Enter the God #!*$ Dragon

May 03, 2017:

Bucky Barnes, Red Robin, and Jessica Jones decide it's high time to speak to Adelaide Weir. Unfortunately, things get more than a bit hairy when the Cult of the Cold Flame comes to the exact same conclusion.

Berlin, Germany

A place where nobody knows how to give a good villain speech anymore. What's up with that, anyway?

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Zatanna Zatara, Jane Foster

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Since the interrogation of Reiner brought Weir up as another potential, serious information source, especially as it pertains to that journal, the day's work involves driving over to Adelaide's flat. Whomever is driving and whatever is being driven, Jessica is firmly in the back seat. She's not a good driver and she can't even begin to wrap her brain around driving on the other side of the road.

Thus, she is more than capable of checking her phone when a gentle 'ping' sounds from it. Jarvis helpfully says, "You have an urgent security alert from Dunce, Miss Jones."

"Shit," Jessica mutters. She pulls up a camera feed, and then the next, "Shit!" grows more urgent.

"We'd better move and move fast. Cold Flame assholes just pulled up at Weir's building. I recognize one of them from an encounter back in New York. Two cars…" she zooms in. "Six cultists. I don't think they're running up for tea."

The car is a new car. The BMW, after Jane, was just flat-out done for. When it came time to pick who did the driving next, Bucky quietly got in there and insisted. Jessica wasn't too confident about it, and Tim for some reason was happy to let the supersoldier have his way.

It's not until they're underway, with both his hands occupied by the wheel, that Bucky has it occur to him why Tim might have been so copacetic with taking shotgun.

Bucky makes no comment about it, because to make a comment would be to admit Tim probably did have an ulterior motive and that it may be successful. He just navigates his way down the streets of Berlin at a much more reasonable rate than Jane. He's actually a really good driver, considering his age, though when one considers how he acquired the skills to drive modern-day cars… things get a little depressing.

He only picks up speed once Jessica starts cursing and says they better get in there fast, because Shit just happened. "Great," he sighs, and suddenly the car LUNGES forward with a jerk. It stops again almost as fast, mercifully, Bucky moderating down to a more natural acceleration. "Sorry," he says. "Cars these days. Light and flimsy as shit. You used to have to put a brick on the pedal to get anywhere, and two-hand the doors to get 'em shut…"

This continues as they speed along towards Weir's building. They may have just traded the torture of Jane for another kind of torture: car ride with grandpa.

—-

The list of people on the trip who can safely drive has grown increasingly small. At this point, it seems to be basically just Bucky and Red Robin.

The poor BMW might not be a complete write-off, but suitable repairs would keep it off the road until after they'd have left Germany anyway, so there was little choice but to acquire a new car. The main requirement was that it be sizeable enough to fit the whole group if necessary, since the vigilante has neither the time nor the facilities to make any serious customisation to their ride anyway.

And, regrettably, Zatanna's storage spell can't handle anything large enough that he could bring one of his own vehicles along from Gotham.

(He did ask.)

In the passenger seat with his seatbelt securely fastened, the younger man has his red-cased laptop sitting open on his legs, multitasking as he usually does. Building schematics, feeds from the bat-drones and the tracker he planted on Reiner while he was sedated just in case. Even with the precaution of having the witch hide her teleporting trail, he's concerned about the Cold Flame, or Steinschneider, or who knows who else turning up at the penthouse.

Jessica's warning doesn't ease those concerns much at all. Neither does the sudden lurch foward the car makes, as Bucky tries to reconcile 'supersoldier strength' with 'modern car that's mostly aluminum and pressure-molded plastic and fibreglass'.

"We can handle six," Red Robin says, doing a quick inventory of what he's carrying. It is, of course, far more than he seems to be carrying, and that without using any magic. "If they're like the ones in the attack on the pub, they're thugs. Nothing fancy, just lobbing fireballs and Force Lightning and whatever." He shuts the laptop, slides it under his seat, before pulling a jaggedly designed domino mask out from his jacket pocket, and attaching it to his face. He adds gloves this time, flexing his fingers in the tight material while his wearable computer boots up. "Just think of it like a gun. No big deal. A few broken bones drops them just like anyone else."

This is probably a veiled 'so don't kill them' to grampa, and of course he would talk about facing multiple armed opponents like it was 'no big deal'.

—-

"Five walked inside. One's standing by the car. Lookout? He's doing something."

Despite this report from the back seat, the team will have the chance to see it all soon enough. As Bucky approaches he'll see one be-suited man, wreathed in the black, icy coil of some sort of swirling magic, with twin tethers running to the hoods of both cars. This close they can see that the cars are covered in elaborate rune work, some sort of painstaking and very large pre-prepped spell. Thugs they may be, but there are those among them who are not thugs. There are those who delve into mysteries both ancient and forbidden. There are those who are well aware of the calibre of the people who have come to oppose them.

