Midday Fireworks

July 04, 2015:

The Winter Soldier is dispatched to silence a rat racing to flee the sinking ship that is HYDRA, unaware that he has a Cat watching over him.

Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

A high priority command was issued to Winter Soldier in only the last minutes; a defection is taking place, and had been masterminded with the trail sufficiently covered that it was not discovered until they had already left the maximum security area in question. The latest visual reports show him being rushed into an armored black-tinted car, the sort used for high end VIPs. Three suited men entered, and one that HYDRA recognized; the mercenary-at-arms known as The Cat. He's got a terrible reputation for being effective, and apparently no qualms about even opposing a group as mighty as HYDRA if the pay is appropriate.

They drove into an underpass for about five minutes, breaking visual contact from scrambled helicopters, before continuing on. Getting in position and attempting to snipe is an impractical solution, given there would only be one chance and he could have been moved into the trunk during the blackout for all the Winter Soldier knows… it will be a rare case where the direct route of getting his hands dirty is necessary.

They seem to be headed to a private airfield with significant armed personal guards, where he could vanish into the woodwork enough to take one of any dozens of airplanes. HYDRA can't shoot every single one of them down, and by the time they got an agent in position to verify which he was in, he'd already be gone, and once a defector flees internationally it becomes a much more exasperated proposition to find them again…

Which makes it lucky that a prime location was picked; a heavy clout of traffic, with the armored car inching forward at only a couple miles per hour. It is a four lane street, sparsely populated on either sidewalk with civilians, flanked by residential structures of cracked brick a few stories up. In five to ten minutes, the car will reach a parkway and they will accelerate to a speed that would require some intense vehicular manoeuvring to stop them. The best opportunity presented yet…!
-

Hunting down turncoats and turning them into grisly cautionary tale: just the kind of work that the Winter Soldier was born for, even if doing it publically and in broad daylight sits poorly with him.

He keeps his reservations to himself as his chopper does a sweep over the traffic jam, though; even if he was the sort of man to question his orders, the time to do so would've been before they strapped him into the harness. It's a white and gunmetal grey thing consisting of thick straps and a bulky backpack, cribbed from field reports about one of SHIELD's agents and sped through HYDRA's R&D chain.

Technically, it's still a prototype, but testing barely finished gear that could kill or cripple an unsuspecting agent is also the kind of work that the Winter Soldier was born for, apparently.

"We've got visual confirmation of the target," the pilot informs him, shouting despite the fact that he's wearing an earpiece, "so I'm gonna be bringing 'er around real nice and easy. Soon as the light goes on, you should be clear to make your approach, hail HYDRA."

"Hail HYDRA," the Soldier tonelessly replies. There's an assault rifle sandwiched between back and pack, a .50 cal cradled under his left arm, and a plethora of other weapons hidden on his person. It would be overkill if he wasn't after such big game.

Not the rat, of course; the Cat.

The light over the door turns green.

The Winter Soldier taps a couple of buttons on the strap crossing his chest, then lunges out of the 'copter and swiftly straightens into what would be perfect diving form if his arms weren't busy steadying the rifle and directing it towards the street below. The defector could be anywhere in the car, even the trunk; those five minutes beneath the underpass ruined any chance he might have had of doing this cleanly, it's true.

But there's at least one person in there whose presence he's at least eighty percent sure he can count on.

The howling wind rushing past the HYDRA assassin's body is pierced by mechanical whirring as the lionshare of the harness unfurls into a pair of skeletal wings. Devoid of feathers, each seems to be made mostly of empty space punctuated by the occasional spine, as if its designers just plain forgot to finish their project. The Soldier's eyes narrow behind dark goggles, the barrel shifts…

*FWOOSH!*
*BANG!*

… and one after the other, the harness and the Soldier fire, the former engaging an array of thrusters constructed throughout the wing structures, which in turn shift just so to counteract the violent inertia created when the latter sends a .50 cal shell lancing towards the driver's side windshield. Much like an actual parachute, there's still enough recoil to launch the Soldier upwards and backwards a ways; unlike a parachute, once he somersaults through the recoil so that he's falling upright, he is able to use the harness to speed his descent along a little.

Unfortunately, by the time he lands on - and severely dents - a frozen car in the next lane over, the harness is out of gas; a distinct disadvantage compared to a conventional parachute. He chucks the rifle into traffic since it isn't like he'll need it to fight off the Cat, then unbuckles the harness and hurls it it through one of the windows bordering the street with his left arm.

