1965-01-04 - Project Virgo: Death and Taxes
Summary: Time to pay the piper for the freedom craved. Bucky relies on a ghost to get the last wolves free.
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bucky rogue 


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Triskelion. Way too late in the evening.

Bucky Barnes talks to ghosts. Only appropriate given he spent so long as one himself. He caused more than a few dead to pile up. He's been responsible for sending lives screaming through the fiery gates of Hell, too. His own personal hell in a coffee cup isn't a conjuration of the realm of Niflheim, at least, but rather his own flesh and blood apparently. That figure bares teeth and waits until the Winter Soldier moves his sorry ass out of the cafeteria to strike.


He has a room to crash in here. A bare little cell with a cot, a place for agents working shift on shift to catch a nap or two, but it's got a door that shuts, at least. Lights on, door closed, and he sits down on the cot. Waiting.


Doors are good and well. Doors inscribed with do not disturb signs and 'access prohibited' warnings serve for normal agents. They do not inhibit the ghost from passing through, disrespectful of spaces and places that belong to others. He appears on no camera, disturbs no current of air in passing. Let them dream of their safety and security, ignorant how easily sideswiped it is.

He simply is, in a corner, dark and glowering. Never does a smile pass that mouth. In that sense he's Slavic as they come, a bad dream out of stories with dragons and bogatyrs.


«A'right,» Buck says. «Time to talk. Adam's clearly on the edge of madness, the timer's running.» He motions at the space on the cot beside him. «You can sit, if you want. Hell, do you ever rest? I know you can be physical enough to fuck things up when you want to.»


«Trying to eat his own flesh.» Lazar spits out the words, wrought by a kindled darkness deep in the soul. If the Orthodox Church held any sway, they'd cart him off to a monastery and flay his back open to prayers and heavy incense, washing the wounds with holy water and sprinkling him with wafers of ash and parchment. He does not sit. Over his back is a curiously elongated sniper rifle, design Finnish. No telling where the hell he got that. «He dies, you fail. What makes you wait?»


«Let's get them out tonight, then,» Buck says, with patience. «YOu gonna help me? Because I sure as hell can't just stick one in each boot and walk out with 'em.»


Sticking them in his boots? The idea is lost on Lazar. He does not obviously understand whatever Bucky alludes to in a joke, though maybe try pockets next time. His burning gaze blackens. «Can you stop him from bleeding? Cutting, biting, hurting?»


«I can maybe steal sedative and keep him sedated,» Buck's voice is level. «I don't have any powers, Lazar. But how in the hell are we doing to get them all to Russia? I maybe have one means to get us all there via magic, because I don't see any other. We steal a plane, we'll get shot down in Russian airspace. A ship….even if we could buy passage, it'd take too long.» He rubs at his forehead. «I wish I could get back there, steal what's needed, bring it back *here*. UI don't know how much is Zola's filthy science and how much is actual magic. Do you all need to be on true Russian soil? OR is it just a matter of getting the right chemicals to stop this hunger?»


Lazar shifts slightly and the terrible weapon on his shoulder shifts, edged against the strap tightly pulled in. «You think I cross the ocean like the wind? Do I ride a pale white mare?» His head angles such that darkness swallows up those abyssal eyes, throwing his face into deeper shadow. «The Americans stole us here. You cannot make them steal us back?»


«I don't know, at this point, who the hell can do what. The Russians sure made some changes to the original model. I have no idea how to make the AMericans give you back. I could ask the Director, but she's not going to overrule everyone else because I ask her to. What about the Russians?»


«We belong to Mother Russia. They will not give you back,» Lazar replies, not much inflection to his voice. Grudging distrust of the place causes him to waver out of sight, his fingers grazing around the walls and the floor with dispassionate regard. The pause might be uncomfortable and he frankly gives not a whit for that. Only when his survey is finished, and the room's lightbulb flickers warily twice, he remanifests. Ghost indeed.

