1965-02-21 - Project Virgo: Through Hell and High Water
Summary: Bucky leads the wolves of the Volga and Scarlett literally -into- the Volga. What's a river doing in a dacha? Goddamn immortal sorcerers.
Related: Project Virgo
Theme Song: None
bucky rogue 

Bucky looks over from his travail with the bars, shoulders straining. There's the sound of internal servos complaining, the metallic whine clear, plates ruffling up like the feathers of an angry raptor. «That we knew of. Read what you can, remember it. Grab others. We're going to need to take evidence home, as well as kids.» This is full-on vendetta. Nevermind that he's arguably starting World War III. Though without the presence of Scarlett and Steve, this is arguably an internal rebellion. Or massive equipment malfunction, since he and the rest of the wolves probably exist more as equipment than citizens, nevermind the ambassador's huffy protests.

|ROLL| Rogue +rolls 1d100 for: 51

His ragged quintet is spread across two rooms and a hallway. Scarlett holds the protesting ten-year-old at a distance, dealing with his well-positioned strikes to free himself by mostly standing still. The boy has something of a death wish trying to bite her, but the protective barrier of her sleeve stops him from making that catastrophic mistake once, and never again. Orel and Matvei keep watch for any signs of movement, anticipating the worst, covering the south and east doorways. Within that fine room, terrible a child is reduced to trying to chew his way free. Analogies to puppies notwithstanding.

Within the storage room far enough out of the way for the portcullis' demise and reshaping to be little more than a muffled groan, matters differ. The two elder wolves pursue gathering up folders, stuffing them into a banker's box reinforced by metal. A lid slides on, excellent for transport. Paper still lies everywhere, and Evgeniy snatches up the corners to prevent crumpling them. Volya, meanwhile, watches all with that blank, frozen look of focused intensity that possibly conceals contempt or bewilderment. «Why all this?»

A rude gesture.

Bucky has two exits, the doorway in glass behind all the freestanding racks or the portcullis he just widened to let himself pass. He's a one man army; at this rate, he can dig the chunnel forty years ahead of schedule.

He just expended all that effort to wrench himself a hole in that door big enough to pass through. Satisfied for the moment, he steps back, brow beaded with sweat. Buck does not yet, however, dash through it. Instead, he walks over to check the glass door, see if there's anything behind it visible. «Why do I care? Why did they do this?» He rolls his shoulder in a shrug, settling the plates with a domino-ripple of metal that's almost musical. «Because you aren't the only ones. This is widespread. SHIELD needs to know as much as possible. Why did they? I don't know. The more we know, the better, too.»

The glass door, alas, proves opaque except to the most determined stare. Through its laser cut features are glimmerings of a bluish light, partly distorted by the door's substance and the film. The glass is slightly warm, not cool, and very likely slides right back into the mortared wall the same way that the library entrance did. The only difference, this one isn't automatically complying to an unspoken command or presence. It smells curious there, chemical overtones that might spark old memories from the very depths of horror. Scrape the bottom of the brain pan, Bucky can identify distant recollections. Usually the ones reduced to wispy shreds from the tattered recollections drowned in electric shocks and submersion in ice, endless ice.

Since speaking up at all is uncharacteristic for Volya, he proceeds to fall silent and dump a metric load of cleaning supplies down the sloped drain. The smell there is bleach and ammonia, hardly very pleasant. Didn't anyone tell him that was bad for the lungs? Nika, mid-stuffing of papers, barks his protest and throws a coupling on a hose the Hunter's way, missing by an inch, therefore a mile.

Nothing gets to stand in his way today. All the vandalism, all that pent up urge to destroy all their works. It's not the same as having Zola's throat in his hands, but….these will do as an appetizer. This door he tries to pry open, rather than punch through. Just in case.

Glass tempered against all manner of mundane injury and vandalism might resist, but eventually the gyros squeal and the hiss of steam indicates something torn in the housing. Glass rolls back, clanging in its frame, a low moan. Ahead lies a row of metal cannisters about the size of those seen in the former carriage house, weeks and months ago. No evidence of the world's most advance snowblower here, these oblong cylinders stand taller than Bucky and wide enough around for him in a full Michelin Man suit to stand within. The cylinders stand directly upright, rooted deep in the cement floor. Networks of metal bases feature thick, chromed railings at ankle height and again at knee. The hum of electricity might not be actually audible, but it adds a certain static to the air. The room is dim, but seeing immediately beyond those initial banks is rather tough. They're tall. An open path weaves jagged around them, giving him an opportunity to head into the open staircase.

