Independence

July 04, 2015:

After a failed assassination, the Winter Soldier is on his way to Brooklyn's 79th Precinct until SHIELD Agent Argyle comes to effect an early transfer.

The Streets of New York

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Shots were fired in Bed-Stuy. There was a traffic snarl, an explosion, an exchange of blows between a masked man with a metal arm and a trenchcoat-wearing ninja. At least two bodies, each with rounds from a different gun.

Details are still sketchy, filtering across police frequencies as officers try to interview eyewitnesses on the scene. One thing is certain, though: the shooter with the arm was taken into custody and is on his way to the 79th precinct by way of SWAT van. From the sound of things, the fun stuff was pretty much over by the time officers arrived on the scene: the bodies were cooling and the one remaining perp was unconscious, missing half of his advanced prosthetic, and bleeding.

The Winter Soldier is still unconscious and missing half a limb in the back of the van, but the bleeding has mostly stopped. He is flanked by a pair of guards with a third positioned near the door. Two more are in the cab; one is annoying the other by insistently cranking up the knob on Taylor Swift's Bad Blood between reports.

-

All of the information coming over the police scanner adds up to a very distinct and very specific MO - one that Argyle has been on the lookout for. He tried to make it down to the scene before the one-armed man got hauled away, but given New York traffic and other vital preparations, the best he can do is intercept en route to the station. He waits until the van dekes down a side road to avoid the traffic snarl up ahead that the radio warned them about. A cheerful Louisiana drawl helpfully suggested an alternate route to make their trip back to the station smooth sailing.

As the first notes of Taylor Swift's chorus boom out of the SWAT van's surprisingly good subwoofers, a black motorcycle weaves through traffic and comes up alongside the van. The driver is dressed head to toe in black body armor - in the heat of the summer. He unhooks a small disc-shaped device and flips it under the van. The powerful magnet attaches itself. Slowly, and to them, inexplicably - the van starts to lose power just as it's about to emerge from an alley and back onto the main road.
-

o/~ 'Cause, baby, now we got bad blood! o/~
o/~You know it used to be ma— what the hell?"

The driver's eyes dart all over the dash as he tries to figure out why the van is slowing down, then squints bemusedly at the battery meter while pumping the gas.

"This is the team from the Bedford-Stuyvesant call," the guy on the passenger side radios in with a barely suppressed smirk. The driver catches sight of the motorcycle speeding away, but there's no apparent connection between it and the van's sudden loss of power. "Our vehicle is experiencing difficulties; if there are any vehicles in the area, we could use a jump. We're in an alley between…"

The lights flicker in the back of the van, then go black. A beat afterwards, the tell-tale *click!* of a twitchy officer taking aim at the tranquilized prisoner pierces the darkness, followed closely by a mumbled, "Sorry," as that officer flicks his flashlight on and turns towards the door.

-

The motorbike has disappeared from view around the corner. Argyle circles around the block, parks the bike back towards the head of the alleyway and steps off. He moves briskly towards the back of the van and unclips what looks like a flare gun. While still moving forward, and still dressed in his motorcycle outfit, he levels the weapon at the back of the van. When he squeezes the trigger, a tiny device also outfitted with a magnet slams against the door. The only warning for the men inside is a soft hissing sound as acid eats through the metal. Wires extend into the compromised door, then a breath later, the door explodes outwards, the reinforced metal bouncing on its hinges.

o/~ Did you have to do this? I was thinking that you could be trusted. o/~
o/~ Did you have to ruin what was shiny? Now it's all rusted. o/~

Argyle stows the flare gun and exchanges it for an Icer. He stands near the rear of the van, shoulders squared, weapon levelled, ready to fire at anyone who looks like they're a threat.
-

Screams fill the back of the van. It was a relatively clean, but loud explosion— especially for people who happen to be no more than a handful of feet away from it, in an otherwise enclosed metal box.

The lead guard squeezes off a few rounds on sheer instinct, but he's barely looking at where he's shooting. He's barely looking at anything because there's at least two of everything right now; he certainly doesn't get a clear look at Argyle before the agent knocks him out cold. The other two officers are slow to actually pull their weapons due to being a bit preoccupied with clutching their bleeding ears, but they're working on it; given a few un-ICERed seconds, they'll no doubt open fire on Argyle.