"Weir lives on the third floor," Jessica reports, since she's spent most of her time staring into said third floor. "Back of the building, apartment 3B. There are no elevators in the building. It's stairs only. All the first floor apartments are occupied, 2C and 2 A are empty; C is on the south side of the building, A is on the north." She did, in fact, find ways to check all of this out when this was her job, and she relays it all now, just in case any or all of this information is helpful to the cause of thwarting the Cold Flame's goals. She tosses the phone back in her jacket pocket, then, adding, "I can probably leap up there and get her the Hell out."

She may walk that thin fine line between Bucky's stance and Red's when it comes to killing, but in general, protecting the civilians and looking out for the little guy is always going to be her first priority.
POT: Jessica Jones just posed.

—-

Bucky eases off the gas as they approach, and by the time they're doing a drive-by, he's putting along at 'totally normal Berlin driver' speed. It gives the three of them a good view of what's going on outside, at the least. It doesn't… look good. With neither John nor Zatanna along to tell them what the hell's going on with those runes, they'll just have to assume that it's Something Bad.

"We can handle six," Bucky agrees as he swings the car around a corner and looks for another street he can drive down that would double them back behind the building. "But can we handle whatever shit's going on on those cars?"

He pulls over once he finds a suitable spot, absorbing Jessica's information. His eyes narrow in thought. "Rather just handle five, and never let the sixth know we were here at all. They look like they're geared up to defend against something big and direct, not something quiet. Which, to be fair, given how we handled the last thing…"

He shrugs. "Course, it could be some kinda detection spell, but we gotta run that risk anyway, I guess."

—-

"Fine by me," Red Robin says on the subject of taking a more stealthy approach. There's no way of telling exactly what sort of sorcery the Cultist out front is up to, the young man's meager knowledge on the subject definitely not enough to help there; perhaps something to do with the vehicles directly, given what happened the last time the Cold Flame tried to run off with a person of interest. Perhaps there is some kind of detection spell afoot, something that will give them away as soon as they try anything.

Best to just expect the worst, and figure out a way through anyway.

"You could," he agrees with Jessica, already switching the vision in his domino mask to thermographic. Looking to see where the bodies are, even as he gets out of the car. If the cultists are moving as a group, they'd stand out, but it's also good to see how many people are in 3B to begin with. "Let's play this carefully, though. Leave the car running."

He can't make a leap up to the third floor in a single go, that much is certain. But what he can do is jump up and stick to the outside wall, starting to scale it the old fashioned way… As long as the 'old fashioned way' involves geckskin gloves and boot inserts, tiny filaments charged with electricity letting him cling to the wall and climb up by exploiting the van der waals force.

—-

Tim's mask tells him the cultists are purposefully moving up the stairwell. At the moment where he begins crawling up the wall on the western side of the building they're about halfway up the second flight of stairs, not quite in 3B yet.

Jessica gets out of the car; slipping to the side of the building as well. She issues no complaints about not tangling with whatever bullshit is out front. That strikes her as hella sound. But this also means she's not going to go Kool-Aid Woman through the back window like she might have if they were doing it the loud way. She misses New York; there, this building might have had a fire escape. Instead, when she leaps she simply grabs onto the lower ledge and pulls herself up into one of Adelaide's two narrow window ledges. The curtains are, thankfully, closed, giving her a place to wedge herself until everyone's ready to head in and make this thing happen, whatever the shape of that ultimately ends up looking like.

—-

That decided, Bucky slides into work mode with silent efficiency. Leaving the engine idling, he gets out of the car and circles around. Red has his thermographic mask; Bucky Barnes has his five senses, enhanced and sharp. It's the sixth man he's listening for, keeping an ear out for any changes in his activity that might suggest something going awry outside of their eyeshot.

At the least he's not pulling out a gun immediately this time.

He probably could make the leap straight through the third floor window himself, as well, but opts not to for the same reason Jessica doesn't. He just backs up a step, takes a silent running leap halfway up, scales noiselessly up the wall the remainder of the way, catches the ledge of the window Jessica isn't occupying, and hoists himself up. He inspects the window carefully, quickly ascertaining it's a simple sash lock; he uses his left arm to pry patiently at it, working it incrementally upwards with a quiet whir of the prosthetic, applying only enough force to get the lock to give way with a soft pop.

Good thing the curtains are closed.

He glances around, meeting eyes with Jessica and Tim, waiting for any relevant input they might have before he slides into the apartment through the cracked window.

—-

The geckskin is rigged in with the rest of the wearable tech that Red Robin prefers; the same neural impulses that let him switch between different forms of vision through the lenses in his domino mask let him activate and deactivate the charge running through the fine filaments that let him climb, so that he can actually let go to keep moving upwards. It's not as natural and effortless as the way someone with an innate ability to do this - say, someone bitten by a radioactive spider - would find it, but it's still remarkably handy.

Especially in situations where a grapple gun isn't viable. Berlin isn't a towering city like New York or Gotham. You have to adapt to your environment.

"They're close to the third floor," he whispers, just loud enough for the communicator he's wearing to pick it up. "Timing is going to be tight."

In this case, 'tight' means 'no room for error'.