His gaze flicks over his shoulder. Fingers curl slightly. Oh, a mechanical arm might just be so familiar a burden. «We can survive. Very good at not being dead in an alley, somewhere. Orel can fly anything. Tupolev, helicopter, MiG, balloon. Nikita sees all. You do not know Evgeniy can find you by your smell? He is like a wolf, a wolf with the heart of a cave bear. Volya is death in the snow, he comes and you will not know. His pain is a sledgehammer. Kyr gives Adam strength, Adam gives Kyr strength. Matvei has been good."


«I know. But I can be gotten out of Russia. I have those who will come for me.» Those revelatons make him cock his head. «No. I didn't know all of those. Though I've had Volya do his trick for me. I have…..I might be able to have someone teleport us there. Assuming I can get us back in Volga's reach, what then? He'll take and wipe us all, and ….» He spreads his hands, tries to hide just how much the thought chills them. «I'm not trying to keep you alive just to let you be brainwashed slaves for him and Zola.»


Revelations, such as they are, dispensed in terse, laconic form by way of a creature who looks and talks as a human, but lacks a particular spark that inspires humanity. «What is this 'teleport'?» Lazar barely so much as blinks. «You think Russia lets you out? This is not a certainty.»


«Open a gate in space, walk through. Cover a long distance through a short passage.» A wry look at Lazar. «You haven't really met my girl yet. And….Russia won't have a choice. Though….do you mean the agents there, like Volga? Or the Motherland herself? Why would she care? I'm an American POW. The idea that I'm her champion…..it doesn't make sense.»


He really has little comprehension of this. A gate in space? His eyebrows rise. «Walk through where?» Connect those dots for him, and they might just transform into something he can sort of make sense about. The other questions, however, birth a silence lasting minutes.

Not in a rush, this one.

«Russia does not give back the ones she takes. It is always the way. Yes? Leave her but she is still there.»


Buck folds his lips at that, quietly. «Like a door, but the distance it covers is impossible.» There's a sense of weight settling, the increasing suspicion that to free and heal them may need his own permanent surrender….to that fate worse than death. «What does that mean?»


He shakes his head, dark shadows forming and spilling in an array around his face. Lazar's cheekbones are hollow and his eyes flat windows to a realm that never was, black Russian tea and cold coffee raked over the loneliest bogs. «What do you want? You go back and kill them all?»


«I want you and the rest of them to be alive and free. Not to live at the direction of Volga or Zola or some other agent of the state, like slaves or animals. But I don't want to be there forever. I want to live, and to remember who I am….to live in America, if I can, and be free. This is my homeland. I'd *like* to kill them all, yes. Zola especially I'd like to die slowly…..but that's not important. You are important. Adam, Kyr, Matvei, all of them. Fanya, whomever else is there, being made into a weapon, they are. I'm not so blinded by hate I can't see who has to come first,» he says, softly.


«Free. The joys of living are lost on us. This failing mess,» Lazar nods, and the sniper rifle slides across his shoulder again. He knocks it back into place with a fluid, easy gesture practiced to the point it nearly ceases to register as more than muscle reflex. «We make what we are of it. We have never been anything more. Volya has a woman. He brings her bread. America, the land of great evil. A place where we eat too much bread.»


«They don't have to be. You don't have to be. No more than I do, or I did,» Buck's voice is low. «It is a mess. But ultimately, America's a hell of a lot better than the USSR. Than Russia. ADmittedly, I'm biased on the subject. The doctor, eh? The one you brought to me, once the Widow'd tried to kill me.»


Great evil, bread! All the bread. Lazar nods but a little to confirm Diane is Volya's creature or something else. Imagine, one of the wolves daring to find his own den. Amazement that no doubt would upset the little rotund professor of evil in his brittle metal cradle. «You would. Friend, life. You have much.» He shrugs. «They are my duty. They must not be left to die.»


It's what makes every bout of lovemaking doubly a pleasure - its own sensation, and an act of defiance, reclaiming what they tried so hard to steal from him. AT that, Bucky grins. No matter what the nature of the bond - protectiveness, confusion - it's something Volya's taken for himself. «You can have more. We call you a ghost, but you're a man, too, Lazar. There's more than they have let you have and you will be free to take it. More than duty. If James Barnes can subdue the Winter Soldier, if Volya can break the programming all on his own….it can be done. Duty now, but more later.»