So, in other words, they aren't much of a problem.

The two in the cab, on the other hand, are climbing out with sidearms drawn after a quick exchange of hand and eye gestures. The bomb didn't have nearly the same disorienting effect on them, and the gunshots were a pretty clear sign that something far graver than battery trouble is in the are. They creep along the sides of the vehicle as quietly as they can manage, intent on rounding their corners together and pinning the mystery assailant between their guns and orders to freeze.

-

It would all be very stealthy, were it not for the fact that Argyle is entirely aware of the two men still in the cabin. The number of men in the back was the wild card, and they've safely and non-lethally been taken care of. He's aware that the officers aren't going to give him the same courtesy.

He catches sight of their shadows coming around the van almost too late to react. But fortunately, he's rather quick on the draw. He grabs at his belt and rolls a device under the van. At just the right moment, he hits a button on his wrist that snakes out a series of cables between both sets of tires. The cables wrap around anything they come into contact with, which he's hoping will be their shins.

Regardless of whether his gadget hits the mark or not, he dekes to the left and comes out swinging, aiming to disarm at least one of his gun-wielding opponents. The motorcycle helmet and gear slows him down and reduces visibility, but has the side bonus of giving him a great deal of protection.
-

"Shots have been fired," the passenger quietly radios as he sneaks along the van. "Engagaaaa—!"

The officer goes down hard after a length of wire whips across his shins then coils, tangling him up in it. He manages to hang onto his weapon, but getting back to his feet is a matter of rolling over and wriggling free of the wire; it'll take a bit of doing. The driver is slightly more fortunate in that the wire only hits one of his shins, causing him to stumble and lurch forward— into Argyle, who promptly sends his gun clattering to the ground and him thudding against the van.

"Police— nnh— " he groans as he rights himself against the vehicle and goes for a taser. "Put your hands up!"

-

Argyle executes a disarming motion that involves a swift strike against the curve of the cop's arm to divest him of the taser. He catches it with one hand before it hits the ground. Then he steps back, raises the ICER and squeezes off a shot. He does all of this without saying a word or raising the visor on his helmet.

He then moves quickly around the back of the van, ICER leveled to take out the last cop. It would seem cold, methodical and merciless - if it wasn't an entirely non-lethal form of attack.
-

Argyle dispatches the police with little trouble. One gives up his taser; the other is too preoccupied with the wire to bring his gun up before the agent ICEs him.

o/~ So don't think it's in the past, these kinda wounds they last and they last. o/~
o/~ Now did you think it all through? All these things will catch up to you. o/~

Now it's just Argyle, the Winter Soldier, and Taylor Swift (feat. Kendrick Lamar). The Soldier's cybernetic arm is catastrophically compressed and twisted with a bevy of wires hanging out of a central split, as if he went running fist first into an adamantium wall. He's still masked and armored, but his gear has been stripped; it's probably still somewhere in the van, though. There are a number of puncture wounds along his left side, some of which got through his kevlar.

He hasn't woken up yet, but his breathing is speeding up and growing erratic and there are periodic twitches; whatever put him under may be wearing off.

"SWAT team, we've got a unit in the area with cables if you're still in need, over," one of the officers' radios crackles.

"SWAT, do you copy? Everything okay over there, over?"

-

Argyle very cautiously sweeps the van for signs of further cops before he hoists himself up in. "Jesus christ," he mutters at the sight of the Soldier. He moves towards the downed officer, clears his throat, then flips up the visor on the helmet. He stoops and picks up the radio. "10-26. We are en route. Stalled out. Better put the vehicle in for a service when we bring her back to the shop." He's dropped the Louisiana drawl for a touch of Jersey.

While he's waiting for a response, he looks around for the shed gear. If he finds it, he'll shove it into his backpack. He nudges the prone Soldier with his boot. "Wake up buddy. I can't carry you on my bike. You gotta be conscious enough to use your good arm to hold on."
-

There's an unmarked, locked box stashed in an unobtrusive compartment near the floor with a tactical belt sporting an empty holster curled around it; as good of a guess for the Soldier's gear as anything, provided that Argyle finds the compartment.