But that means there's no time to dally, either. There's nothing to be done but to slip inside through the windows.

—-

Given the expertise of the two men, managing the timing isn't that hard. Jessica, for her part, isn't going to pop her own window until the shit hits the fan, cause hers is loud, and leaping over to Bucky's would just put her mostly in the super-soldier's way, along with Red's.

So she lets them go first, but she's not far behind.

Timing is tight, but here is what tight timing buys.

Adelaide Weir stands in her kitchen, brewing a cup of coffee. Her eyes widen as people just help themselves to her home through the windows. The retiree snatches up the boiling water she was about to pour into her French press, ready to use it as a weapon…

Just as one of the cultists kicks the door down. The shadows begin to boil as they pour into the room, detatching from the walls, forming rope-like masses that go whipping across the walls and the floor towards the party and the retiree. The two in front seem to be manipulating those like puppet masters. They move quickly to get all the way into the flat so the three in back can fan out behind them, lightning sparking at fingertips…

—-

They're close, Tim says. Bucky flickers his eyes over, and that serves as acknowledgement enough. He takes it on himself to take point, because of everyone present he's probably the most durable just naturally, what with his supersoldier's constitution and his built-in shield of an arm.

If anyone should be the one drawing fire, it should probably be him.

He slips in through the window, disrupting the curtain, and very quickly he notices a few things. One, the occupant is understandably not pleased to see them either. Two, the shadows are moving. Three, there's some more guys in the back charging up lightning to fire at them. This, he perceives and processes in about half a second. Hm, he thinks.

"Stay back, please," he barks at the woman in German, even as he immediately interposes himself between her and the shadows streaking to attack her. It's hopefully enough of an indication they're not here to harm her, though he's pretty prepared to dodge boiling water if it gets thrown at him anyway. This might be the juncture at which Red would fear Bucky pulling a gun and going to town, but miraculously he doesn't. Maybe he took the hint in the car.

Instead he seizes the closest thing to hand, which happens to be a cutting board, and wings it straight for the head of the closer of the shadow-casters. It's calculated to hit and ricochet to try to clock one of the lightning-hurlers in the back as well.

—-

It makes a definite sense for Bucky to lead the charge on this one, with his increased ability to endure punishment: Red Robin is well aware of the advantages of working with metahumans, and knows a few who make excellent shields for vulnerable civilians, like for example retired ladies they're trying to keep out of the hands of evil wizard cultists. He isn't about to argue the wisdom of this arrangement, no matter how reflexively self-sacrificing certain people might be able to accuse him of being.

Magical thugs or not, the cultists aren't stupid, and move quickly to be able to move in force, to get into the flat so that they don't have to worry about hitting each other with their preferred arcane weaponry. Creeping shadows, the distinctive crackle of building electricity.

Barnes, hurling a cutting board.

It is more reassuring than a gun.

"Miss Jones, maybe you could see about getting her out to the car," the vigilante suggests. The flat is quite effectively compromised, even if they do take these cultists out it's not as though they're going to be able to sit around and have a nice chat. "Eyes," he adds, seemingly apropos of nothing.

At least, until he hurls the flash grenade at the Cold Flame cultists. His mask will protect his vision, but he's banking on the cultists still having few precautions against things being done the old fashioned way.

—-

The cutting board hurls through the air and slams into the cultist's head. That's one down, dropped as if he were a marionette with his strings cut. This prompts one of the shadow weavers to send those shadows flinging towards Bucky's neck. They are solid, like iron; they attempt to wrap around and around, to strangle him.

Jessica springs for Adelaide. <"Go lets,"> she says in German, very authoratively. Adelaide whips the pot at her; Jessica flings up her jacketed arm to take it, hissing with pain but not overly slowed. This does mean that the other set of tentacles get pretty close. She whips out a white candle, carved with symbols, lights it, and brandishes it at them. It's a hedge spell so weak it doesn't even need a mana source, one of the protective ones from a book Zatanna gave her at her request. It's good for buying time, but time is all Jessica needs. The shadows sizzle away from her, and she firmly seizes Adelaide in the other arm. The old woman decks Jess, and the private eye loses patience. She firmly and decisively gives the woman a controlled pop in the head with the flat of her hand to put her out. It may seem brutal, cold, but there's no time for struggling with the woman she's trying to rescue. Then she's out the window with the civilian.

The flash grenade goes off; cultists cry out, this will certainly stop spellwork and prevent lightning from being thrown. This catches all but one of them.

That one had already gone, not for Adelaide, but for her bedroom. He springs through the door, snarls a harsh, gutteral word. A crackling energy shield slams between him and the rest of the combatants. There's no sound of breaking glass, but the sound of a room being thoroughly tossed does reach the ears of the two heroes.

—-

Shadow whips towards the soldier as he takes up position in front of the woman to be extracted. With a whir of metal he gets his left arm up, interposing it in place of his neck once the shadows try to wrap down around it; he doesn't wait around long enough for the sorcerer to untangle his shadow-weapons and try again, twisting around and shoving his arm towards Jessica as she holds up that hedge spell to dispel them.