«Men have lived. We have been and waited.» Beautiful truth in so few words. Lazar has not grieved the loss for that requires loss to be understood and known. The grin is not bound to leave him smiling. «Be plain. This plan you have. What is it? You take us back to the Soviet Union. You free the weapons. You burn it all down and you then come back. Is that it?»


«Almost,» he says, pulling his legs up. Easier to sit crosslegged, sometimes. «I think I might bring Steve, though Steve is literally waving the flag in Soviet territory. I'm tempted to bring the children and you guys back here. If I just show up and wreck things, they'll just round you all up again and start over.» He takes a deep breath, sighs. «Zola will have to die. Probably Volga as well, if he even can. This has to be burned out at the root.» He looks down at his boot toes, for a long, silent moment, anger in the set of his shoulders….and in the blue eyes, when he looks up again. «If I have to die in the process, I accept it. But….there's more, I know. More samples in other labs. More soldiers in tanks or cryotubes or however they store us.» Us. Always us.


«Volga is beyond me.» Lazar has to bite down on his pride until its bleeds to admit that, fist blanched in his thin leather glove. «He is one with the land. Voronezh is the greatest danger for you. He knows when we come, so do not count on stealth.» Never mind he has no idea of doorways splitting time and space. «I would be pleased if he bleeds and Zola begs you in the end.»


«And I'm the champion of the Motherland, or so they tell me,» Buck's voice is dry, but not mocking. «There's magic in the world as well as science, and it has to count for something. I figured we'd be expected. I hope he'll be surprised if we just pop up in his backyard, rather than taking the train. And good. If we have leisure, we'll take him apart. Zola never listened when I begged, I don't intend to do so when he does.» Though he knows, even as he says it, it won't be so easy. Too many things to untangle that might need that weasel's help.


Lazar leans against the wall. «Your friend is the spirit of America. Is it so unlikely?» There is no mockery there, either, no indication of disbelief borne out of scientific faith and mystic apostasy. It simply is one of the ways of the world. Where lie the crux of loyalty and destiny, he is the brooding guardian, watcher over a crossroads. «We go. They mean to follow when called. Adam now may be past us. I do not know his condition. He may be lost.»


«No,» says Bucky, and there's that metallic undernote. «He's not lost. None of us are lost yet. I know a guy - I'll kick that wizard's door in, if I have to - he's head motherfucker in charge when it comes to sorcery, and a medical doctor to boot.» PIcture that, Bucky hammering on Strange's door with an alloy fist. «He just has to hold it together until we can get him what he needs.»


Lazar cannot picture this. It does not exist in the spectrum of a man who apparently can phase between alternate levels of reality with the ease of breathing in and exhaling. For there surely must needs be an explanation that ends with Bucky tossed out on his ear, and the wolves chewing a carcass, and Lazar throwing rocks at a window. «Volga gave your time. Beyond that time, are we lost? I do not know. We never came under him.»


«We'll, we're going. I can probably make it happen tomorrow.» More confident than he feels? Surely. Buck knows what it's like to lead men, and while he doesn't have Steve's natural well of charisma, that shining assurance, he's got experience. And these guys are far stronger and more deadly than a passel of Iowa farmboys and some foul-mouthed New Yorkers getting shot at on the beach at Oran. He did have a whole war of his very own before Steven Grant Rogers literally got his act together.


«Then we go. You want to take Kyr, then?» The narrowing of his eyes has a challenge in there. «Do you think you can be there faster than me?» Barbed question, really, unless they both fight for space in a lift or running up the stairs to eight, like a pair of excited pups.


«Why shouldn't we take Kyr? Do we need him to take care of Adam? Or does he have other problems that'd keep us from doing so?» That second question makes him cant his head. «…..be there back in Russia? Maybe, unless you can appear there out of thin air. Or back to Kyr or Adam? Because I am going to need you to help me get them out. WE could do that now, if Adam's stable enough. You phased me to get me away from the Widow, and carried me away. Kyr and I can carry Adam, if we gotta.»