"10-26?" The operator sounds surprised, given the reports of fired shots and engagement. At least, she's pretty sure it was engagement; there was a bit of screaming at the end, there.

"Hell of a false alarm, huh? You sure you don't need another vehicle to get the suspect in? Some back-up— something? Over."

The Winter Soldier groans, stirs, then rolls onto his back when kicked. His one wrist is secured to a clip on his armor, since the other arm presents all kinds of obstacles for standard handcuffs.

-

"Naw, we got this. Tin man's not giving anybody any trouble. ETA fifteen or so, unless shit's snarled in Queens. Over." Regardless of whether the conversation continues, Argyle chucks the radio down. He bends over to help the Soldier up to a seated position. "Sure got yourself in a mess, didn't you? Listen, we gotta get. They aren't gonna believe my little story for long. And they'll probably send backup just in case."

He digs around the compartments and chucks in anything that looks like it's tactical and possibly Russian, including the locked box. It's shoveled in to his backpack which he then zips up.

He bends over and notices the clip. "Shit. One second." He digs around the downed men looking for keys. Failing that, he'll use a small explosive charge to free the lock. The problem with option B is that it's not going to be particularly kind to his wrist. They're in a hurry. "Come on now, wakey wakey. I have something to wake you up but I don't wanna give you a fucking heart attack."
-

One of the men does have keys. It takes a little digging to find them, but unless Argyle is really impatient, it's only a matter of time.

Enough time that the Soldier - who sank progressively deeper into a slump against the wall of the van throughout the search - responds to having his wrist freed by lurching into a grab for Argyle's—

— anything, really. He barely knows where he is, much less what's around him; there's no strategy here, just instinct.

-

Argyle really should have been more careful. Normally he's cautious around the other man - respectful, the way one might approach an intelligent but still wild animal. The Soldier gets his windpipe, which is really not an ideal situation. The armoring in the suit provides some protection, and it's thankfully just a flesh hand, but still. "Stop," he croaks. "I'm trying to help you."

Even as he tries to talk sense into him, he's reaching with one hand into the pocket of his jacket, feeling for a syringe, just in case it becomes necessary.
-

The Winter Soldier's eyes slowly crack open. The pressure remains consistent: tight enough to make breathing and speaking uncomfortable without presenting too great a threat for strangulation. With the tranq still in his system, he can't manage more; with Argyle covered from head to toe and his head still foggy, he doesn't dare give any less.

Argyle tries to talk him down… and it still takes a good four or five seconds before it registers and his fingers begin to loosen.

"Who— sent you?" he slurs, struggling to focus on the man in black. He doesn't take his hand away after abandoning the choke, but it'll probably fall on its own, eventually— if Argyle doens't just remove it himself.

-

Argyle gulps mouthfuls of air once the hand loosens its grip on his throat. He shoves the hand away after a moment, then he reaches up to remove his helmet. "It's me, you moron. Jesus, how hard did they hit you in the head?" He flips the syringe around and checks the dose. Unless he's stopped, he'll swing it around and jam the Soldier in the thigh with it. It's a stimulant. It should jolt the fog out of his head and chase the sedative away, but it's not exactly a gentle reaction. It's a bit hard on the system, but he's counting on the man's altered biology to take it. "Listen, we gotta get the hell outta dodge, or we'll both end up in SHIELD lockup."
-

"Still… a valid question…"

The Winter Soldier doesn't even notice the syringe, so he certainly doesn't make any move to stop it going into his thigh.

He definitely notices the lightning coursing through his body afterwards drawing him stiffly upright and causing him to seize, sweat, and groan through clenched teeth. It only lasts for a handful of seconds and they pass in the blink of a dilated eye as one drug chases another out of his system.

When it's finally over, he falls slack in his seat, his head lolls forward, and he pants for air.

A couple beats later, he bolts to his feet and starts marching towards the blown out doors, unless barred.

"Where is your escape vehicle? How long do we have before they send back-up?" Even if he isn't held back from leaving, he pauses before hopping outside to peer towards Argyle. "What does SHIELD know?"