Eyes, Tim says right afterwards. Bucky immediately shuts his, understanding the callout. It's not dissimilar to how he would operate with the others during the war. At least one of the Howling Commandos really loved gadgets and explosives too.

He waits until the flare of white against his lids dissipates before he reopens his eyes. He doesn't strictly need them to convey him through the fight; he can hear and feel well enough, sense the displacement of air. He's already moving before the flash dissipates, while the mages are still stumbling in disoriented blindness.

He doesn't really need a gun to be deadly, especially in such close quarters. His bare hands will suffice for the remaining cultists who are up, and he goes for the one who isn't affected by the flashbang first. In continued deference to Tim's nagging, however, he does not go for killing blows, moderating the power in his left arm down to mere knockout hits.

It hopefully leaves an opening for Tim to do something about that guy turning her room upside down.

—-

An additional advantage of having Jessica handle Adelaide Weir is that it doesn't mean either Red Robin or Bucky need to, you know, hit a woman. A woman of retirement age, no less!

Not that either of them wouldn't, if they had to… But, you know.

You know.

The flash grenade was a bit of a two-part gambit, the vigilante hoping that even if it wasn't enough to disrupt the sorcery outright it would at least banish the shadows in the room long enough that the umbral tendrils would be useless for a few seconds: A few seconds is really all they need, between a super soldier and one of the Bat's proteges.

With Bucky tangling with the brunt of the Cold Flame squad, the younger man is left to pursue the one currently ransacking an old lady's bedroom; the energy barrier blocking the door looks like a nuisance, especially when the walls are going to be much less sturdy.

With a quick mental impulse, the view through Red Robin's mask switches, letting him see the movement of electromagnetic energy through the walls: He doesn't want to accidentally hit the wiring, here. The hope of some kind of subtlety keeps him away from explosive gel, but of course he has other options. The hum of the laser cutter is quiet, but it carves through the old, relatively flimsy building materials in a flash, cutting a circular hole in Adelaide's bedroom wall large enough for the young man to slip through, assuming the energy shield doesn't block the whole wall, putting him in a low crouch inside the older woman's boudoir, ready to leap at the hopefully distracted Cultist.

—-

Bucky is left outside with just two cultists who are staggering from the blindness. One blindly casts out his hand and snarls a word; a wave of harsh, concussive force blasts through the apartment, whipping the couch and television into the air, sending both these fixtures straight towards Bucky, as well as the burst of force itself. The second one casts a healing spell on both of them, clearing their eyes so that they might continue to tangle with the legendary soldier. Zealous, or not particularly smart, or just confident, or all of the above.

The cultist in the bedroom has cast a handy spell which has basically ripped everything in the room into one central vortex, which he searches through with ruthless efficiency. The bedspread twirls around with coathangers, clothing, nicknacks…and books.

One of those books is an ancient leatherbound journal that looks like it's gathered a great deal of dust over the years. The cultist plucks it out of the air and whips around to see Red Robin coming through the wall.

He whips his hand over and sends the entire mess at the bedroom window (facing north). Glass tinkles and shatters in an impressive explosion. He makes a flying leap in that direction, obviously intending to make his escape with his prize.

—-

The thing about having to gesture to cast spells is that you telegraph awfully. When you're up against someone fast enough to aim-dodge gunfire, that's just not going to work. Bucky sees the outflung hand, knows something's coming, and braces hard against the blast of force. He ducks and slides under the couch, sidesteps the TV — and his left hand snaps out, seizing the thing straight out of the air. He turns with its initial momentum before wrenching it powerfully off its path, redirecting it straight back towards the cultist who flung it with… probably not lethal force.

Probably?

He doesn't stop moving afterwards. Trusting Tim to have the guy in the bedroom handled, he goes straight for the throat of the second cultist, invading into his personal space with intent to cut him off from being able to spam any more lightning or related nonsense. He makes to seize the man by the throat with his steel left hand and throttle until he passes out.

If he gets ahold, it won't take long for that to happen at all.

—-

If there's any rule that Red Robin has picked up in his years studying under the World's Greatest Detective, it's that ancient-looking journals are usually pretty important. Especially if evil wizards are after them. It's always a possibility that whatever useful information might be in that journal they could also obtain by asking Weir - assuming the older woman is willing to talk after Jessica popped her in the head; the vigilante makes a mental note to make sure that Adelaide gets a CAT scan later - but it's also a possibility that it can't be gotten any other way.

And even if it could be, why let the Cold Flame have that information, too?

The north-facing window explodes outwards as the storm of what used to be the contents of Adelaide's room is launched through it, giving the cultist what should be a quick means of egress as he leaps towards it; either he's capable of casting a spell to slow his fall, or he's just that crazy. Either way, it can't be permitted. With nothing in his way, Red Robin races towards the cultist, his right hand blurring as he whips it towards the escaping figure: Three small black objects hurtle at the cultist, thrown with remarkable precision at the hand holding the journal. They're sharp, though designed more to cause pain and distraction than to do damage.