He probably meant take Kyr now. The one little pup sitting patiently in the cell has yet to taste freedom since his capture. No doubt his snout sniffing the fresh air might trigger uncomfortable whining. Lazar's already vanishing through the wall, flickering out of existence in the space of one second to the next. Apparently that's on Bucky to go capture a wolf.


Oh, crap. Well. Time's a-wasting. Buck's up on his feet. So much for the rest of the debriefing, now it's time to steal a SHIELD captive right out from under them. "Sheesh," he mutters. "Boy doesn't waste any time." He knows where Kyr is, and that's where he heads. So much for bedtime.


So much for any sort of delay. Getting to the eighth floor, explaining himself to the guards, is that not part of the plan? At least he's done this already this day, and another evening visit outside typical hours is going to irritate the hell out of the guards. Such is life. It's unfortunately Roh stuck on duty there, trying to decipher why on earth Bucky has returned.

On the other side of the doors, an entirely other story. Kyr is staring and frowning, spitting out a sock. He bares his teeth at the wall. The bared teeth meet with a sharp rap of the rifle to the bedframe.


«I» And it comes out entirely the wrong monosyllable: Ya, before he starts again. "I need to talk to the kid in there, real quick. There's been an incident with the other one, looks like a psychotic break….and it's possible this can be something widespread with them." Including himself, as if that isn't enough to raise the fine hairs on any SHIELD agent's neck. They've seen the footage, those tasked with taking care of the Soldiers, Barnes sedated and bound and screaming nonetheless. Peggy's going to have to drum him out of SHIELD, if he survives and returns. Well, Lucian's still got his place for him, one hopes.


Russian would not go down well. Roh is conversant with the things SHIELD knows to distrust, as are half the spy agencies in the country. Bucky continuing with his reflexive choice of language would raise more red flags than Lenin's birthday brigade, and the tired man runs his hand over his hair. Close cropped, standard and enough to braise any sense of someone libertine, he scowls at Buck before gritting his teeth. Fingers recall where the buzzer for the terrible option if he has to deploy it. Good, all and well. "Fine. Ten minutes."


"Thanks. I owe you." For the way I am about to fuck your career without even a kiss first. Roh has the red button for the nuclear option, and Barnes is the tame one, right? Let in, he's urging Kyr to get up, even as his gaze darts for a trace of Lazar. They're doing this now.


Poor man. He doesn't know what waits on the other side. He knows not there are three, instead of two. Leave SHIELD speechless about the quality of their security after this affair. Kyr still chews on the inside of his cheek, the conversation mostly silent between him and the ghost. Within Lazar is fully within sight, albeit blocked in part by the bed and angles against the door. The appearance of Bucky for a second time in a row after days, weeks, without confuses the younger wolf in their midst. He quirks an eyebrow and snarls. "What are you doing?"


«We're leaving,» Bucky says, firmly, and with a flatness of affect that only heightens the resemblance between himself and Lazar. «Now. We need you, and your help to get Adam out of here. Adam's sick, maybe dying, if we don't get him back to Russia. Time is up - we're going to destroy what they're doing there, free the others.» Admitting not an iota of doubt.


The transition of Kyr's emotions are almost laughable, an open book for anyone curious. His expression shifts out of wariness to confusion, a perking of ears proverbially shattering into a startled, simmering rage. And then in a heartbeat he is on his feet, throwing a punch before words can even come out. Lazar is quick enough to react, and he snatches at the younger vision of himself as quickly as he can.


Nuh uh. No pup fighting at this point. Kyr's going to find that aimed punch intercepted and misdirected. No breaking his knuckles on papa's metal hand, but it doesn't get anywhere near Lazar. «No. Not now. We don't have time. We need you.»


«What?» A blow thrown by Kyr has a lot more energy behind it than meets the eye, muscles compacted and bunching, the twist of his fist captured by Bucky's and a great deal of strength about to stomp behind it. Whatever else, Lazar knows to keep out of range, fading back. The tantamount discretion to show in a squabble of kin, after all. The narrow-eyed younger pup is sharp, harsh words flung in the same tune. «Why? What is going on?»


