The Devil Wears Pravda

December 03, 2016:

The Winter Soldier, hunting a mark for his latest job in Gotham, finds himself interrupted by a girl who is way more than she appears.

Gotham University


NPCs: None.



Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…


The long silence of the night forms the calm at the center of the storm. It's Saturday night, and just off campus, there are dozens of parties and gatherings to celebrate the weekend. And those who aren't partying, are studying. What they all have in common is that they are no where near the faculty parking garage just across from the main campus, it's nearly empty nature testifying to it's status as the last place anyone should run too if they needed help.

Panic doesn't always afford clarity, however.

The door to the stairway kicks open on the top level of the garage, and The Target breaks into a dead run. Footsteps echo with his urgency, with his terror, and a single car waits for him very near the ramp that would let him exit the structure. All he has to do is make it.

The mission was simple - quiet/dark conditions, sensitive area, make it look like a low tech mugging. Nothing the Soldier wasn't used to, right? It meant no guns - the University was crawling with metal detectors, and an alarm might set them off.

That's where this all began. In the library. But something went wrong. /Someone/ tipped The Target off, and now the man ran with his head start, one that was quickly shrinking, a metallic fear drying in his throat as he tries to get to his car. Maybe he lost him. Maybe it his attacker didn't want to be seen chasing him all this way.

Or maybe his mind was just making up scenarios in which he might, somehow, make it out of this alive.


No guns. It's fine. He likes both his knives, and he doesn't spend nearly enough time with them.

The Soldier had a longstanding mission in the tri-city area, one of those things that required multiple steps taken across the bodies of multiple people, but that didn't mean he wasn't still on tap to get other stuff done in the meantime. Mr. Other Stuff— his panic, his fear, his entire life on the line— is ultimately a side job, a distraction. Maybe even, in the morbid parlance of the career assassin, a pastime.

It's a sobering, diminishing thought— to be someone else's detour. Maybe it's one he'll ruminate on later, if he survives.

For now he's focused on surviving. He's alone for now, and everything is silent. It seemed like a bad call at first to come out here, where it's dark and quiet and there's no one else around, but maybe the night was enough to lose his pursuer. He hasn't heard himself being followed since before the last five minutes. He hasn't seen an actual glimpse of his pursuer at all. He's making noise now, too much noise, but the ramp out of here is so close, and if he just puts on some speed he'll get to it and all the noise he's making won't matter.

In the dark, like the murmur of a nightingale, there is the slight humming whir of something made of metal and gears.

It immediately precedes the whisper of a thrown blade, which cuts through the air on a direct course to try to hamstring the man's right leg.


The blade isn't the only thing flying through the air. Mr. Other Stuff hears the blade. Hears his doom only a second before it strikes, but not at the perfect place to hamstring him. It grazes along his pant leg and slams hard into the car he is heading for, puncturing metal and vibrating in place.

Mr. Other Stuff doesn't notice because he's been plowed sidelong by a human cannonball in the form of The Dark Devil, which probably does more damage than the knife would have done as they both hit concrete, Mr. Other Stuff groaning as the small slip of a girl takes an almost feral stance that stops her roll as her eyes - unburdened by a mask - scan for the source of the throw.

She can feel it. The Hunter, so /close/, her goosebumps a sign of the adrenaline that's powering into her system as The Devil Inside roils for a fight.

This is no thug. No criminal. This is another predator.

"You should get the fuck up and keep running." Her voice is deeper than most would expect from such a small slip of a creature, and she sounds distracted, focused instead on her other senses as her reflexes wind up for the second act.

For his part, The Target is thankful the car is only a few feet away, his eyes wide at the blade that's stuck in it - but he hobbles his way towards the space between the girl and his vehicle.


Continued silence. Straining ears can almost hear decisions being recalculated on the appearance of intervention. The hunter still fails to materialize from the darkness… probably because ever since that third person leapt into the fray, he has been repositioning, too canny to remain in the same spot where his position might be triangulated from the throw.

He has been repositioning, flanking wide along the side of this newly-delineated modern day arena of combat, in order to get closer.