As he strips, he starts working his way down to the hood of his car, and then to the one beside him. His ultimate goal is to snatch who else is in front out of the vehicle before they can manage to take the wheel; once that's done, he can move on to dealing with the Cat and isolating the defector.

-

"You will be safe." the Cat was in the midst of stating, settled in the back seat. "Going out in public and broad daylight will limit their options somewhat; an unsolicited air to ground missile would be too messy a paper trail. Most likely…"

There's the blaring sound of a high caliber rifle going off. There's a perfectly round hole and a series of cracks surrounding it, and the heavy *THUNK* of the round stopping as it hits the metal armored shell of the rear compartment. But the driver is dead; a brief bray of the horn, but the second man in the front is quick to act. He reaches forward with one hand to press down on the gas, the car peeling out and slamming into the one in front of it. He can be seen through that pinhole gunshot in the windshield shifting to maneuver the vehicle into reverse and starting to turn the wheel.

With the structure of the armored glass ruined, a slam of cybernetic arm shatters through it without trouble, plucking the hapless figure like a daisy. Oh, he fights back. Takes a swing at the super-soldier, fumbling to pull out his pistol with a curse. None are quick enough or efficient enough to matter.

"…They will send a single elite soldier. Ah. Stay in the car." he motions to the frightened man in the suit. "I made you a promise, after all. And I do not take my honor lightly." Suddenly both rear doors burst open, and the remaining suited man slips out with pistol raised, aiming to open fire upon the HYDRA assassin as he slams it shut in the same motion, trying to get to cover beside a newspaper vendor as civilians shriek.

Likely of more note is the whisper of blackness coming out the other side, door kicked closed. Sliding down on his heels, the Cat vanishes beneath the adjacent vehicle, whirling out of sight. It seems the more dangerous of the two targets has made his move now…

Although that also means that the only one remaining in the vehicle now has to be the assassination target…!
-

It's a brief and ugly encounter: the would-be Driver #2 swings, the Winter Soldier sways back, and the fist whistles past his face. Before he can get his pistol unlatched, the Soldier hefts him into the air by the throat, only to slam him spine first into the narrow edge where the windshield meets the roof. Glass shatters, metal bends, and the man's head lolls towards one shoulder like a marionnette's might afterwards.

The Soldier is just about to pitch what's left of the guy through the rear window of the vehicle ahead of them when the rear doors open. He instinctively jerks his captive up in front of his own body a split-second before the bullets begin flying, protecting himself and giving the Cat plenty of time to maneuver through this crowded, cacophonous - thanks to the gunshots and car crash, there are a shitload of horns blowing and people screaming - environment unseen.

As soon as the fire stops, the Soldier lets the limp body crumple to the hood and unclips a grenade from his belt. He lingers for a second after unpinning it, allowing the timer to tick in his hand before chucking it through the hole in the windshield, leaping to another car, and sliding off of its hood to hunker down on the ground. If the defector is in there, he won't be for long.

Just in case he leaves the vehicle in a grenade-induced panic instead of as a cloud of ash, the Soldier unholsters his pistol mid-slide. Either way, he fires a couple of shots towards the vendor stand once he's down, just to keep the other guy in the suit on his toes.

-

"OUT!" can be heard from the Cat the very moment that grenade is pulled out from the Winter Soldier's arsenal. Of course he'd have explosives; that's just the way of things. The door pushes open and the dishevelled-suited form of his target slithers out just before the explosion goes off, breaking through the metal barrier and spraying armored glass on the interior. He ducks down and wriggles beneath the rear wheels, which is not that unwise of a place. And two casual shots from a man of Bucky's training is no small matter; he strikes the remaining man in the shoulder as he was trying to aim at the hood-sliding assassin, causing him to stagger and collapse into the sidewalk with a curse.

Which might make the sudden glint of incoming steel more bothersome. Six throwing stars are hurtling at Winter Solder from where he's crouching before the smoking armored car, hissing in the air like that of an angry serpent.

Shen Kuei is right behind, running along almost entirely silently. His black trenchcoat whirls behind, sleek glasses shimmering in a rainbow of colors. Two armored panels are upon the left side, one on the shoulder and one on the forearm.

