June 19, 2017:

In 1974, during the height of the Cold War, a Russian and a British operative clash over one turncoat spy with valuable information. Both of them have identical orders: retrieve, or if retrieval is not possible, terminate.

Amsterdam, the Netherlands





Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Aaron Ackerley has been made.

It's a hazard of the profession, really, when your profession involves turning traitor on Queen and country, and selling your services as a mole in the British MI6 to the Soviet Union. There's always risks involved when you play at the game of being a double agent, and one of those risks is that you have a counterpart on the other side who you do not know about… but who knows you.

Piotr Ivanovich Kuznetsov, a KGB officer, saw the writing on the wall for the Soviet Union as early as the late Sixties, though it took him another few years to agree to deal with MI6. His greatest value right now, circa 1974, is fingering Soviet double agents within the ranks of England's own intelligence agencies, and Ackerley? He got the finger.

He also got a tipoff from his handler that trouble was incoming— they knew there was a leak, if not their identity— so he was able to flee the country before he was caught. He's on his way to Moscow by a circuitous route, much as his nerves would prefer a direct flight; he's currently waiting in Amsterdam Airport Schipol for the flight that will take him on to the USSR, standing nervously near the Solari board announcing departures and arrivals with its distinctive ticking clatter.

He's done his best to disguise his identity, with hat and coat and glasses, but there was not time for more elaborate ruses— his immediate flight from England was necessary to evade instant capture.

This is the game the world is playing right now. Moves and countermoves, cat and mouse. It allows the rest of the world to sleep at least somewhat soundly as the Cold War flurries on. But small moves have big stakes in this current chilly climate.
For one, you don't let your pieces cross the board.
Michael Cater had a rough start as an agent, but the beta testing is over. He's Rule Britannia 1.0 now. When anyone is suspected of being a double agent, there's a tag on their travel. It's the kind of high-level monitoring only the upper levels of British Intelligence can get away with. So it was easy to see Ackerley was on the move. The only reason he made it out of the country at all was because their attention was on another agent they thought was going to flee first. An agent who ate his own gun just a few hours before.
Michael makes no halfhearted effort to hide his appearance. He walks with conviction through the airport, hands in the pockets of his wool peacoat. His course will lead him parallel to his quarry. To anyone watching, he looks like just another traveller on the way to his gate.

Ackerley is visibly paranoid, looking around too frequently to seem normal. He doesn't appear to be solely watching for people following him, though. He seems to be looking around as if he might be expecting someone, as well.

He doesn't notice the man after him, either way.

This allows Michael to get close. Close enough to get a visual on his quarry and verify identity. Close enough to notice someone else walking in this direction, too, cutting against the crowd just enough that his trajectory is noteworthy.

Not that anything about the rest of him is noteworthy. He looks American, plain and average, a harried traveller trying to make a connecting flight. And yet, his angle of attack brings him obliquely closer and closer to Ackerley.

Michael Carter is not going to let this man get away. At the last possible second, he veers to collide shoulders with Ackerley. He pulls a pistol from his pocket and presses the muzzle of the gun against his kidney. "I'm afraid you're going to miss your liasion with your Red friend, Mister Ackerley." His accent is crisp, upper-class and unmistakably English.

Ackerley is looking in the other direction when Michael approaches, his nervous gaze on his presumed 'Red friend.' For some reason, he doesn't look thrilled to see who it is that has come to get him. He looks by turns shocked, terrified, and utterly confused.

His expression settles on 'terrified' and sticks there, when Michael slips up behind him and presses the muzzle of the pistol to his back.

Close as he is, with the gun hidden in the folds of their coats, Michael's maneuver goes unnoticed by anyone except the unfortunate Ackerley. "I — I don't know what you're talking about sir — most irregular — IS THAT A GUN? I shall have to call security — " he stammers, obviously trying to stall long enough for his contact to get here and DO something about this.

Contrary to what he might hope, his apparent intended liaison — on seeing Ackerley accosted — makes a turn and disappears into the crowds, vanishing from sight like a shark sliding beneath the waves.

"Don't play daft," Michael leans in closer, then grabs his arm to steer him towards the exit. His backup is waiting outside with a long black car to take him to a secure facility. "Aaron Martin Ackerley, serial number six-oh-double-eight-alpha. Attached to British Intelligence, office located in the covert facilities of MI-6 at Canary Wharf. Divorced, two children who won't give you the time of day, a sizeable horse racing debt which I assume is why you sold out Queen and Country, and a birthmark on your left thigh in the shape of a cock. Am I missing anything pertinent?"
As of yet, he doesn't realize there's another player on the board. As far as he knows, the Russians are just waiting for him in Moscow.