The Target is a corporate suit. He was here to visit his kid at university; it's one of her first weekends ever away from home, she's not adjusting well, and he didn't have the heart to listen to her cry another week. He's not in the best of shape; he wouldn't be fast even if he weren't now injured. He's certainly not fast enough to make good time, with the net effect that by the time he's reaching for the car door handle, someone else is right there with him.

No choice left but to break cover, the assailant leaves the dark in a blur of black and silver. There is a louder whir of metal moving, engaging, locking— and this strange assassin fists his left hand down on the rear bumper of the car and YANKS, pulling the entire vehicle out of the shocked man's reach in a violent backwards haul. The assassin's other hand dips and pulls a blade as he advances, prompting his intended prey to backpedal so fast he trips and hits the ground.

The assassin is singularly focused on his job. So focused, he went around the girl rather than directly engage. But now he's forced out into the open…


The Dark Devil has not been trained. For her the instinct to move when she hears that terrible sound again is hackle-raising, but unlike the wise, she does not move away. The car shudders and shakes as rubber drags across the ground as a precursor to to utter doom, and the man trips with all the horrors one faces when mortality crashes hard. The astute would hear other quickened breathing, the rushed breath of a woman on the edge of sensory overload as she watches the impossible. "Holy fuck."

Then, she is in motion. The Soldier will see her coming, it's all about how much he cares.

Once again she is airborne, and if she's learned anything about how to fight with such a tiny frame, it's that she has to use every single ounce with all the advantages physics can buy. The smash of body against body is audible. Her knees were together for a kidney blow - but she will not expect the brick-like musculature of the Winter Soldier. There's a grunt, and where most might sprawl or bounce off him, a hand loops at his belt to stay close and swing a hammerfist down towards his weapon-wielding wrist. She strikes hard for someone her size, but she's still only human.

The Dark Devil could not possibly comprehend the danger of grappling with this man, even after seeing what he's done. Could not fathom the error of her ways or what a focused assault from him might look like. All she sees is the thrill of battle rushing up to meet her. But hey, maybe it'll buy a little time for Horror McHorrorFace to pull his act together and get his jog on.


There are reactions to his removal of the vehicle. The Winter Soldier does not respond to any of them. He does not care. While others waste time on shock, he moves immediately in for the kill, as singleminded as a spider with something in its web.

He is halfway to his mark when he notices movement as his periphery. A masked face turns, perceiving her as she lunges through the air, and a split second decision has him turn to brace into her impact. The intended kidney shot is taken low in the side of the chest instead, forcing him to widen his stance even more to rock with the blow. Her follow-up chops down into his wrist, jolting the blade out of his grasp.

He makes no sound, still— almost as if that mask were equal parts muzzle— but his eyes narrow obviously.

His left arm is much louder, up close. It telegraphs its every action with a whine of its internals. That advance warning isn't much of an advantage this close though, because it only comes half a second before his left hand reaches in a swift attempt to literally scruff her and tear her off him, the force of it sufficient to send her cartwheeling back off his body.

At the least, while he's distracted with the girl, his intended mark manages to get to his car and get into it. He'll probably be okay at this rate, though no telling what losing his victim will do to the Winter Soldier's mood.


The mechanical triumph of that arm as it pulls The Dark Devil free and tosses her like so much refuse is enough to make her teeth gnash together, knees and elbows and hands slamming to concrete to stop her momentum and kick it into reverse.

She's up as the car starts, and her pupils dilate to take him in, the Devil's instincts screaming at her from all corners of her mind. His left side is strongest. His core is solid rock. You must be quick. You must be /lethal/.

Of course, that's the last thing it always tells her, always about the kill, and while normally she tries to push that fire to the back of her mind, right now she needs it and every ounce of pain in her body to channel the strength for the confrontation at hand.

She should be running. Instead she chooses violence.