"«The Winter Soldier, I presume?»" he states in perfect Russian, while twisting around into a brutal sidekick aimed to take advantage of any attempt to dodge. He's far stronger than a man of his lithe build might seem, comparable to an attack from his ever-nemesis Captain America himself. "« I have heard impressive things about your capabilities… I admit, I hoped it would not be you I encountered tonight.»"
-

Two throwing stars *ping!* off of the Winter Soldier's left arm.

The other four bite through kevlar all along the left side of his body and stick shallowly in his skin. They would be negligible, superficial injuries if inflicted by most anyone else, the inevitable result of archaic weapons meeting modern defenses.

But since they were thrown by the Cat, the Winter Soldier feels twinges of discomfort - flashes of searing heat that explode into stabbing pain which melts into tinging numbness - all over the left half of his body as artfully impinged nerve clusters transmit a flurry of corrupted impulses to the surrounding areas.

He still drops into a push-up position to check for the defector afterwards, but he groans on the way down and has to pop right back up after spotting him, because the Cat is coming for him. His left knee buckles when he puts weight on it, but bracing against what's left of the car helps him get his footing— just in time for the merc to try and take his head off with a kick.

"«But here you are,»" he replies while throwing his right forearm in the way of the kick. The blow snaps his arm right back into his own chest and causes him to stagger back a couple of steps, but the pain radiating along the limb is preferable to the alternatives.

"«Protecting a traitor,»" he adds through clenched teeth. "«I have heard of you, too— your reputation; is this the man that you want to risk it for? To die for?»" The pistol in his left hand blurs into position as he squeezes off a couple of punctuating - and perhaps, if he's lucky, puncturing - rounds towards the trenchcoated mercenary.

That the Cat has heard much of anything about his capabilities is filed away for later. It's undesireable, but after over a year straight of service to the Russian Mafiya and HYDRA - two organizations that lack the KGB's carefully honed and obsessively maintained dedication to subtly - it's not entirely surprising.

-

"« I'm afraid you hardly understand…»" the Cat states as the furious kick impacts his forearm, forcing the assassin to become distracted from the terrified face of the man spied just prior to being forced to defend himself. "« This RISK… is what I live my life for. That he can afford my generous fees is merely a formality…!!»" Fast. That's way too fast. The Cat whirls up his trenchcoat, and two shots go off at point-blank range. One strikes the forearm guard, digging a rutt into it, but the second rips into the armored trenchcoat. A spray of blood as it clips him in the side, but a normal person is liable to be dead instead.

"« Oh…! That's quite some speed you have there. »" "Head towards the remaining bodyguard!" the Cat shouts, and there's the sound of scuffling loafered feet. The groaning of the man earlier shot getting upright. Right now, Bucky is within melee range of Shen Kuei, and still slightly hampered by his barrage of throwing stars. The clusters struck were meant to incapacitate him from pain, but he barely even flinched… an impressive resolve, indeed. But he's going to make sure to keep him occupied.

Right now, the Cat is playing a bluff. Assaulting in a manner that seems ferocious, punches and kicks that can be defended against readily, aiming to entice the Winter Soldier to turn and attempt to fire upon the retreating pair. But if he falls for the bait, the true fangs of the Cat would be immediately unleashed, with the heel of his foot striking down towards a knee at the same time he tries to hook the Winter Soldier by the armpit to wrench his gun upwards.

If he does nothing but defend himself…? All the better. If the pair can make it to the nearby alleyway, then they will no longer be *mutually* distracted…
-

"« I understand that you're in my way, »" the Winter Soldier intones.

He has a couple of advantages where the throwing stars are concerned: his cybernetic arm, which is more or less usable despite surrounding nerve damage due to the way it's wired into his system, and a steady regimen of mock torture sessions and beatings designed by his former KGB handlers to prepare him for experiencing massive amounts of pain and functioning in spite of it. Even still, when the Cat's coat settles at his side and the mercenary commences throwing strikes his way instead of dying like he was supposed to, the Soldier finds himself struggling to keep up with the ferocious pace of his offense. His footwork is clumsier than it ought to be, staggered; even shifting to use his right arm or leg to catch blows better parried from the left is slower than it ought to be as his body responds slower than it normally might, or spasms at inopportune junctures. The Cat's trap may have been designed to keep him blocking, but several strikes make it through unimpeded due to their sheer volume. One particularly nasty blows takes his lower face mask clean off and sends flecks of blood spraying from his split lip.