-

"Well, I'd say your first two questions are a bit more immediately relevant there, buddy," says Argyle as he hops down out of the back of the van. He flips down the visor on his helmet as soon as he's out again. "They'll be along any time now and the only way I win these kinda battles is with the element of surprise." He steps over one of the prone SWAT agents as a case in point. "I got a bike. You think you can hold on?" He trots ahead and around the corner where he's stashed the getaway vehicle.
-

The Winter Soldier's eyes roam over the first SWAT member he sees upon stepping out, and then he reaches towards his hip for something that isn't there anymore.

"Yes," he states once his face has relaxed from a momentary frown and his hand has fallen. "You have a safe destination in mind," he not-quite-asks while following Argyle around the corner. "SHIELD will be relevant; it's just a question of when."

-

"I thought we'd just go back to my place. Maybe order a pizza. Have a few beers," drawls Argyle. The sarcasm is thick in his voice.

When he reaches the bike, he swings one leg over and starts it up. "This ain't my first rodeo. I might not be a badass shadow assassin but I'm a SHIELD agent. I know how to plan an op. Get on."
-

"I don't really like pizza," the Winter Soldier tonelessly replies. "I've never understood the appeal."

The Winter Soldier climbs on behind Argyle and hangs on tight with his one good arm. Every SWAT member he spots on the way to the bike makes him twitchy all over again; they look like they're out of it, but this still smacks of leaving witnesses to him.

"Why are you here?" he asks while settling in.

-

"Cause you were gonna be transferred to SHIELD after the SWAT team figured out who you are. And you can bet that this time they'd lock you up somewhere you couldn't escape." This isn't really the best time for a debrief, so rather than say more, Argyle peels the motorcycle out.

He knows the city well. Their route is mostly down side streets and quiet neighbourhoods - places where a man with half a metal arm clinging to the back of a motorcycle wouldn't draw as much attention. He's headed somewhere familiar - the power station where the Soldier held him. "If you're worried about my tracker," he calls over the sound of the wind, "…I figured out how to hack it."
-

If anything, Argyle's response makes the Soldier's question that much more pressing, confusing— but, a few years away from an intercepted SWAT vehicle really isn't the best place for debriefing, and he's reasonably satisfied with not digging into the agent's motives as long as they are beneficial to him, anyway.

On the subject of the tracker, he simply replies, "Of course you did; coming here would be too big a risk otherwise. Unless, of course, you are my transfer team."

Judging from the way that he doesn't follow this suggestion by, say, throwing Argyle in a chokehold, it is reasonably likely that he doesn't put much stock in it.

-

There's a bark of laughter from Argyle. "Well, I guess it really ain't paranoia if you're a Russian spy. You can be reasonably sure that they wouldn't send me to collect you. They'd send the Widow."

Taking side streets and avoiding major roads while simultaneously hopping through satellite dead zones means the trip takes longer than any straight route. It also means it's far more likely that they made it to the power station without being tracked. He pulls the bike up around the side of the building, hops off and throws up the kickstand. Only then does he tug the helmet off. His hair is matted down with sweat, but he doesn't look like he sustained any injuries. "Whooo-ee, that fucker's hot. Thought I was gonna get heatstroke. The suit has a cooling system, but the helmet don't."
-

"Yes, almost certainly," the Winter Soldier agrees. Which is probably why there weren't any chokeholds.

He is characteristically silent for the rest of the trip, unless spoken to. The roundabout route that Argyle's taking makes keeping track of where they are and where they're going tricky - he no doubt took an entirely different circuitous path to the power station - but that's where most of his attention goes. There, and watching out for bogeys, obvious or otherwise.

Once they're parked, he climbs off the bike and watches Argyle go through the motions of removing his helmet and cooling off without comment.

"What do you have?" he says instead. There's plenty of sweat popping all over what little can be seen of his face; his tactical gear is not the most comfortable attire while the sun's still beating down.

-

Argyle pulls out a device that cracks the lock on the power station door. He opens it and goes inside. Since it's a big, cavernous space with only high windows and a lot of metal, it's cooler inside than out. He sheds his jacket after shrugging off the backpack. "I grabbed what I thought was your shit." He runs a hand over his hair. It's not long enough to slick back, but it tries to. "I've been running a program to scan for police reports with your MO. What was that all about anyway?"