There's a bob to the Soldier's left, towards the mechanical arm that she knows is so very powerful, and a dart right, feet dragging on the concrete as she pummels in with a flurry of blows that come with cross-planted feet, each step driving power from the ground as her narrow hips pivot and transfer strength to corded arms. Each blow works to his right and her left, a boxer's tactic and gait leading her into the mouth of the beast.


The car starts. His tenacious little attacker temporarily quelled, the Soldier turns— only to find his target already on the run, the vehicle fishtailing a little with its owner's utmost haste to be OUT OF HERE. Without a firearm, there's no stopping that car now. He'll have to refind the target. Have to restalk him. Have to corner him again and kill him, or else he'll have failed his task.

Nothing— by design of his conditioning— makes the Winter Soldier madder than the idea of failing a task. And the Dark Devil seems intent on sticking around to see just how mad he can get.

That's not something the Soldier expects. He expects running. She saved the man, after all. Her purpose is done. But other people, he's found, seem to do things in excess of what's strictly required of them, often hanging around long after it stopped making sense to do so— long after their task was complete. It is not something he understands, himself, but who is he to question it?

All he needs to know is the fact that she seems intent on not letting him leave.

She darts in, feinting towards his left. He braces in that direction… only to lift his right arm at the last moment to intercept the first few of her hooking blows. He watches her, his blue eyes remote and indifferent, observing her pugilist's stance, feeling in his flesh-and-bone arm the boxing-trained blows that hammer into him. Something about that echoes familiar to him. Something about that is intrinsically known in him, in that murky place deep under the conditioning.

Being reminded of that stuff makes him madder.

He gives ground before her assault, feigning a weak and weakening right side. He baits her to commit farther and farther into him, feeding her aggression. It is all build-up for the moment, once she dares in too close, when he will pivot. When his titanium-steel arm will swing in, shrieking like a creature in and of itself, to slam full-on into her core.


The Soldier withers, and the Devil stirs. He backpeddles, and the Devil in her mind cries out for blood! There's a pant of a sound as she presses to close, presses her advantage, armored knuckles driving hard into an armpit, the kind of blow that would rock a normal human.

She just doesn't yet understand the dynamic, but The Winter Soldier is a very good teacher.

Her left arm swings out as if to intercept that blow, but it powers past her meager defense and into her side with bone-shattering force. He'll see it up close, that look of shock, the one that usually comes before someone /goes/ into shock. Then only jubilant exaltation. Her gasp for breath is a gasp of overwhelmed sensation, and as the fist sends her center of gravity rocketing sidelong she drops to her knees with a choked sound of muscles spasming in her stomach and a lung laboring under the the pressure of floating bone rattling against it.

This should be it. The last of her fight.

It's not.

Pain is fuel, and there's a snarling, inhuman sound as she rises up, as if to square with him again, and then dives, almost headlong, to his low left, a surprising reversal of tactics that may be absurdly confusing for the trained. Superman might be proud of the pose she gets, aiming her fist for the Soldier's groin with the kind of downward, speed-bag style punch that's meant to wring his pair of smooth criminals in for the new year.

It's the kind of punch only someone who's experienced the difference between an upward kick to the groin and the kind of reverberating horror that happens when someone slams them when they hang free.

Certainly Azalea Kingston has no such knowledge. But the Devil Inside misses it's pair so very much that it can't help but remember the good times… and the bad.

Successful or not, The Dark Devil is going to feel it too, a popping as another rib cracks under the force of her own assault.


If there's one thing Azalea will carry out of this— if she makes it out alive— it will be hard-earned, bloody experience taught to her straight from the hands of a man who has been instructing killers for decades. Normally, there's a charge for that kind of thing.

Unfortunately, she'll have to glean and process those lessons herself, because the aim of the Winter Soldier tonight is not to teach. It is to kill. And as the man he came here to kill has been wrenched away from him, now he must make do with this replacement. The girl who cost him his mark.

He could leave, of course. That would probably be the more pragmatic option. But even a creature as cold as the Winter Soldier can indulge in something as gratuitous as 'pointlessly vengeful emotion' once in a while, and a little delay won't make much difference either way.