«The hunger that we all carry is starting to master him, and he's hurting himself. It's time to return and deal with the cause, and I'm not leaving any of us behind. We need you to take care of him. You can't stay. Do you understand?» It's Winter's intonations, his posture, his lack of affect - a mask and cloak to be donned when they must.


Rage crackles through one. The other is ice-cold, the fulcrum in the set Bucky himself. Kyr clenches his fists and tries to pull his arm back, smarting over his knuckles. No broken skin. Better because the bloody taste might get everyone going or set off some hound the likes of a technician stamps around the place. Trembling, shuddering, the turbulence in his ragged scrap of a soul threatens to break out at the furthest time. The news dumped on him like cold water on a cat actually earns a rumbling hiss, feral rather than tea kettle, and he spins to punch the wall instead. It offends by its blandness. The shelf shudders, and doesn't collapse.

«You think I haven't tried walking out? Kick open a door, all the guns.»


«We've got our kinsman the Ghost here. He can help us,» Yeah, Bucky's happily volunteering Lazar. «He got me away from the Widow, when she was trying to kill me.» A prompting look at Lazar. Do your magic - do we need to click our heels three times? He's got a strange, resigned calm to him now. The die is cast, and it's going to be all downhill from here….even if less the sense of something enjoyable and thrilling, like that first rackety hill on the Cyclone, and more like the deliberate starting of an avalanche. Here's hoping it buries Zola.


The Nazis saw children as war factories. The Soviets target youth as the literal grunts upon which a labouring society is built. Both in their own way prize the younger generation without tempering them, swaddled in the respective khaki or scarlet-red banners of ideology. What made of these wolves on the Rubicon, baring teeth and recklessly pacing, round and round in a confined space? Time is running out, time is running down.

Lazar shifts the rifle again, and in three long strides, smacks Kyr on the back of the head. That collision of palm to skull echoes in the room and the man who teeters out of sight never hits the ground. Call that upsetting for the cameras that may or may not be operational, the simple tracking plans messed up. «You mean to walk out of here seen?» It's something of a question, the black-burning coals of the Ghost's eyes showing things that aren't there.


«Ideally, no. If you can manage it, let's not. If you can't, we'll do what we have to.» Sangfroid, the clarity of cold blood. Let it descend, abandon all his lesser worries, the wishes and regrets, for now. «Come, Kyr,» They hear him speak, they have to see. Time to move before SHIELD's halls are aswarm.


Cold blood, but compared to the stillness in the creature bleeding off his humanity, Bucky might as well be dancing around the Tropic of Capricorn or standing in a warm lagoon in Tahiti. Scratch that, with the metal arm, he would probably be pinned to the seafloor and carried off by well-meaning tuskfish or some especially enterprising octopus for a deterrent against dolphins. Nothing like octopine concealment techniques, but this is nothing to do with skin pigmentation. An instant later, the veil tears and they're through it, shortly before Kyr pounces and the two younger pups are in a tangle of limbs and disobedient about walls.


He's got no hesitation about scruffing Kyr and dragging him off of Laz, or at least attempting it. «Mother of God, Kyr. He's not your enemy. We're going to go up against Zola and Volga, save your anger for them. We have no time at all - I know you care what happens to Adam. Then help us. We're going to go get him."


«Cheap, vile thief. Any time. Adam, any time!» The histrionics aren't true at all. Anger crackles through the bellowing shout right before Lazar angles his legs up, lashing out with a precise kick that might shatter bone. The glancing calculation when Kyr grunts, extracted, is all they need to know. One roll and the ghost no longer lies on his back, facing the pair of them. Face a restless mask limned in the vaguest etchings of smoke, he stalks back several feet and does not wait if they will come. Say what one will, commitment isn't something he lacks for.