He digs around in the bag and pulls out a water bottle. He chugs most of it before pausing and offering it over to the other man.
-

The Winter Soldier stares through the power station door as Argyle enters it. Once the agent is a few steps in, he finally begins to follow.

"Someone needed to die," is all the explanation he offers for earlier. He scans for cover points and alternative ways in or out as he enters the station. His hand twitches towards his hip again, then it falls clenched at his side. Until water is offered, of course; he takes and drinks from it without much hesitation. It helps that he just watched Argyle drink most of it himself.

"What you grabbed," he murmurs after emptying the bottle, "it is— valid? How much was there?"

-

"Are you talkin' about your gear, or our little deal?" Argyle drags over a folding chair and drops onto it. He's still sweating and breathing a bit heavily. He reaches down to tug off the motorcycle leathers, leaving him sitting in just his shorts. It's not the most dignified thing ever, but if he stays in the gear, he's liable to get heat stroke.
-

The Winter Soldier pauses, glances between Argyle and the backpack as gears fall into place, then clarifies, "Our deal," since Argyle's on the same page anyway.

The mask and goggles hide it pretty well, but there's a moment of nervous tension afterwards as he peers between the pack and the agent again; once he's successfully swallowed and buried it, he goes to see what Emmett brought along with a murmured, "Good thinking."

-

"Welp, that's reason B I decided to risk my ass and rescue you from the cast of COPS." Argyle takes a deep breath. "I've got some intel for you on who SHIELD thinks you are and the evidence for it. But I also found some intel that suggests you, me'n Nat might be all fucked in the same special way. But before I get into that, you okay?" He motions towards the other man. "They fucked up your arm good."
-

The Winter Soldier glances towards the ruin of his arm with a fleeting frown, then back to Argyle.

"There was someone else who didn't want the first person to die," he states. "I'll be fine. He should have killed me, but he held back— or he wasn't prepared to do it." The assassin's shoulder rolls. At this point, the difference is irrelevant.

"What does she have to do with us?" Beyond the obvious link of their training, of course.

-

"We're all products of mental manipulation. Brainwashing drugs. All that fun stuff." Emmett runs a hand along his jaw, exhales, then lifts his brows. "I'm not sure, but I think we've all got the same strain of drugs in us. What they did to you both informed what they did to me. That also means we might have the same vulnerability." He sets his jaw, then leans forward on his knees. "I think we've got kill switches. That's not too surprising by itself. The big problem is, I think those switches got sold on the open market."
-

The news hits the Winter Soldier like a brick to the elbow: shocking, disorienting, painful in a way that lingers without leaving him utterly reeling. Emmett can't see his eyes darting around as he tries to make that piece of information fit into his carefully sculpted world view, but he can probably hear his breath rate spiking upwards.

"Proof," he mumbles after a few seconds of near-silence. His one hand clenches and unclenches as his eyes set firmly on Argyle. "Give me your proof."

-

"Well, I ain't got it," says Argyle. "I've got clues. I've got threads. I've got references to kill switches, to programmed Russian agents, and a sale that SHIELD tried to intercept about ten years ago and failed. There's no direct reference to any of us. If there was, I wouldn't have been able to access it. But it stands to reason that if there's a list of Russian kill switches out there, that we're on that list."

He stands and crosses to his backpack. He roots around, then pulls out a tablet with a reinforced case. He hands it over to the Soldier with a lift of his chin. "That's all I have. And SHIELD's files on you. Not all of 'em, probably. But there's a lot."

For his part, there's an odd sort of resignation to Emmett's demeanor. It's hard to have your life turned upside down by this news when it was already ripped apart, reassembled and dangled by the ankles off a building.
-

The Winter Soldier's fist closes and shakes for a few moments before he twitches away from Argyle to pace through the rest of his explanation. Right up until the tablet is offered, at which point he races across whatever distance is between them at that point to snatch the device, clutch it tightly in his one hand, and stare into the depths of its blank screen.

"Good," he mumbles as his breathing continues to quicken. "Very good— hh. These— switches." Slowly, he lifts his head to Argyle. "Why do you think that the information was sold?"