Nika is armed with his box of papers, which he promptly shoves at Genya. The tattooed wolf takes his offering, tucked under one arm, while Volya pushes forward.

Bucky hesitates, head swinging back and forth. Wolfish hesitation. Those cylinders….he pads forward, lays the human hand on one metal curve. Hot? Cold? There's a ripple of goosebumps up his spine, mind reaching back for memories. Siberia? Are there others here sleeping, as he's slept, dreaming icy dreams?

He won't reach the cylinders. Unbeknownst to him, the floor proves as unstable as the flagstones he correctly identified as a risk. Heat basks from the further corner of the room and he'll get an unnerving glimmer of vision: blue liquid, the bath surrounding a leggy, thin calf, a thigh rounded by childhood yet. The floor gives out, crashing under him, a network of fine metal struts squealing as they give way. Wires snap and twang, and the collapsing 'cement' veneer crumbles away into a pit almost five meters deep and lined by all kinds of jagged shards that would be hazardous to one's health if impaled.

|ROLL| Bucky +rolls 1d20 for: 18

Call those reflexes magical. Despite his floor crashing, Bucky finds some kind of handhold about six feet into the fall.

Thank you, remotely, Erskine. Or…Zola, if he has to be honest. Scrabbling at the wall with his feet until he can find some sort of grip….or shifting the human hand over to let the metal fingers function as an impromptu set of pitons. A wordless yell warns the wolves to stay back. He'll get out of this on his own.

The doorway has a lip an inch wide, and a silent screen version for himself standing gin the doorway, looking down. The gun pointed at his skull probably might do more damage than the serum ever could. Layers of raw earth and various pipes and tubes are visible in the cross-section, millennia of sediment laid down in ashy and striated bands, like a layer cake or a operatorte turned on its side. Shining, weird bands gone alight vaguely snake through, rough fossils for unclear purpose.

Volya elbows back Nikita, and the shadows distort in that cool room. «Running start,» Nika mentions, but damn easy when he can clear the gaping wound without too much trouble.

Bucky clambers out, ungraceful, dirty, impatient. «Don't try,» he says. «Floor might be just as bad when you hit. We'll go through the grate.» He hauls himself up, checks his rifle, first, and then shakes himself off like a dog. Stalking stiffly for the portcullis, all the better to eel through - watching the floor carefully.

Dirt, blood, and smeared in a cinnamon mold that smells musty, just the wages of sinning against Russia. Before Bucky turns to see to moving on the portcullis, he'll glimpse the shining glass reflecting a body within, a child, gaunt and wrapped in a ghostly shroud of wires. One reflection.

He can count two dozen containers without even trying from his unfavourable corner by the doorway. Monstrous ambitions in suspension, or the hope for a future age awaiting that better day?

It's enough to turn his stomach. Not cryosleep, but the decanting chambers. How many of his children, Steve's children, are there, waiting to be poured out? Line of his back stiff, he heads for the hole in the grate. Leaving those silent forms behind, for now.

Answers, such as they are, all wrapped in glass hold no responses that are reasonably audible. Possibilities are cruel, and Volya or Nikita witness the tragedy like brother knights, sworn to the same fell purpose. They pass to let him part, and by the time he reaches the gate, Bucky will have Matvei and Orel helplessly standing about some Scarlett keeps Yuriy hanging like a bad puppy.

Good. The gang's all here again. Buck leads the way, examining floor, ceiling, walls, with that cat's care. No use conducting them all into a pit. His expression is grim, set, still. More points to Volga and Zola's tally.

The gang of American-made men, absent three, squeeze into a storage area too small too really contain them. Yuriy's misbehaviour requires Scarlett to hang back and occasionally shake him when he grows noticeably agitated, fightinng back, assuming no one pays attention.

Squeezing through the deformed portcullis leaves the group gathered in a spur of a hallway preserved through mortared walls. It's not quite empty, ceasing at a blank wall with a few loose tree roots preserved where broken through the ceiling. Or it's meant to look that way. A door, heavy wood and sealed, is immediately on the right.

