1965-03-12 - Project Ursa: Alcor
Summary: In Soviet Russia, when you're hunted, you run.
Related: Project Ursa
Theme Song: None
steve-rogers rogue black-widow 

1348 hours. Nariman. Volgograd Oblast.
Bleak air sparkles with the cold. Wreckage of how many lives spills over these dead fields, watering the rich earth in the blood and bones of the fallen? No answer for that question, not today, under the lonely watch of winter in its vexed cradle. The fasehouse lies somewhere in Nariman, a village between here and there, adjacent the rising water of the Volga-Don canal. Sloughs puncturing the landscape in broad ripples swallow up retreat overland through the ragged fields, while a KV-2 tank sits on the bridgehead prepared to fire at all within reach. Another turrent buried in the foliage releases a second salvo, winding up with artillery shells certain to blow through any benefit a serum might give. Dead is still dead, when it comes to artillery.

The Buran snowmobile that Nat straddles is hardly the finest of aerosleds, even in this country. Like the beloved Lada, the anemic engine suffers at speed: it doesn't have much power to give, much less with a half-cyborg assassin slung over the low-slung seat. At best it boasts a light on the front that works and plenty of fumes spat out as it labours to skim over the snow, jouncing her around.

Those veterans on the field, on both sides of the canal, mobilize in the age-old battle. Rifles to hand, some armed with little more than bloody, rusted knives or makeshift poles, pistols, it matters not. They descend, step by step, upon those following in wake of death.

Bucky's unconscious — but breathing, and breathing is one of those small blessings in this dumpster fire. With a white-knuckled grip under his fingerless gloves, shield readied, and… skis on his feet, Steve Rogers is dragged alongside that snowmobile like the world's angriest, most righteous sledder. Mush, Buran, mush!

His is a ferocious glare at any particular undead and the resounding collisions travels up his arm. It's not a clang, but more like a meaty and muted thunk, whatever succumbs to the sheer cussitude of impact. A portion of him is very carefully watching where those skis go. Losing them to the snowmobile's treading would be disastrous.

"Quick update," Nat calls out at Steve who is doing freestyle snowmobile skiing through this most unfriendly terrain, "fuel is getting lower, so if you spot a substitute ride, call out, I'll keep an eye myself," and she proves to be true to her word when she pulls out her pistol and fires a shot at one particular undead creature that strayed from the masses and happened by their path. "This is not something Arkady should be able to do…unless he's been upgraded. I think the legends are true, so…at least you're not native, maybe spirits are kinder to you, Rogers."

Skis aren't much in the way of durable, simply lacquered wood in a shade of, surprise, red. They act reasonably well when connected over Steve's boots, though any sort of abuse may leave him doing a rather uncomfortable water-skiing act on one leg, good for a value of not being dead. The terrain here is wobbly, the thin line of the A-153 little better than a rutted road this way. The tank midway fires off a shell, the whole structure shuddering, snow tossed off. A grey puff of smoke swirls around. Those men and boys in uniforms of khaki and green converge, a speckled mass that rush in on the only clear path through other than the canal.

Who knows what horrors lie below? Steve's seen their ilk, trapped in vehicles buried in the ice floe-riddled banks, currents deep unmoving upon the spectres that gather. Shots pepper the air, not wastefully applied, but struck at the rider and the snowmobile she rides. It's an easy target, tomato soup red, more than trying to see white on white. Bucky never stirs throughout it all.

The man on the roof of distant Nariman watches impassively, sniper rifle at the ready.

Steve grunts as he pulls some bastardized Indy Grab Goofy to keep from losing one ski in the half-melted remnant of a buried tire. Threading that needle won't earn him anything but a screwed-up knee and probably a seat at the zombies' dinner table — on a silver platter. Most likely his shield, for irony's sake.

"I doubt — " Thunk. " — they're any kinder — Clang, there ricochets a bullet. " — given their general response — " CLONK, ooh that was a heavy-set zombie. " — to me versus you, Natasha." He grunts and brings the shield forwards at an angle to send a one-armed lieutenant flying back into a clustered group.

