond that of dashing clothly relic of daring-do. A hammock is equally nice to nap within.

"I suspect that your comrades stumbled upon something important." He says this over his shoulder, back towards the soldiers. "Whether or not they have suffered for it is something to be seen. This area has already seen the ravages of war. It is scarred and watered with blood." A tingle runs along his shoulders and he grimaces. "If anything, the Nazi killing field mentioned by the proprietor is a place to start. The potential for lingering souls is high enough that we'll get an answer, one way or another." Yay, ghosts! Possibly.

Steve Rogers thinks he remembers that very field. He did some work there himself along those lines. "«You wouldn't happen to remember what they looked like, would you?»" he asks, paying the proprietor.

Steve thinks he remembers that very field. He did some work there himself along those lines. "«You wouldn't happen to remember what they looked like, would you?»" he asks, paying the proprietor.

No women? But wherever will Tigra stay? On seeing her name scratched out, and replaced with one almost as familiar to her, though, she half grins, half-smirks. Well, if Gareth is there, then it's not an issue, is it? She sees that Strange notices the name change, and gives him a brief nod. "Nazi killing fields. You take me to the nicest places, Doctor."

"Ask me about the time he took me to the place made of mirrors," Buck mutters, sotto voce. But he's got an ear cocked to the proprietor's replly.

"A Nazi killing field is decidedly balmy compared to other places, my friend," the Sorcerer notes to Tigra, brandishing the key. It does indeed unlock door number and tah-dah: tiny room. He leans against the frame of the door with arms folded now, narrowing his eyes off towards some distant point of Mystical interest. "It's a short story in regards to the mirrors." Bucky receives a lingering, half-lidded look. "Barnes made a bad decision. He paid for it and he remembers it. I count it a task well-done and complete. Hopefully there won't be any need for repeat trips for anyone in the immediate future. This is no place to be playing lightly with the veils between worlds."

Geraint, as the proprietor's shirt does not say anywhere, puffs on the cigarette and dismisses them with a certain bluntness they ought to accept as their proper due. Yes, yes, Americans, thank you for the Marshall Plan, now leave us to our baguettes and superior cheese products. He waves around his hand. "American. Big, hungry. Dark hair, light hair. Four of them. Good money, bad drinking. Worked and one day they go, they never come back. That is that, Captain America." Yep, he knows exactly who that man is. Money vanishes into a petty cash box that would deter none but a crabby toddler.

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