Another locked door. Bucky's expression isn't so much angry as it is put upon. He's just going to have to keep going through this place like an angry Steve through an office building. Whimsically, he just tries to open it gently, at first.

Nary a sound from the wooden door, nary a hint that the oak sheeting will part. 'Tis but a door devoid of adornment, locked clearly, and opening outward towards the hallway. The roots at the end of the hall might rattle, and the first trickle of water runs down when Bucky tries to put his shoulder to it.

Okay. It's not playing ball, because nothing has. So he starts in with that metal fist on the lock. He's going to get through it - if his hand won't serve, he can take over puppersitting from Scarlett and let her open up on it.

Is it wrong to consider the pigheaded child as a battering ram for such a door? Yuriy snaps his teeth and snarls in Russian, his accent thick enough for a literary butter churn. Whatever condemnations he throws — phrases like «You can't be back here» and «This is wrong, very wrong of you!» — they fall upon deaf ears. The one girl who doesn't speak his language pins the boy up against the wall, waiting for the door to open, and presumably keeping him out of the way of falling floors, ceiling, and tentacled horrors from the abyss.

Shuddering wood flexes and bends, cracks forming where absorption qualities of the door fail. Eventually it falls. Crack, crunch, a panel tumbling out to land on the ground and then another, revealing inklings of a pale aquamarine light eerily similar to the pool upstairs.

Expansive in size, the chamber dwarfs the size of the library, which presumably is saying something. Water in there, water by the smell of the air, and further hints of activity visible where he just manages to spot a teenager lounging around. Brown-haired, thin, dragging a belt around their waist.

Great. They've found the Secret Soviet Pool Party Room. At least he doesn't rust, or Rogue'd have to be following him around like Dorothy with the oil can. He and Steve both get that reference. Now that the lock's broken, he pulls the door open and heads in. If Steve is in there in a red, white, and blue bikini brief….

Then hallelujah, strip down and declare yourself a loyal son of Mother Russia?

«Put me down. I want to go back to my room you wicked bourgeoisie dumbface!» Yuriy does not go quietly, making more noise and certainly the sound of him trickles through the doorway. Swiveling, Orel's clenched fist to silence the trouble before it grows to a squall is already in motion, whatever patience he doesn't possess mortgaged, leased, and sold to a devil.

When that door opens, though, water goes pouring through the gap, somehow streaming down to splash through the doorjamb. Splatters of mold iridesce beneath the bracing cold; it's not a warm shower for anyone.

Bucky shudders at the chill. He may love swimming, but….«What's with the water? Are we under the river?» IT'd make sense. Volga is what he is. He lets the water flow past them, before stepping into the room beyond…if he can.

Pool Chamber

The central fixture in this chamber is the moon pool, a perfectly spherical water feature rimmed by a chrome railing. The turquoise light emitted from its still surface radiates off the stone walls and tiled floor, evocative of the South Seas with none of the Tahiti experience. Catwalks span the outer perimeter, metal grating chased in rickety rails, suspended from the ceiling twenty to thirty feet in the air. The cavernous height here surpasses other ceilings, erasing the bedrock. It's not well-lit otherwise, absent much in the way of furniture.

Several glossy stalks protrude at 45' angles from the walls, metal and that strange tempered glass, beacons of no particular consequence.

Waterfall over the door notwithstanding, the trail of wet footprints lead within. As soon as that happens, the teenager jerks her head up. She snatches the tail end of her belt, limping slightly as she walks. That's probably the problem of having a dismembered stump cut off at the ankle. Another figure on the catwalk doesn't spend much time being nice: he points a pistol and fires.

Whatever happened to that pistol Nika threw? Well…

"Sweetheart, can you help me up there?" Presumably by boosting him telekinetically. The one with the pistol is about to get a faceful of annoyed Soldier. Already heading that way. «Find cover,» he directs the others. Because apparently only the idiot Champion gets to take risks.

|ROLL| Rogue +rolls 1d20 for: 15

|ROLL| Bucky +rolls 1d20 for: 18

Orel punching Yuriy silences the kid only for a moment, but the nasty cross into the wall does the proper job. The ten-year-old slides down to the ground, leaving the younger of the wolves to haul him like a sack of potatoes by his collar and dump him at the dead-end spur outside the door. Water flooding down from the entrance puddles on the ground, boots splashing through as old training falls in.