They are, of course, batarangs.

"You guys really are rude," the young man notes, as he aims to keep closing with the cultist, to physically collide with him in the hopes of knocking him away from the window, whether or not the first gambit with the book failed. "Showing up at some nice old lady's apartment, wrecking her stuff. It's gonna be real embarrassing when you go back empty-handed!"

—-

The television crashes into the cultist in a flurry of plastic, glass, and wiring. He goes down; breathing or not is anyone's guess, since Bucky is busy cutting off the air supply of the second one. He flails and gags, grabbing that cold metal wrist with both fingers. They close about it as he struggles, flails. His feet kick a little bit. And then his arms fall away and he goes still, blacked out entirely and definitely unable to spam any more lightning whatsoever. The front of the apartment is now silent, if a bit trashed.

(As for Jessica's expediency with the woman, well, surely Zatanna can heal her. It was a very controlled blow, anyway).

Batarangs whip through the air and strike true. The journal tumbles, falls, hits the ground. Red slams into the cultist, knocking him back.

In response, the cultist springs forward, snarling: "Die kalte Flamme brennt!" Unnatural, eldritch green flames wreathe his fingertips, highlighting the madness in his deep blue eyes.

He is trying very hard to burn Red Robin's face off. This action, too, is nowhere to be found in the good old Emily Post manual.

The shattering of glass also kind of ended the quiet thing. What are the odds the guy downstairs isn't responding?

Probably pretty low, since a feminine snarl of, "Oh fuck me running," suddenly bursts over the earbuds.

—-

There is a brief moment, as he patiently throttles his target down, where the Winter Soldier flares up under James Barnes' skin. His expression goes cold and remote and a frozen lake, blue eyes regarding the man impassively as he struggles and claws the unforgiving steel in an attempt to break free.

He goes still, eventually. The Soldier fades back into the recesses of Bucky's mind, and he swiftly drops the man moments before the asphyxia would prove fatal.

He glances in the direction of the bedroom as a crashing sounds from within. Starting immediately into the bedroom to back Tim up, he only pauses for that sudden snapped snarl that sounds over the comms. "What?!" he says, vaulting into the bedroom and ramming straight for that mad cultist with his left steel shoulder, before he realizes, oh, it's probably—

"What's going on down there?" he asks.

—-

"Sometimes, I really miss a good motive rant," Red Robin notes, twisting to wrench his jacket up in the way of the emerald flames; just like the one he wore during the battle at the UNION JACK, this one is heavily fireproofed, using the same sort materials as his usual costume's similarly flame-retardant cape. A nomex layer inside the jacket helps, too, the meta-aramid possessing a remarkable resistance to heat.

It's not perfect, of course, it's not an absolute defense: The jacket he wore during that earlier fight did get kind of blown up by being used as a shield against multiple fireballs.

"You know? A real classic 'overconfident villain thinks he has you at his mercy, so he reveals his whole plan' thing. This stuff is just catchphrase spouting. But there's something you're forgetting. By now, your friends in the main room are down. Which means—"

Bucky Barnes busts into the bedroom like a metal-armed Kool-Aid Man, slamming into the flame-wielding cultist. If that doesn't put him down, Red Robin's fist - somewhere along the line, he slipped a pair of brass (really, reinforced ceramic) knuckles over his geckskin glove - hammering into his throat will probably do the trick.

Then, the vigilante goes for the book.

"Miss Jones, if you and our guest are safely in the car, start driving. We'll meet up with you," he says on the comms, hoping that Jessica is actually able to drive out of there. What if the runes on the cars were for something particularly esoteric, like a magical remote control? He lifts the journal, waggling it at Bucky briefly. "Let's get this payload moving, '76," the young man directs to the supersoldier. He's got that look on his face.

It's a look that says 'I've got a plan.'

'And you're probably not going to like it.'

—-

The men put down the zealot and get the book. That was really no contest.

A squeal of metal. A thundering sound. A wind picking up, enough to rattle the drapes, send air whipping through the room. The sound of people fleeing, horns honking. People screaming. A shadow rises, falls through the windows of the apartment, darkening it.

On the com, thundering feet, and the CRUNCH of an impact. A terrible roar, that sounds as if it was brought forth from the gates of hell itself, big enough to make the building itself seem to shake, though it carries an echo, one that sounds a bit like all the other auto horns going on down there.

'What's going on down there', Bucky asks, and for a moment it seems it defies Jessica's ability to even describe. Or maybe she's just busy, cause she makes an 'oof' sound, which is followed by two harsh clanging sounds, which is followed by another ROAR sound, all before she gives this breathless report:

"Driving? That's hilarious! We are WAY past driving. We've got ourselves a god— damn— dragon— situation down here!"

Yeah. Yeah. They heard that right.

Hope whatever plan Tim's got is up to that.

—-

Let's get this payload moving, '76. Bucky meets Tim's eyes… and then grins, because he recognizes that look on the younger man's face. "You look like Steve right about now," he says. "And I always got a big headache right after Steve looked like that."

A pause. "And I finally understood that reference."