While Steve may not know much about Nat, she certainly proves to be quite the crack driver, even managing this clunky snowmobile skillfully enough to evade tank fire in time. Though everyone, barely alive Bucky included, suffer a good coating of snow from the near miss. "Sniper, ahead," Natasha points out, if only to assert that a shot or two will likely travel their way soon, assuming they don't run out of fuel first. Those gauges are lying, you can always squeeze a little more than empty, true story! "He beats me in range, I can't down him until we're there…just…keep low against the machine," a good advice!

|ROLL| Rogue +rolls 1d20 for: 19

Those who fall but rise again, or are replaced in kind by one of so many countless fallen foes buried in the fields of Nariman. More than the flower of Russian youth was scythed low by the 6th Panzer Division, they took the grain and the stalk and ripped out the roots, then salted the earth for good measure. Pulsations of violence erupt in place; on the opposite bank of the canal, shadows move through the low-lying, denuded scrub, clusters according to nationality and not much more. They haven't crossed the canal, but they prsent a barrier to easily venturing that way.

From the north, vehicles make a distant melody that has never ceased to press, the 20th Guards more than likely sweeping down in a pincer formation. The coordinated swipes and strikes pepper the landscape as that artillery shell blows behind them, huge orange bursts flowering into the air. It's an acrid scent, an unwelcome one.

Steve flinches as the muddy snow slaps into him, sliding down the thick protection of suit. It's no warmer on the back of his neck, however, where the blond hair is stained rust-red by the sunken metal rowboat's puddled collection of old water. Thank God Natasha is a good driver. He bends knees and jumps the skis, in turn missing a sharply-raised divot of snow, likely as not hiding some derelict casualty of war.

"I'm trying to stay low, but — " He punches out with the shield again, stopping someone with a bayonet from taking a passing stab at him. " — these guys aren't helping. What did you mean — " Another grunt of effort as a zombie bounces off the white star. " — by legends?"

"For someone who is the great enemy of Mother Russia, you don't know much about us, do you…?" Natasha muses, before eventually offering, "short version, Mother Russia likes the blood of its children…" and that all Natasha offers, as she keeps speeding away, as much as one could call this hampered down snowmobile a speedy thing. The gauge is also not a friend, and as she looks up again, trying to keep track of the sniper's position, she stammers, "which death you prefer…? Sniper rifle, or undead demons…I hope there really is safehouse there."

Another swipe with the butt of a rifle resonates off the side of the snowmobile. Broken hands stretch out and solidly manage to smack Natasha's leg, another salvo pinging off Bucky's arm. Tears through the miserable wool coat he wears as he hangs limp and prostrate, weighing down the floundering Buran, shall have no explanation when he next comes to. If he comes to.

Another breath and they're almost at the bridge spanning the muddy brown water turned black and oily in places. Backflow swirls across the snowy ground level and that surge from upstream finally catches up with them, torrenting over the submerged locks, taking no prisoners. A widening puddle engulfs the bridgehead, inundating it, the tank an island somehow above.

They can just make out the grey buildings, low-slung blocks arranged to the far side of the road to keep some distance from the flooded lands. And it's a horror to witness, as the A-153 rips straight through, that scattered bodies crouch and stand in wait as they no doubt did during the year-long siege of the mightier sister city to the northwest. If they're to make the Volga River, they're going through their own blessed dead, those men who answered the trump of Judgment in Gabriel's bone-white hands.

"No one's going to die." This, of all things, Steve seems most certain about. That tank ahead of them? That becomes the next target, once there's what could be construed as a clear area of shambling undead soldiers around them. Pulling back the shield, the supersoldier chucks it as hard as he can manage at the ominous machine pointing its barrel directly at them.

CLANGCLANG. It dents the hell out of the barrel itself, angling back against one of the weak metal guardrails delineating road from the overflowing slough, and then back to his hand. Just for a moment, the man has a serious Case of Smug.