Fair odds those aren't, seven adults on two, but the two visible have another rising out of the pool itself, making not so much as a splash. Gelatinous liquid burps up another stumbling youth, fragments of cloth wound around their chest, revealing a purpled bruise staining up the hollowed stomach, blackened foulness on the legs. Wet hair clings in runnels, and that ginger monster stalks out to intercept Nikita at a full sprint. That truly isn't a fair fight, considering that incarnation of Bucky can, and does, run up freaking walls, stitching a jagged path up the nearest corner to leap up. Evgeniy has his own method, yanking Matvei by the arm and going for one of the nearest metal struts. Helps when he can toss the calmest of them up there to catch on.

It's luck of the Devil — and moving at subsonic speeds, stream of vibranium and red star light, black cloth and impregnable flesh — to avoid being shot in the head by the pistol. That one has good aim, and Bucky's instincts are barely enough to twist him out of danger, Scarlett springing to grab him in flight.

He lands with a clang, pushing off with the closest he comes to grace to launch himself at the shooter. Child or adult, tainted or no - he's got the metal arm out before him, all the better to block any subsequent rounds while he clears that crucial twenty feet or so to get himself into melee range.

Clang, clang, clang.

Three shots squeezed off, pointed for chest, the double-tap for his shoulder and thigh. The teenaged boy is not much older than Yuriy, face cold, eyes bruised in cavernous hollows. Mouth purple and fine black veins under the white shirt give a sense of distinct wrongness. Backwards he moves, measuring for the opportunity, one mistake.

Down below, they're converging on the southwest corner, climbing upwards, hand over hand to swing up on the groaning metal. Scarlett salutes the others in passing, headed to cut off the retreat from the northwest corner.

Volya being the odd man out in the pairings, he takes aim at the girl on the floor cagily circling him and Orel. One shot should end things neat and square. The bullet goes right through her. That wire comes snapping out, her belt used like a whip. Weird choice, binding.

Already dead. Dying. That's the only way he can square this with all the instincts that tell him not to hurt children. His footsteps banging along the metal walk, trying for a disarm, to get that pistol out of the kid's hands….or have him exhaust his ammo, at the least.

|ROLL| Bucky +rolls 1d20 for: 17

Bucky gets a handhold after he's shot at once more, the bullet deflecting off metal. The teen boy is fully prepared to go for the eyes, striking out with whatever is at hand. The bohemienne is his scarlet curtain, a wall that will not in its own right strike back. Of everyone here, she is the least likely to cock her fist and punch the kid or hurl him off the catwalk. He looks back once to measure her landing on the grating. A fight is already in progress elsewhere where Nikita finds himself reversing, two more of the adolescents in black emerging from a corner, and converging at a run. Matvei is up, Genya not fully finished climbing. They don't go rushing over, since a two-on-one fight ought to be fair odds.

Wire hits Orel, the fabric slapping him. He swats it away and hauls the girl closer, in hitting range, where the flurry of punches are bound to do the most damage. Who the hell fights with a belt? The kind of girl who wants to twist his wrists together, as a start.

Trying to gauge the punch to the head in such a way that he doesn't kill, but the metal fist is a hell of a weapon. Time is racing on, and where are the legitimate targets? Volga has to have adult goons, right? Not sick children, or little revenants, like infant rusalki. Once that kid's down, it'll be time to help Orel or Niki. «Goddammit,» he growls. «Volga wanted us back. Well, here we fucking are. This is no welcome.»

The Hunter put down adult variations, or those who presented legitimate threats. They chased phantoms through the forest where Adam and Kyr disappeared. Steve Rogers remains swallowed in the bosom of the earth, and when the one revenant drops from a shattering punch, the body crumples to the ground. Scarlett's stricken expression tells how close to the bone it cuts, and she turns, hand on the thin catwalk rail. "I'm sorry."