-

"Are you kidding?" Argyle scoffs and kicks out a foot. He looks tired, all told. Like he's having a hard time really caring about anything. "Who wouldn't want the power of life and death over a bunch of sleeper agents, deep cover agents and assassins?"
-

"Nobody," the Winter Soldier replies easily enough without looking up. "Which is why information like that is normally kept closely guarded. Are you guessing that it was sold because it has value, or did you find a piece of information that suggested it was?" He sounds distant, the imminent threat of being co-opted or killed by some stranger competing with the weight of what he's holding in his hand— and losing.

-

"A list was definitely leaked, then sold about ten years ago. There was a detailed SHIELD report. The open question is whether or not the three of us are on that list. The seller boasted that the triggers included several 'high value' agents, including augmented humans and deep cover agents." Emmett's brows go up. "Certainly sounds like me'n you, don't it? Now…" he begins, "I wouldn't put it past SHIELD to plant a story like that, but why?"
-

"To see what attention it attracts, perhaps…" the Winter Soldier murmurs.

A beat later, he tears his eyes away with a shiver and focuses them on Argyle. "What do you have on the seller now? On any potential buyers? Are there any threads that we can follow to learn more? If you're right, then we need to know much more than we do now— and we need to learn it quickly." Another beat.

"I will need an arm," he then notes.

-

Emmett extends his hands and lifts his shoulders. "This is all I've got. Hate to say, but we're probably gonna need to bring the Widow in on this. This concerns her as well, and if she's on the list and SHIELD didn't tell her, she has a reason to operate without looping them in. She's also got access to reports I can't, which means she can find out if there's been any movement lately and a lead on anyone we can chase down."

He eyes the ruined bit of the Soldier's arm. "Look, I'm no cyberneticist, but I might be able to help."
-

Inevitably, the Winter Soldier's eyes return to the tablet. The half-an-arm is definitely less affecting. It isn't his first time losing one; it's more painful for the tactical impediment and imperfect performance that it represents than anything.
"If it hasn't been replaced by the time you've contacted her, then— perhaps," he murmurs. Argyle was one of the first non-Russian, non-HYDRA individuals to get a look at its inner-workings— at least, as far as he remembers; cyberneticist or not, there aren't many other people he'd trust to have a shot at repairing it in a reasonable time frame.

It's still HYDRA property, though. HYDRA design.

By the time the Widow has been recruited, he'll perhaps have a clearer sense of how important that is to letting Argyle touch it.

"Can you trust that she won't turn once she's dealt with her own place on the list?"

-

Argyle laughs. It's a humourless sound. "No. No, not really," he admits. "But she feels like she owes me, so I think she'll stay in line." He doesn't make any move to get a look at the arm. He's slowly starting to learn where his boundaries are when it comes to the Soldier. He's also learned his lesson about letting his guard down. The other man having reasons not to attack him doesn't necessarily mean he won't if he happens to get disoriented.

He stands and crosses to the bag. He pulls out a pair of jeans and tugs them on. "Look, I better get back just in case SHIELD sends a real live person to check whether or not I'm at my local watering hole." He nods towards the tablet. "I've seen your face, by the way. File photos. You don't need to stay masked up. I'm not gonna see anything I haven't already." Which could sound dirty and/or funny in a different context.
-

Filing Emmett's analysis away for later, the Winter Soldier heads for the backpack too and gives the agent time to fetch his jeans before bending to set the tablet down and grab his belt.

"The drop we decided on last time: use it when it's time to proceed." It should, he reasons, still be safe, since Emmett ended up going for a more direct method of passing intel along. He continues digging for a while after setting the belt aside, then casts a look in the agent's direction. Questioning, pensive, doleful, dead; it's hard to say.

"This is my face," he eventually murmurs before returning to the search. "Where— " He pauses for a moment, tightening his jaw. "— is my gear?"

-

Rather than challenge the Soldier about masks and faces, he just rolls his eyes. He pulls everything he salvaged out of the backpack, then stuffs the motorcycle leathers in on top. "That's everything that was in the SWAT van. If you have more gear that's not here, it probably got tagged as evidence. It's your problem to try and get that back from the police." He shrugs the bag back onto his shoulders. "I gotta get. I'll be in touch when I know more." And then, unless he's stopped, he heads for the exit.
-

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