In this moment, it seems, the lesson she will learn will be one of 'not being taken in.' She overextended, just as baited, and the Soldier transitions with reptilian savagery from failing inertness to sudden violence. Lured in, she has no option but to try to parry. His head cants at her, almost curious at this effort, one split second before metal plows straight through her defense and pops a rib into three pieces.

Most men would smile, would exult, would react at least somewhat to such a solid hit. The Winter Soldier just stares through her as she tumbles and falls to her knees. He watches her as she wavers there, his demeanor as patient and relentless as falling snow.

She does not get up. He dismisses her as done. He steps back, turning away— only to be proven wrong when he hears a scrape of motion behind him. He faces her again, and Azalea is treated to the sight of surprise replacing the indifference in his pale eyes.

Then she connects. He reels back a few steps, and this time it's abundantly obvious this is no trick weakness. Yet at the same time, it's also certainly not having the same effect it should. He's recovering way too fast. He's—

—pissed off and in her face. Metal shrieks in her ears as his steel hand goes straight for her throat.

"I wonder." His voice is as void of affect as his eyes. "Were you sent to protect him? Or were you just unlucky?"


The blow to his groin might be a surprise, and if she had a real understanding of how badly it should hurt - if she had real experience, instead of some spiritual muscle memory, she'd know how stupid it is to rise up and try to meet him yet /again/. That strangling metal arm catches her in another lunge forward, but because of her head start it gets her before he can go full stiff arm. Still, he'll get a closer look at her face this way.

The satisfying way her cheeks darken and capillaries strain at the pressure to her neck. The sudden absence of sound as one hand clamps down on metal, and the other flails out, comically, like two siblings grappling, the smaller one trying to push at the other one's face to force it to wince away in pain.

Her palm presses to his forehead for a brief moment in time, and they'll both feel a bridge of darkness. The Devil Wants In. It's a reaction to meeting it's match, to want to jump to the bigger fish before it's eaten, but it's always been to weak to do that in it's mad and fractured state. And so it leeches at Bucky's memories and they'll both see the past fly by.

"Holy f..f…. /Steve/."

A shadow falling away, a face obscured as the cold wraps around him. The memory blends and fades for them both as the Soldier's cyclic life flashes before their eyes. There's no blade in the world that could cut so deep as that name, one with no real meaning, but very real /importance/.

It's over as the cycle of murders sends a rush up her spine, ecstatic, everything the Devil wants. Everything it needs, a kind of nourishment that gives her the strength to speak, to pull her legs up to her chest even as her choked words spill forth. "I'm not unlucky. I'm not here for him. I'm here for /you/." Her hand slips from his head to the collar of his tactical vest, and she yanks to pull herself closer. "I'm with you till the end of the line."

POW!!Shehe kicks out with both her feet, aiming not for his iron core or his groin, but something more permanently destructible: His closest kneecap.


His left hand fists closed about her throat. Without effort, he plucks her from the ground, throttling her slowly, indifferent to the bats and claws of her hands against his forearm. The surface is too smooth, too unyielding, too inhuman: there's nothing for her nails to dig into, no weak spot for her to leverage, nothing for her to grasp onto.

He watches her struggle at the end of his arm. He watches the slow departure of life from her body. There is no life in his own gaze. No sadistic joy. No satisfaction. No anger, even— not anymore. His gaze unfocuses, staring a thousand miles away, as if killing her could not even hold his attention. Just another death in decades and decades worth of deaths. Nothing new. Nothing notable.

Up until a stray brush of her hand touches his face, anyway, and the dark passenger in her body strains to abandon her to her fate— to infest this new strong host instead. It doesn't go as planned for any of them.

Cold assails them all. The bone-chilling, skeleton-shriveling cold of being soaked to the skin and prone in the snowfalls of Siberia, with only enough blood left in the body to sustain some flicker of life. Cold— and the last memory of a voice calling out.
Pain comes to them next. The pain of a hacksaw through tattered flesh and bone. The pain of a mind being torn apart. The kind of pain that leaves a lifelong aversion to the sound of electricity— a reflex hatred that can reduce even someone like him to cagey silence.
The mental replay pauses on that agony. The sound of piercing electricity skips, loops, and rewinds. It repeats itself again— then again. Then again. The agony is without relief. In a constant cycle, memories rise as slowly and silently as carp in a pond, only to be torn apart.
Over and over. The same thing. The only things that change are the locations, the faces of the people that torture him, and the clothes that they wear.