Fatal words, maybe. Chaos winds in whirlpools of action, the domed bubble of the pool rising, slowly arching out of the containing railings and ground level. Nika elbows one of the younger soldiers in the face, kicked in the knee, forced down. Two more bullets, precious things, bark from the semi-automatic and ventilate the young woman twisting on her stump, snapping the belt while the water comes flowing around Orel's boots, pulling, drawing with the inevitable churn. Another body cast up out from the moon pool gains a sharp gesture from Orel, Evgeniy looking for something to hurl at it, relatively safe on the catwalk, but not eternally.

"Volga!" It's an infuriated yell, nearly a screech. «Stop sending these poor little puppets. Come yourself, or let us come to you.» He challenged Buck to bring them back. IS this the gauntlet, to prove some sort of worthiness. He's turning, looking for ways out on the level of the catwalk. Scarlett gets a desperate look.

|ROLL| Bucky +rolls 1d100 for: 5

|ROLL| Rogue +rolls 1d100 for: 31

"Flooding," murmurs the redhead, shaking her braids as she points at the moon pool. That dome continues to rise, defying gravity, the reverse waterfall aiming for the ceiling. Its blueness contains an unnatural hint of a sheen, where the suspended debris typical of any steppe river isn't a shade like that, unless something discharged from an experimental facility is responsible.

Orel manages to flip the girl he fights, but she yanks him down with the belt, even if the cut on internal organs can't be good. A scramble turns into a tackle, throwing them both through the water that sprays up, and his immediate reaction is shoving her face down. If only that was an adequate end. On the far east side, Nikita's nimbleness is the only thing keeping him from being shot in the stomach, and he hurls himself over the rail to avoid another of the teenagers. Matvei sprints for the corner, and Genya's instability snaps. The resonating moan of metal under his feet rebounds across the catwalk as he sprints, fallen into a lupine killing coldness.

The river is called, and the river comes, churning around in an impossible current, a living waterspout harnessing the full strength of its namesake.

There's an old folktale about how another river challenged the Volga for supremacy, and like the tortoise, the spirit waited until delivering a retributive strike for the foolishness. It slams into the ceiling, a column pulsing one. And then, alive, calling, water starts to rapidly fill the chamber.

Oops. Do not call up that which you can not put on hold. But it's too late now. How do you challenge a godling when all you are is mortal, yourself?

Sheer bravado, apparently. «You want me? You've got me. You didn't bring us all back here to kill us - you could've sent more widows, more hunters. So quit the temper tantrum and quit playing.»

The river continues to rise. If you can't hold your breath, expect to suffer uncomfortably for that steady, unmitigated rise. Churning bubbles pop and rise, and Orel and Volya are up to their knees. Giving up on the prospect of bringing down the teen girl with the belt, the Hunter rushes in to switch places with his unstable brother. Currents knee-deep can drown someone, pulling them down, and the undertow visibly yanks them towards the column filling the pool.

Nikita reverses to the corner, swinging like a kid on the monkey bars, except with the forceful purpose bred into him. Swinging up to get onto his feet would be nice except for the water crashing down, pouring through the grate. Genya simply tears through whatever he can get hold of, Matvei flung aside, the tainted youths diving in well.

Fair to say that Volga is happy to offer his response by flooding Bucky out.

It's quite likely suicide…..but he yells at the others to flee, and leaps down to assisst. Maybe Volga does intend him to drown…but he heads for the column of water.

|ROLL| Rogue +rolls 1d20 for: 11

Heroic sacrifice. How can they forget that? Of his own volition, he was the man who ran into danger without the benefit of Erskine's serum. Valiant hero on the back of a motorcycle, parachuting from stricken skies into a concentration camp to fight his way out. The only problem, most of them don't know the stories.

Volya skids through a spray of water to join Orel, stomping a skull that cracks beneath the boots. Not ideal, but the two of them together circle around like fell stars, as Matvei goes down to one knee, hands clapped to his ears. Genya's brutality is something awful to witness, if anyone bothers, ripping limbs from their joints with a pop, a machine delivering the Inquisition's favourite techniques up close and personal. The children don't even scream, flung aside where their contorted, misshapen bodies splash into waves. He's not stopping.

«No.» A collective moan, Matvei voicing it. «No, not again. Not like this, no

It doesn't matter. The force of the current is immense, seizing Bucky bodily and hurling him straight down into a blue cenote in the middle of the Russian steppe, a thousand miles from any natural body of water with a pinch of salt. The wave of apprehension and horror splinters where the pack screams or collectively pirouettes around polarities of hot and cold, so very cold, one pained girlish squeal of terror escalating up and up and up in the middle of it.