Obviously, there's no time for counter attacks. Actually, there is, technically, but trying to sneak a fist or knee through the Cat's martial whirlwind would require him to focus utterly on the mercenary, and thanks to the shouted order and the scuffling that followed, that simply isn't an option.

The Cat is not his primary objective.

It will cost him - he knows it will, given the rate the Cat's moving at - but after one of the incoming strikes is caught against his fleshy forearm, he plants his foot and pivots in such a way as to throw the Cat's arm aside while bringing his left arm around, getting the defector in his sights, and—

*BANG!*
*BANG!*
*THUD!*

The Winter Soldier could rip a car door from its frame with his left arm and not break a sweat; grappling with it without the benefit of superpowers or cybernetics is an uphill battle to say the least, though the struggle makes getting a good bead on the defector and/or his guard harder given the narrow window he's working with. Smashing a knee that had already threatened to give way beneath him is something else entirely however, and by the time the Soldier turns his head back to his primary obstacle/secondary objective, he's already going down.

-
Indeed, the moment that the Winter Soldier's left arm begins to shift to aim, a foot slams down and impacts the asphalt, shifting to grasp it. Eyes widen at the sheer power within the augmented frame, however; he had not expected that. By the time he brings forth a surge of chi and a "Kiyah!", heel bursting into the street and both arms leveraging to flip the man the rest of the way to the ground, those shots have already gone off.

A glance is not spared to the victim. There's no need to. The Winter Soldier does not miss. He was struck in the back cleanly, two points only slightly apart from the jostling of Shen Kuei, penetrating his central nervous system.

Target dead.

"I promised that man he would live…" Anger blossoms within Shen Kuei, twisting around and taking a strange stance. "I do not have a kind temperament when such things do not go my way…!!" And then he twists, exhaling and flowing as his central chi whirls, fist clenching explosively. About a ton of force is leveraged in the blow towards the Winter Soldier's face, trying to capitalize on his downed position to hit him with earth-shattering finality…!

-

Other things that the Winter Soldier's arm can do:

  • Open any jar of any condiment in any HYDRA base in the world.
  • Beat most other prosthetics in a finger race while remote controlled.
  • Deliver tens of thousands of volts to an opponent's body on contact.

One of these things would be incredibly useful right now, as the Cat harnesses his chi to transcend the limits of his mortal shell and stands poised to end the Soldier for his intrusion. His gun is across the pavement, dislodged by the force of Shen Kuei's chi-infused hip toss. Half of his body spasms in agony that slows him down, even as he strains not to let the debilitation show. He may not know exactly how strong Shen Kuei is right now, but he knows the man's reputation. This is not a position that he wants to be in; an electric countermeasure would surely help him out of it.

Unfortunately, the charge takes time to build. It's only a matter of seconds, but the Soldier doesn't have them— ! As sparks flicker across the surface of the Winter Soldier's limb, Shen Kuei's fist falls like an executioner's blade, splitting the air with a violent note that concludes in a climactic—

*KRR-NNCH!*

Things that the Winter Soldier's arm can do, part 3:

  • Block stuff.

Knuckles meet knuckles and the Shen Kuei's arm burrows along the length of the Winter Soldier's until it is halfway up the Cold War spectre's forearm. Electricity arcs from within and without the prosthetic, but if the Cat's reflexes are truly on par with the moniker he's chosen, he'll likely be able to withdraw before it causes any significant harm.

For just a moment, the HYDRA assassin's dead eyes register surprise when they flick towards the ruined limb; when it passes, they return to the Cat as his right foot is driven towards the bodyguard's shin in the hopes of bringing him down.

-

The sound and feel of punching through metal hurts. Although the Cat has conditioned himself to impact stone, the prosthetic is rather more durable than most. He was reckless, exerting too much power for the task at hand, and blood splatters upon the Winter Soldier's chest from the feedback. Make that two of them with a ruined limb, now. The pain is dizzying, but the burst of electricity does as desired; although Shen Kuei yanks back from it with a spasm, it means he is ill equipped to do anything about the leg sweep, struck hard in the ankle and going down awkwardly, thumping on the ground as the paralysis continues to slow him. "…!!" Had things gone slightly different, the ending might have been with him being electrocuted unconscious, depending. But whether the Winter Soldier capitalizes on the dropped Cat or takes the time to recover himself is the question…!