Now, the men were no contest. The thing outside, though… that doesn't sound good at all. Bucky hesitates, peering out the window. He frowns distinctly as he verifies Jessica's assertion that there is in fact a GOD DAMN DRAGON situation out there. He thinks about this a minute.

Then he looks at Tim again. He grins. "OK," he says. "You're not being a killjoy for me on THIS one."

He pulls a pair of knives and launches himself straight out the window, with his apparent aim to plunge downwards and impale his paired blades right into the construct's head.

He saw this in a video game once, it's OK.

—-

You look like Steve right about now.

"Thanks, I've been working out," is Red Robin's rather glib response. It in no way addresses the possibility that whatever he was thinking of was going to result in Bucky getting a headache. Of course, the thing about plans is that they have ways of getting rendered useless by unexpected turns of events, and it's really hard to anticipate that anybody would make a dragon.

He also looks out the window. Yep, dragon. So that's what they were doing with the SUVs.

He turns to look at Bucky, and he can't help but grin as well. It's not every day you get to fight a dragon, whether it's been built magically out of two cars or what. Not a killjoy on this one? That's a terrible thing to say. After all, there's the Rule, and it's very emphatic: No Killing.

He's pretty sure this thing doesn't count as alive.

Barnes is already out the window anyway, dropping down with his knives, which is fair enough. The younger man takes the time to tuck the journal away carefully on his person, and then he jumps out the window, too.

As he falls, he tosses aside the badly burned jacket he was wearing, revealing the same pack he was wearing at the UNION JACK, the very one that he was working on when Jessica came to talk to him about Juno Hart; the pack's repulsors emit a sudden burst of thrust to slow his fall as he drops onto the thing's back, crouching low, the geckskin in the soles of his boots sticking him to the construct's skin. He's not entirely sure how effective stabbing is going to be, but maybe there's something that makes it work - a magical power supply or something, an animating force.

"Miss Jones, did you see any of what they did before it turned into a dragon? Was that last cultist fiddling with anything?"

—-

At the street level it seems Jessica has encountered a situation that will finally inspire her to pick up someone's car, something she's always felt was pretty much an asshole move unless one is in very specific situations. She has hefted some poor sod's Mercedes-Benz and has been using it like a battering ram to strike the creature in the chest; this has in fact dented both the dragon and her weapon, but hasn't entirely slowed it down.

(At least the BMV is parked around the corner?)

The dragon skids back a few times, snarling and snapping. Right now? Her aim is to buy time for fleeing civilians; she's yelling, "Go, go, go!" at the stragglers. The dragon snaps at her a split second before Bucky leaps on its head; she blocks with the car and it tears a massive chunk of it away.

Metal clangs off metal as the knives plow towards the dragon's head. One of them just bounces off and bends. The other knife finds purchase in a joint, a place where metal meets metal. The problem is, this dragon is vastly stronger even than the woman battling it with a car, even than the Winter Soldier himself, and well-armored because it's basically made of metal. It probably has some weakness, but…that might be hard to spot from Bucky's vantage point as the Dragon whips its massive head around with the intent of throwing Bucky right off of it.

Tim lands on its back, and other than the fact that it's moving to charge Jessica it basically ignores him at least; of the three he's made the lightest impact, which of course buys him time to get a look at it. Jessica sort of flips her grip on the car; instead of holding it overhead like a battering ram she's now weilding it like a shield. She sets herself and grits her teeth as the dragon barrels into her; she goes sliding back and back and back down the street before slamming into another car, making a car-Jess-car sandwhich.

She grunts, pushing back, trying not to get trash compacted.

"Well, let's see," she grits sardonically. "I think he was fiddling with…some magic. Let me consult my vast magical expertise to tell you more. Oh wait."

She finally shoves up with the car just enough to smash in to the dragon's body a bit, mostly buying herself time to fling-leap roll out of the way while the thing smashes the two vehicles together.

Unhelpful as this assessment may be, Tim can get a peek of two green glowing orbs deep inside the metal shell of the dragon. Symbols float by in a vaguely eerie yellow light, roughly corresponding to the runes they saw on the hood of both vehicles. That's probably what he's after, but…how to get to them, and how to disable them once he does?

—-

One of his blades breaks on impact; the other lodges in a seam and sticks. Bucky perceives in an instant that it's not in deep enough or strongly enough for him to do anything with it, so he pulls it right back out and locks his left hand onto a protruding plate of the thing. It probably used to be a door; whatever it was, he pulls with a massive wrench, aiming to tear it right off.

Half a second later, the dragon shakes its head violently. Not expecting the strength of it, he loses his grip and slings off.

With his usual agility, he twists in the air and impacts the wall of a nearby building in a crouch, sliding back down in a controlled manner. He takes stock of the creature as he does, and of the situation as a whole. Now, this is pretty much the first time Bucky has seen Jessica wield a car. Or tank being mashed between two vehicles. "Why don't you do that ALL THE TIME," he inquires, as he straightens back up and examines the creature.