As the details of his life are rattled off in merciless detail, Aaron Ackerley sags in Michael's implacable grip. He lets himself be steered out towards the exit, no fight left in him. Or so it seems. "Really," he says weakly, "Got a little personal there with the details, most unnecessary…"

He doesn't seem as rattled as he should be, however. And the reason becomes evident once they get outside.

The drop-off and pickup zone outside buzzes like a kicked anthill, and the activity centers around Michael's backup and the car they inhabit. The car still seems intact enough, so it's not certain why people are milling around in panic yet up until Michael's sharp eyes pick out the telltale sign of bullet holes drilled through the windows. Safe to say his backup is dead.

Ackerley glances over his shoulder at Michael. His gaze is terrified — the whites of his eyes are showing — but at the same time, hopefuly and mockingly triumphant. It's a confusing blend of emotions, to be sure. Almost as if he's afraid of his own presumed savior.

"You might be missing something," he says, as — across the multi-lane street — a figure rises up from behind a divider, masked and anonymous, and starts grimly to make its way closer.

Michael stops just outside the airport. He's holding Ackerley's arm in such a way that he looks like he's just steadying an old chum. When he spots the chaos and the bullethole, he mutters, "Bollocks." He glances back over at the airport, but it's a rat's nest of chaos. Instead, he shoves Ackerley forward, towards a line of cabs.
He glances back and happens to catch sight of the masked figure. Yep. Leaving now would be a smashing plan.

It would be a smashing plan. If not for the fact the masked figure does not seem to want to let Michael Carter abort and withdraw. The man might have seen his face earlier, after all, when it was uncovered.

The Russian agent lapses into a loping pursuit, accordingly, lunging across the many lanes of traffic, bent on murder.

Shoved away, Ackerley dithers an unwise second in staring at the cabs, as if uncertain whether to flee or stay. His hesitation is fatal, and soon enough his fear of his own contact is explained: the Red agent, in passing, pulls a pistol and aims it to the right, firing mid-stride without looking. Ackerley drops with a cry. He might be dead. He might be alive.

Michael probably won't have time to check, because the Winter Soldier is after him, clearing one last car in a scaling leap.

Michael's mission was to retrieve Ackerley to see what he gave up. But more important than that was making sure the Russians didn't get their hands on him to extract more information. So when Ackerley goes down, there is no hesitation as he pulls his own pistol, topped with a silencer and points it at the former British agent's head. He mutters something quietly, then fires two shots in quick succession into the man's skull before the gun disappears back under his coat.
Then, he turns and accellerates into a surprisingly fast sprint - too fast for an ordinary man, unless the British Olympic team missed an outstanding recruit. It's not fleeing so much as drawing the agent away from the mass of civilians who swarm with chaos and fear around Schiphol. There's a terminal under construction up ahead. Most of the workers seem to be on lunch break.

Some missions are sanction. Some are extract. This one, however, just happened to be sanction or extract — for both parties.

Killing a man who may have seen his face is higher priority, to the Winter Soldier, than ensuring an immediate kill on the compromised Aaron Ackerley. For Michael, however, there's no higher priority than ensuring the Russians don't get any more out of the man than they already have. The frost-blue eyes of the Winter Soldier snap to the right as Michael finishes the job with pinpoint precision, bemused, moderately annoyed, before the man — laughs.

It's a horrible sound. It contains no warmth, no joy — only that trademark Russian amusement for the brevity of life, and the many sick ironies that can befall a man in the course of said life.

That laughter echoes after Michael as he cuts away to draw the Winter Soldier off. His mission is complete, for better or worse. Now his task is to disappear, and to minimize civilian casualties. The Red agent is hot on his heels, if the silenced shot that suddenly rings out is any indication. It misses, but only because the Winter Soldier led his shot to account for the speed of a normal man. He did not account for what Michael is capable of.

"Kto ty…?" the Russian muses.