-

As the Cat goes down, the Soldier climbs back up to his feet. Trickles of lubricant and coolant run from the split, twisted limb hanging from his left shoulder to form puddles on the ground. Sparks leap from busted wires, which keeps the Soldier from taking too much time in getting to his feet despite the layers of pain and numbness assaulting his nervous system; they are small puddles, but at this point, he doesn't need to take any unnecessary chances.

"That man and— nngh— " the Soldier makes it almost all the way up before buckling, wavering, and finding himself having to remain hunched to avoid falling over. He pants, staggers back a step— and then unsheathes a knife and allows himself to fall just so, landing near enough to the Cat to hold the blade near his neck.

"— who else?" he hisses. As he tries to at least pull himself up to his knees, he continues to press, "Who paid you— was it him? Where was he running to? Who was going to protect him?"

-

A broken fist is held to the side, the Cat struggling as he attempts to roll over with marginal success. He's now got his left arm alone able to fully operate. But when the Winter Soldier falls towards him, he twists and reaches out, grasping the hilt of the weapon and getting into a bit of a wrestling match with it. "That man should be arriving at the airport by now." Shen Kuei states, darkly. "He had no defense. You shot a decoy. I should have hired the professional one." Yes, there's some regret that the man pulled into this managed not to survive. But the risks were understood, and his family will still get a portion of the money. "He swapped vehicles with the decoy beneath the bridge. It seems your employers were thinking too straightforward…!!"

-

The Winter Soldier's blade trembles as two men— two warriors vie for control. Try as he might, whatever ground the Soldier gains is quickly lost as the Cat switches angles, switches tactics— and, conversely, the blade never quite ceases to present a threat, even if the Cat is doing an excellent job of preventing his foe from capitalizing on it.

The Winter Soldier's blade trembles… until his opponent tells him where his quarry is. His actual quarry, not the— the decoy laid out on the sidewalk who cost him his arm and a prototype jet parachute. At that point, it freezes and his eyes widen with surprise.

"You…" he exhales. He's failed his employers— or have they failed him? Themselves?

"No…"

He tries to relinquish the knife and roll away from Shen all at once. There's nothing to be gained here anymore; at this point, the best he can hope for is making it to a safehouse where he can report— someone's— failure. If he is able to disengage, he'll begin backing, then running towards the nearest alley. Probably the one his quarry was headed for.

-

Shen has managed to mostly recover from the electrocution at this point, whirling upon his back and bringing his knees up to his chest. A grunt leaps him as he kip-ups to his feet in a smooth motion. However, there's one last factor that Bucky has forgotten about; he had the time to shoot one of /two/ men, and right now the wounded bodyguard still up has hefted his pistol. He begins to fire, but his aim is off from the wounds and being forced to use one arm. A slow exhale leaves the Cat, before he pulls out his own smooth pistol — bringing it up to bear, focusing and calming himself. Before firing a single round towards the retreating Winter Soldier. A high-end tranquilizer is in the shell, sufficient to knock out even a regenerator of Deadpool's caliber. Although whether it hits or not, he's keen on extracting himself, too. But preventing Bucky Buckerson from reporting on the decoy would be preferred… he's no interest in kiling or detaining the man, a worthy foe indeed, but that doesn't mean he's going to half-ass an attempted egress!
-

One wounded gunman wouldn't be so bad. One man with one arm, the death of his charge weighing on him, and a death of the arctic nerves and precision that the Cat possesses would, in fact, be just this side of a freebie for the Winter Soldier: not entirely ignorable, but unlikely to pose much of a threat.

He demonstrates this by zigging and zagging through bystanders and around vehicles on his way towards the alley to further foul up the bodyguard's aim. By the time he's plainly visible and moving in a straight line again, it is because he's leapt off of a car to fly towards the bodyguard and plant the sole of his boot against the man's head.

One wounded gunman wouldn't be so bad, but there are two— and one of them is the Cat.

So instead of coming down for a more or less composed landing, the Winter Soldier takes a tranq round to his unarmored neck and plummets to the ground. Immediately, he braces himself on hand and knees, struggles to fight the effects of the toxin… but he is certainly no Deadpool.

With little more than a groan, he slumps face first on the ground, unconscious.

-

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