Boots on water. Boots in free fall. Volya dives, Orel hauled in pursuit. Can you fly underwater? Yes.

You can dive for the heart of it, arrowing down, breath held as best he can. Determined to find that direct confrontation, to reach this thing's dark heart, in defiance of his own not-much-more-than-human limitations.

|ROLL| Bucky +rolls 1d2 for: 2

The spindling column of water treats him like jetsam. Bodies hurled into its drift slow down, time losing any hold in the submerged world dominated by the endless blue. Pressure slams down, crushing the chest, the weight of atmospheres compressed into a liquid freefall. For all the river force pushes up, linking to the pool on the top floor in front of the training rooms, the current yanks downwards.

Silence in that medium hurls him through twisting, flooded tunnels dug into the stone, slamming him through blind turns and passages. Swimming might speed things along, for the suction loses its direct strength as soon as he goes around a few curves. The darkness otherwise limns everything in shades of blue, forcing him forward. Inevitably, drown in a dead-end, or come up for air in a dark chamber that's certainly large, sizeable, and a complete abattoir.

Slagged bodies crucified on the walls, melded partly into the submerged floor, hanging in a tower arching over a metal scaffolding. Another child hangs from wired suspension, struck over and over by the three gathered beneath it. Dismembered limbs float beneath.

Remember the old legends of the Tatar house of death left by the bogatyr? Well…

This is….not better. Where are the others? His girl, his kinsmen? Did he manage to end up with them here? Or is he among the dead again? Sodden, but alive….and looking for an exit.

Three routes, buried among the bodies. Bloodshot and tainted eyes trace his presence, the living throb of a heartbeat like meat to the starving monsters in this flickering hellscape of bluish water. The door lies to the west. Another gap in the bodies to the north. A recess might be a door or an alcove to the east.

Water laps around him, possessively clinging to Bucky. His girl, his boys, all vanished.

North. The source of the river lies north - does that alignment make a difference, here? He's got at least one knife in hand, and the arm itself. «Stop fucking with me. It's beneath you.» This one isn't a challenging shout, it's a matter of fact statement. «I bet you drive Zola nuts, you're a creature of magic, not science.»

The children welded have arms. They have legs. They can teach with those blackened hands to grab him, going for his shirt and pulling at hair, flesh, limbs, anything they can reach. There is no easy stroll without hauling himself out of the water soaking wet and hearing the collective moan. Those who can crawl or slink or slouch after him, beasts bled into the very architecture of the hellish oubliette. It stinks of rot and impure places, that northern hall locked by another door water-swollen, stuck, and before he reaches there, he's crushing someone or something. It's hard to tell the difference. Are they all one monstrous, multiheaded being?

In the back of the skull, drowning darkness, panic, ice and berserk rage. In here, the grinding stench of mortality.

It reminds him of the camps, and those are among the ugliest of his memories. Those were purely mortal darkness, the collective evil of a nation. He may try to tread lightly, kicking away reaching hands, bludgeoning with the butt of the knife, the alloy fist. Reaching down the link to the rest of the pack, before he's working on that door.

They cling, six pairs of hands on an arm, and the free-roaming trio advance away from the gagging, hung child bug-eyed from a string of wire and rope. Off they go, those cruel spectres, mouths wide and black, the gnawing, endless hunger a shared experience through the gaunt terrors of which Shakespeare harried Macbeth. Toil and trouble indeed; the water all around does nothing to slake their thirst, nor the polluted gnawing ache that never really let Bucky go in the first place.

The door is sodden, bulging, spongy, the handle cut from spinal vertebrae and spindled teeth, things too sharp and corrugated and broad to be strictly human.


It's in English that he speaks, tone bizarrely conversational, "This is really fucked up. You do know that, right? And I thought what you guys did with me was weird." Addressing that awful portal. "But you know what? Whatever you are, you aren't the Devil. And I work for Lucifer Morningstar, so stick that in your pipe and smoke it." Bone and teeth are strong and terrible, but even they should yield to alloy. The irony there - the thing Zola created coming back, the relentless pursuer. But then, isn't that always, always what happens when the Swiss try to make something like this? Just ask Viktor.

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