"You sure…?" Black Widow has had her share of suicide missions, she has every right to assume victory out of the jaws of defeat scenario. But she is also fairly realistic, the Red Room would never allow their operative to fail because they underestimated a situation. Death is a very likely outcome as far as she's concerned at the moment. Particularly when Steve beats her upcoming verbal suggestion with action by about 5 seconds. "Blyat!!!" She screams when Steve removes not yet enacted "switch a snowmobile for a tank" master plan. If anything, the tank is decommissioned from taking fire at them, as Natasha continues to squeeze whatever is left of the snow mobile's fuel in racing for that bridge, good thing Steve can't see her visage at the moment because she is livid. There's no congratulatory words from him on his taking out the tank. A remarkable action to be sure, but not the correct one, if she'd been consulted first. Once she's calmed enough for words, she venomously groans at Steve, "that was our next ride with fuel dying out…when we get stuck, you're carrying Bucky!"

That tank ahead of them takes the spinning vibranium disk about as well as aged metal exposed to one too many Russian winters would, the superstructure of the turret already heated by artillery shells carving ugly craters out of the landscape. Smoke and flame mark the three salvos so far, the cross-canal turret and this one responsible for no little damage. But that scratched paint job on the star and bullseye suffers more as it plows into the turret, preventing any easy entry and certainly no free shells slamming down the gun.

All very impressive, good and well. The Buran hums and squeals weakly under Natasha's command, the heavy weight of the soldier slung over the side no doubt responsible for melting away any strength left in the torpid engine. It smells foul, fumes erupting, but still labours forward, trying to carry two heavy men. Running out of fuel, running out of road, they'll have to ford the water spilling over the bridge and the treads are not tall enough to allow for that.

Prophetic words from the Widow: a long, long shot from that roof casually lined up for what must be ages finally blooms. Bare fingers pluck a trigger taut as a harp string. The rifle kicks and barely dislodges the sniper laid oh so low, obsidian bolt fired from a black sun. He's already moving, sliding to the back end of the roof, and sliding over the side once the bullet is in motion. And whyever not? Clint Barton has stories of encountering Russians in the Connecticut woods, harrowing tales of slain men and vehicles dropped by a single shot. This may not be entirely so dramatic. The snowmobile seizes and dies, a hole in its tomato red carapace opening up.

Looks like they're hoofing it on foot now, through the water and sludgy snow, probably punching out zombies along the way.

"No one gets left behind." Steve makes his profile as small as possible while leaning in close to Bucky's face. The metal continues to reveal that the man is alive, still breathing, when condensation forms and then freezes into minute fractals. "If I have to carry him, I will."

"Snipers!" Natasha can tell the shot is coming, she's just not sure yet if the aim is to decommission their snowmobile, or to take out either of the three. She jumps for the mired snow, rolling in time to avoid it, looking back she finds it was indeed the snowmobile that was the target. Else the sniper wasn't a very good marksman.

"I'd say it's only fair, seeing how you took out 'our' tank," Natasha groans at Steve, looks like she had her heart set on commandeering that tank, it would have made for far safer passage, and have provided the perfect tool to get rid of that sniper, still out and about. Instead, they have to go it by foot for the time being, and the odds are gradually worsening for them. If one could put a cherry on top of this sundae of misery, it would be if Omega Red manages somehow to catch up with them.

"You definitely have to carry him, let's go," she tries to be as hurried as possible, keeping a somewhat crouched advance, her blue eyes scouring for telltale glints of scopes aimed her way.

|ROLL| Rogue +rolls 1d20 for: 20

Sloshing around in the bitter water up to calf-depth and beyond is no one's idea of fun, but at least the shock of the cold works better than a cup of crappy coffee. Ask Bucky sometime about his excursion to find arabica beans in the depths of Rostov or Voronezh. Black tea water rolls past, already pulling with a dangerous undertow. It stains the white garments grey, offended by any prospect of purity.

Chunks of flame-licked metal swirl past, pushed on by the volume of the flood, some large as a room and others twisted and bent into fanciful curls. The distant percussive beat of small-arms fire peppers the air, the cascade of war pushing ever onwards through the empty plains. The dismal tangle of lanes attest to Nariman's permanence, for now. The Nazi soldiers can't do much other than slow them down and attempt a crack shot now and then. Much as the Soviets simply get in the way, gamely taking aim and firing. In a killing field, friend and enemy become a blur, as much as the water eradicates signs of where the shore and the basin begin.

Another thirty miles to Old Sarepta, and the beckoning arms of the Motherland outstretched to her children, her face frozen in the silent clarion to summon them home. Or there's a cellar as the afternoon tilts towards an early dusk.

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