He starts fiddling with his phone, which might seem like a really bad time to be doing that kind of thing, up until one remembers the Stuff app. He eventually finds what he wants, and spawns what looks an awful lot like a rocket launcher.

"Seeing any weak spots?" he inquires of Tim, who seems to be the least noticed of them all so far.

—-

"Hnh," Red Robin mutters, in response to Jessica's perhaps justifiable snark. "Helpful."

There's no sass now; while the vigilante from Gotham has a natural tendency to run his mouth at times, he does have a certain skill that many of his peers in the youthful superhero community don't possess… He knows when to shut up. Probably because of all that time he spends with Batman. Now, there's no time to talk, holding on to the back of a rampaging, magically constructed dragon: He's got to think, and think fast.

He's smart, that's his thing. While his body is honed into a weapon, at or near the very peak of performance attainable by an unmodified human being, it's his brain that is Red Robin's true weapon. His perceptions, his thought patterns. For him, in his head, time stretches out as he thinks. Turns the situation over in his head. They don't have any real chance of meddling with the magics that power the thing in a finesse sense: Whatever he's learned from the books Zatanna lent him from her father's library certainly didn't give him the knowledge to do anything with that. That means brute force. That means…

"Sergeant Barnes, do you have—"

Seeing any weak spots? Bucky wonders, with a rocket launcher.

That answers that.

"No," the young man says. "So I'll make one."

With the geckskin in his gloves and boots letting him cling to the construct, the vigilante crawls over the dragon's side, rather like Spider-Man - in fact, the webslinger was where he got the idea for these in the first place - disengaging one hand to reach into his belt, and he produces… What almost looks like a gun. In his head, he can see the way the dragon is constructed. See where he saw those orbs, or at least one of them. On the thing's flank, as close as he can get to the orbs, he uses that gun-like thing in his hand to trace a design in a sticky foam. It looks like a bird's head in profile: Red Robin's logo. The Bat-Family knows the importance of branding. He scuttles away, trying to stay on the dragon just in case, but getting enough clearance that he won't be caught when he sets off the explosive foam, hopefully blasting enough of a hole in the thing's side that—

"How are you at bullseyeing womp rats?" the young man wonders. He really hopes Bucky didn't miss out on Star Wars. Surely Jane would've made him watch it. Probably not the prequels though. If not, the context cues are hopefully clear enough.

—-

Bucky at least slings off with a big piece of metal in his hand, taking a bit of the dragon's…'flesh', so to speak, with it. It's not a huge hole, but it's a hole; it's a start. Not that he's not kind of prepping to make bigger ones.

Bucky inquires why Jessica doesn't spend most of her time flinging cars around. "Because that's people's cars! Cars are expensive! I don't want to trash their shit! Or accidentally slam them into even more of other people's shit!"

(The dragon, it's worth noting, doesn't care about tearing up people's shit; its massive whippy tail is basically overturning cars all over this charming little street.)

But perhaps Bucky Barnes sees, now, why her very first reaction to 'hit me as hard as you can,' on the very first day he consented to train her, was to get scared and to pull her strength, much to his insult at the time. Of course, now he also sees that she still holds back an awful lot of what she can do, is still, deep down, far more afraid to hurt others than she is to be hurt.

Jessica sees him going for the rocket launcher so decides to make sure it doesn't go after him while he gets that set up and situated. She wants to make sure Red, arguably the squishiest of the three, has plenty of time to braniac things without getting hurt too, despite her snarky response to his earlier question. He starts painting targets, a move that she notices and is rather appreciative of even though she doesn't even realize just how bad-ass it is; a fierce grin flits over her features as she sees how their efforts are coming together.

It's just another one of those moments that sells her on all that team stuff she would have rejected as so much bullshit just six months ago. As it turns out, when shit comes together like this, it's pretty good.

She grabs another car, this one just a mini-Cooper, and flings it at the dragon's face. The dragon catches it in midair and crunches it in a shower of metal and glass, but at least it's not biting at them. And if it seems like Jessica is actually taking precious seconds to pick cars that she thinks the owners can afford to lose, well…that's cause she actually is. Junkers? Ignored. People's shitty little scooters and motorcycles? Ignored. Even taxi cabs. Nope. Luxury cars are her weapon of choice. But the moment she's done with that? She leaps back beside Bucky, wanting to make sure she's clear of any shots he intends to take.

Red leaps clear, the foam goes KERBOOOOOM. Metal and scrap and armor fly everywhere, crashing into cars, into windows. But the two glowing green orbs?

Clear targets.

Of course. It will take nerves of steel to hit them, because the dragon is pissed. It fails to recognize the leaping Tim as the source of its most recent of miseries. It lets out a massive roar, then starts thundering down the street, heading directly towards Bucky and Jessica in a wild barreling charge, jaws snapping in frantic fury.

—-

Jessica has an entirely too-sensible response to Bucky's question about why she doesn't just fling cars around all the time. He's grudging about his acceptance of this explanation— maybe due to some scrap of the Winter Soldier left in him that really doesn't notice things like collateral damage— but he supposes it makes sense.