There is a brief flash of someone's face. It's accompanied by a name, and by an urgent, desperate need: look after this. It's accompanied by unfamiliar words in a familiar voice.

The scene changes. Images flicker by like a flipbook being paged through. Most of this man's memories have been torn to shreds, but these stay fresh as a photographs. Decades and decades of conditioning… accomplished as simply as leaving him with nothing but mental images of his own hands doing violence. In these memories, he sees men plead up at him for their lives by the invocation of their wives, their children. In these memories, he watches his hands push blades through their throats, put bullets between their eyes. He watches as he finds the wives, and the children, and does the same to them. Years and years of this. Decades of it.

The girl sees all of it too. And she says something she should not say, as she twists in his grasp.

The Winter Soldier's indifference transfigures, immediately and explosively, into rage. She says that one impossible thing and he twists and THROWS her from him. She doesn't even have to connect her blow to get him to free her, though perhaps she would have preferred less velocity involved in being freed; he propels her with all his left arm's strength, all his automaton coldness replaced with confused fury.


If only she had some control. Some calculation. Maybe she could have struck first and then rung his mind with his old, comforting line for his old, old buddy. But she doesn't even know what she said. She doesn't even know what she saw, and again the images play in her mind as she believes, for a moment, that she is the one launching herself. So much death. Destruction. The best movie ever written for The Devil Inside, and the worst nightmare realized for Azalea Kingston: Everything she does not want to become.

Blood and saliva dribbles in a trail through the air and is joined by her hair as she becomes a rocket launched with the force of one man's confused, obtuse fury. Her eyes flutter against the power of the throw, and she remembers a simpler time, where she might enjoy this ride much like one in an amusement park, limbs dangling before her as she rockets backwards.

Blood erupts from her mouth in a gout when she hist the concrete bankment at the end of the parking garage roof, going nearly flat against it with bone-crushing force that should stop her momentum, but does not.

There's a groan of alarm as it topples backwards, and her with it, a salient shriek of furious defiance as gravity takes hold to spin half a ton of poured rock and rebar some sixty feet to the pavement, and with a final, satisfying slump of a sound her body hits the plastic lid of a shallow dumpster and obliterates it inward.

Somewhere inside, she disappears among shredded paper and half a week's refuse, as crumpled as any other bug at it's bottom that's just been stepped on.

Bucky may not ever conquer his demons, but he certainly conquered The Devil tonight.


Everything she does not want to become. Everything that he already has become. The Winter Soldier is a representative standing at the end of one potential path for Azalea Kingston; an Azalea Kingston consumed by her own dark passenger, become a slave to impulses, commands, and creeds that are not her own.

Perhaps some part of him, buried deeply, realizes that in a moment of clarity brought on by the flood of images. Realizes his own deteriorated state, even if he cannot remember what it was he deteriorated FROM. Impotent rage flares up in him, with nowhere to go but outwards.

Outwards onto the body of the girl in his grasp.

In blind fury he hurls her away. He places no check on his strength. No restraint on the full potential of that arm. It puts her into a cement wall; then propels her straight through it. The disturbed wall gives both before his strength, and her Devil-given resilience, taking her in a horrific plummet sixty feet down.

Silence descends after the final crash of impact.

The Winter Soldier is left alone, breathing hard but evenly. His eyes stare off into the distance, his mind trying to grasp onto something that is already receding even as he tries to hold on. His hands lift, grasping at his hair in frustration, the pain of the gesture helping center him.

Then, without a word, he turns and walks away, vanishing back into the dark.

He could search for the girl. Ensure that she is dead. But part of him is afraid to go back within the reach of her hands, where this might happen again.

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