Recovering Adam in the med ward is painfully easy. They have no defenses sufficient to block out the ephemeral trio, moving ghostlike in a place of wavering walls and underwater stillness. Sounds travel in distorted reams. The patient bolted to the bed might be a problem, given those wide straps connected to metal bars and a tangle of threading IVs piercing the skin. Vitals leap and frolic. Stitches placed recently climb a wounded side. Prepping for some kind of surgery might be next given the array of staff bustling about.


It's enough to make his heart twist in his chest, wrung. But the cold is enough, and he's looking to them. This is going to cause one hell of a shitstorm, the patient vanishing right from under their eyes. Right now they're riding before the wave of klaxons, alerts, that have to come as news of their vanishment spreads. «Do it,» he says, almost faintly.


«We can wait.» He turns, shoulder broad, face in smoky profile as dark hair dashes over his brow and cheek. So alike, so not, elder and younger juxtaposed in the distance. Lazar reaches out, not quite touching, prepared to fall in. «Now?»

None of the staff busying themselves with an IV bag replacing the first or unplugging one monitor in the way for another hear that guttural, broken wail out of Kyr, more like an animalistic scream than anything tangible. This is pain and distorted misery, the helplessness an acquired trait standing in the other world. Anguish blazes over sick, dark fear, and the man who shrieked against his own programming tackles pain in another way altogether. He races to the bedside unseen and yanks at the bonds, but intangibility goes both ways.


«Can we afford to?» he asks, softly. «Hours….they might stitch him up, but…» Then he's moving to Kyr's side. «No, Kyr, you can't reach him yet.» A look to Lazar. «Do we dare wait for them to work on him? We don't have time - we've vanished. Though they can't stop us….»


Kyr won't shake off a hand, but he grips the ghostly outline of the rail while shaken by pain and anguish. He gasps out a breath, pulling back his head to give further voice to that bubbling over wrath in the body that will not find an escape. The pressure has to flee somehow.

Lazar shrugs his shoulders slightly. «I can stay for days. Bring him, take him. They might nick a vein or he might devour them all when he wakes. I do not know.»


This is the first of what has to be many bitter decisions to come. «Take him,» he says, on a sigh. «Kyr and I will carry him. Can you ….eh. We'll find the stretcher..» A day of strange disappearances, this one.


Bitter decisions thus. SHIELD medical staff is efficient and this particular group, given the hour, do what they can to prepare matters. The door to the room pushes open, a physician in a white coat calling out orders and an anaesthesiologist trailing behind with a prepped cart. Nothing like trouble brewing. Lazar reaches down and points one finger into Adam's chest, raking a line straight down the sternum. Light bleeds in a sharp waver, and then he hits the ground. Proverbially as much as the plane has 'ground.'


Assuming there is a stretcher to be found. «Someday,» he says, even as he moves to Adam's side, «I'm going to find out what they did to make you guys….and where they got those abilities for you.»


Stretchers are not impossible to find. Transitioning things into the smoky mists of the alternate realm is probably easier than the living elements. All said and done, Lazar bears the burden. After all, he's got that Finnish sniper rifle on his back; that came somewhere. Kyr pounces to scoop up Adam, cradling his head and shoulders, hissing Russian invectives under his breath. Dangling tubes hang nowhere. Needles are flung aside from beins, peeled off. The possessive clutch is obvious enough. Lazar ain't getting close.

«We have to get moving.»


«Kyr, put him on the stretcher. We've got to go. If you want to help Adam, help us get him out of here.» Bucky's voice is tight….but he moves, gently, towards the pair. «I know you care. He's your brother. But we have to move.»


Adam is still vaguely flatlined on the threshold of unconsciousness, at least pumped through and through by a bad trip of medicine. Dr. Feelgood this is not, sadly. Aggression simmers through Kyr, turned into something different. He dumps his dignity on the floor to hoist up the damaged likeness, blood still on his fingers, not washed away by a willing orderly. Baths aren't high on the list when dealing with surgery.

Bucky will have a stretcher soon enough; Lazar filches one while the others are busy running around like mad chickens. So much for hoofing it with Adam slung over a shoulder. Wouldn't be the first time. And from there, the future waits.

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