It's also worth noting Bucky would still have been insulted at her pulling her punches even if he'd seen, before, how HARD she can hit. Raw strength, as he keeps reminding her, isn't everything. She'd still essentially be implying to him that she doesn't think he has the skill and knowledge to handle someone inordinately stronger than himself.

Sometimes that knowledge includes 'knowing what kind of gun to bring to a knife fight.'

The rocket launcher doesn't actually take much 'setting up,' per se. Well — maybe it would for a normal person, but not for the Winter Soldier. He one-hands a weapon that a conventional man would need a shoulder and a braced stance to handle, calmly loading it up as Jessica and Tim do their respective things. His sedate calm looks incongruously out of place amidst all the screaming and running about and cars flying and Tim's foam exploding in a violent detonation.

How are you at bullseyeing womp rats? Tim asks, probably not expecting an answer.

Bucky shoulders the launcher, swinging it around to bring it to bear dead center on those exposed green orbs. "It's fine, these things are way bigger than two meters," he says, even as he sights and fires.

—-

Being the squishiest one around is something Red Robin is used to. He's well aware of what he is, after all: A mortal man in a world full of gods and monsters, where the least mistake on his part could mean a horrible demise. His best friend could probably have picked the dragon up and hurled it into space. Others among those closest to him could've gotten into a straight on slugging match with the construct, or run rings around it until it was caught in a superspeed tornado… Or done some crazy magic at it.

The vigilante does all right with what he's got, though.

"Well, that's a relief," the younger man says; he's already got a grapple gun out, already has a line attached to a nearby building to reel himself off of the dragon's back, dragging the rest of the explosive gel in the current ampoule down the construct's back as he escapes ground zero in what is probably about to become some kind of deadly explosion. He adds to the damage, before the rocket can strike, giving the dragon an additional distraction by setting off a long line of that gel down its back in a sudden furrow of fire.

It is a relief, both the practiced, disciplined way Barnes readied and fired the rocket launcher, and the fact that Jane Foster hadn't neglected such an important part of Bucky's education in modern popular culture. Although her taste in video games could use a little work.

"What about the prequels, though? I always thought Doctor Foster looked kind of like—"

Hopefully, there's a big kaboom there.

—-

There is indeed…

A BIG BADABOOM.

Since. References.

The rockets strike true, barreling into otherworldly energy, meeting with explosive gel. Magic is mostly just another form of energy, and given the delicate construction of runic programming and the need for the entire mess to have a physical form to hold on to, now basically turned to vapor in the middle of the street…

Well, the dragon is definitely gone. The whole street washes with a wave of scorching heat; it's enough to cause Jessica to throw her leather clad arms in front of her face as her hair is blown back by it. Windows rattle and shatter across the entire block, though most of that block, at least, has been sensibly evacuated even by the folks who lived or worked inside the buildings. There is this one oblivious fellow, who wanders to a broken window with a toothbrush in his mouth, standing in a pair of boxers with little boats on them, slowly brush-brush-brushing as he struggles to make sense of what-the-Hell. There's probably some die-hard phone-journalist in there somewhere. There always is when this crap breaks out.

There are also sirens, though given the timing one might suspect the polizei were just holding back to let the three superheroes handle the dragon before they even bothered to try to get anywhere near anything.

Of the remaining cultist who unleashed this madness onto Berlin's streets, there is no sign.

—-

Even Bucky has to brace against the blowback of incendiary rocket meeting what are essentially a set of magical batteries. His left arm lifts to shield from the heat and the blast wave, the soldier squinting through the mess.

Well," he says. "It doesn't usually explode THAT much."

He stows the rocket launcher again, not really wanting to be caught out in public by the approaching polizei with that kind of ordnance out. Or caught by them at all.

Tim makes a comment about the prequels. "Not those yet," he answers. "Jane said I can't."

—-

In the aftermath of the explosion, Red Robin can be seen crouched on the edge of a rooftop; he had in point of fact hidden behind the lip of the roof to protect his relatively squishy self from the explosion. He was running with a working hypothesis that the things powering the dragon would make the explosion bigger - and there was no way of knowing how much bigger - so it seemed prudent.

Thankfully, it wasn't the absolute debacle he was half worried it would end up being.

"So much for subtle," the young man muses, pushing his dyed blond hair out of his half-masked face. Under other circumstances, he'd want to hang around, want to make sure they were involved with the cleanup… But he knows there's no way in Hell the Cold Flame is going to miss the fact that their agents' dragon construct blew up, and thus far their available manpower has bordered on the unlimited. Which is curious all on its own; if real magical talent is rare, how could they have so many sorcerors available? Or is it really possible for an otherwise mundane person with no innate magical spark to be trained up to that degree? Maybe their fanaticism takes off the limiters, allows them to punch above their proverbial weight class since they have no interest in self-preservation…

Always, he finds more questions to ask. But then, that's how he was trained.

"At the very least, they're going to have fresh eyes here sooner rather than later. Let's get Adelaide Weir and get gone before they do."

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