Michael rounds the corner at breakneck speed. He climbs up and scales a chainlink fence as if it was half the height. The wool coat is shed and flutters to the ground. If the Soldier slows enough, he might note that the pocket is cut right through on one side. All the better to pull a weapon without drawing too much attention.
The construction site is a maze of half finished sketched shapes of buildings. He puts on a little more speed, then disappears into the half-finished structure. He scales a piece of scaffolding and drops to a crouch, pistol in hand. Without the wool coat, his pale blue suit doesn't make the best camoflauge. But he does look damned smart, even when crouched in the bones of a half-finished airport terminal. Not that he's easily visible from the ground.
He's barely out of breath even for the sprint, so if the Russian is listening for sounds of panting, he won't hear it.

Missing. He hates missing. That in itself is enough to make the Winter Soldier take this personally.

Such it is that, a few moments after Michael gains his perch on the scaffolding of that half-finished building, the Soldier comes sauntering into view, his pace slowing from the lope it had previously been. He avoids the open ground of the construction site, skirting close to the wall of the unfinished terminal, the better to reach cover in case of ambush.

Not that he looks concerned. His walk almost has the quality of a saunter.

"<A nice coat, Angliyskaya,>" he muses, in his slow amused Russian. "<Perhaps I will keep it, once you are dead — >"

Michael waits. He chooses his moment. It may not be an optimal shot, but he's got fine aim. He lines up a shot, fires, and moves before he sees if it even hit. Oxford loafers slap against plywood between scaffolding. He grabs hold of a piece of railing and swings around, aiming for a more finished portion of the terminal. Witty banter will have to wait until he's got the high ground.

The gunshot cracks the air, interrupting the Soldier's voice —

— and there is the sharp PING of bullet deflecting off metal.

That in itself would seem to be an indication the Winter Soldier somehow blocked, even though Michael does not see the actual result. He might not be surprised, accordingly, when he feels the scaffolding shake slightly beneath the soft landing of a man in pursuit. For the Russian to have scaled up here without disturbing the scaffolding prior to this moment, he must have simply leapt straight up.

The Winter Soldier no longer speaks. His pursuit draws closer and closer, his focus now clearly upon the kill. The only reason he has not already fired shots is because of the lack of line of sight —

It's the fine blue suit that gives the Soldier an opportunity. Michael is quiet, nimble and fast, but the plastic film around the entry to the partially finished terminal building up ahead is translucent. Nothing around them in that bright a colour. Everything else is dust and brown and steel.

Even if not for the blue of that suit, the Winter Soldier would have seen the flicker of movement beyond that translucent sheet. His vision is keyed to such quick, silent movements, much in the same way the sight of a cat locks on to the twitch motions of prey.

His pistol is in his hand within instants, a bead drawn and a shot fired. Center mass — the target is distant, and moving quickly.

The bullet lands true. It hits center mass. The figure in blue jerks and grunts soflty, but there's the sound of ricochet as well, and a sharp scent of burning fabric. Michael is only slowed a moment. He lifts his gun and fires off several shots in his general direction before dropping into a run.
The further they move in to the unfinished terminal, the more it feels like an airport again, albeit a disassembled one. There's more open spaces and less places to hide, but they're also getting closer to people.

The Soldier lowers his pistol, briefly surprised and perturbed, when his bullet hits exactly where he intends — yet fails to drop his target. That sound. Some kind of armor? But then, what is the source of that smell —

No time to wonder about that, though. There is only the fact that his target is not dead — and is firing back. The Winter Soldier takes cover behind a piece of scaffolding, cursing as a bullet grazes past his right arm. The sharp, sudden smell of his own blood maddens him. He cannot remember the last time prey drew his blood.

Left hand clamped over the graze to stanch the blood before he leaves evidence all over the airport, the Soldier resumes pursuit. He skirts the open space as much as he can, lifting his pistol again, drawing another bead. Body armor? Very well.

This time, he aims for the head.

Michael is more out in the open than he wants to be. When he looks back over his shoulder, there's an odd sort of smile on his face. Like he knows something the other man doesn't.
"Not today," he says, then turns around the corner at a full tilt run."
The shot rings out. The shot lands true - towards the rear of his skull. His head snaps, and he drops seemingly behind the corner.
But when the Winter Soldier rounds the corner, there's no sign of the man in blue. There's three different ways he could have possibly went, two of which leads to towards the din of people and the sound of sirens. The third leads to the substructure of the terminal-in-progress. There's no blood to give him a clue. There is however, that odd smell, and a fresh bullet hole in the wall.

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