Claw of the Panther

May 15, 2017:

The young king of Wakanda has not forgotten the Winter Soldier's incursion against his country.

Berlin, Germany

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

…And then, a battlecruiser rose from the river.

So brutally abrupt is its arrival in the dusk, it's hard to tell exactly how long the machine has been waiting beneath the waves, trails of water coming off of it in sheets. It is unconscionably large for something that wasn't there only a minute prior, larger by a scale than even the grandiose main battle tanks favored by the older militaries of the world today. The first clue about where it comes from is its breaching the waves. Before the water fully drains off of its black armored surface, it is all too easy to mistake its rise as that of a whale breaching, or similar. There is no sound of thrust, no rockets, no fans. Only the deep thrum of something incomprensible. It hovers, to an instantly recognizable anti-personnel height.

Size and sound are merely the most salient facts about the machine, lights making it appear like an ancient and angry predator from the deep. The vehiclefor it is soalso has weapons, small things that ratchet, snap and hum in the dark shadow cast by its bulk. It is slightly ahead of its target, and when it rolls in the air to orient, the relatively secluded area makes it unbearably clear who the targets are. Or, target.

The Wakandan Panther flag on the underside of the ominous cruiser is the second clue of the device's origin.
It is also the final clue one will get before it opens fire in ghostly blue trails of magnetically accelerated munitions. When a battlecruiser arrives, whatever else was happening before is likely unimportant, especially once the shooting starts.

The cruiser is something that James Barnes hears long before it actually breaks the surface. Its progress towards the surface is a deep, angry hum of displacing water that his sharp senses — wider-ranged than normal human hearing — pick up on long before he can actually see what's happening.

He instinctively puts himself square between Jane and where the sound's coming from, even as the battlecruiser finally breaks the surface and hums its way up to a very hostile sort of height and angle.

First off," he starts complaining, to Jane and to no one in particular, "how in the fuck did he see through this disguise, does he have a magic-dispel ray, and second off, how am I supposed to clear up this shit when he tries to claw me or laser me or fire at me with a BATTLESHIP every time I start saying 'it seems like there was some misunderstanding here—'"

He grabs Jane and drags her abruptly along as the cruiser opens fire, dodging adroitly with the speed and reflexes only a supersoldier can have. "Maybe YOU should try to negotiate with him this time?!" he says, frustrated.

Tonight heralds their last night in Germany.

And Jane, still feeling lingeringly sombre after the last battle at the church, implored Bucky to spend this evening alone — away from cultists, from sorcerer's journals, from magic. She needs a break.

So some hours later, as the waning full moon casts light over dusky Berlin, she finds herself walking the promenade of the river Spree, the stone path strung with lights and anointed by the stately glow of Berlin's skyline. The wind off the water ruffles the skirt of her spring dress — newly bought after an explosion saw all her clothes destroyed — and she hugs onto the crook of Bucky's arm.

She, in a rare moment of release from their duties, and momentarily not thinking that just yesterday she fired a gun and killed someone in self-defence — stabbed another /through/ with a /spear/ — rambles on about some childhood story or another. This one is how, at fifteen, she once stole her father's truck to go see a meteor shower after he told her no, and ended up hitting a parked cop car. It's a nice moment. A normal moment. A —

— BATTLECRUISER moment.

Jane stares at the shape rising out of the water. And she spits out, slowly, emphatically, "What. The. F —"

Bucky reacts fast and first. And with his hand on hers, yanks her with him out of the line of that first volley of fire.

"Probably a scientific explanation for the first thing," she calls back, both frantic and matter-of-fact. "Did you ever /explain/ what happened to him?! It's a perfectly reasonable explanation! Given this is perfectly unreasonable sort of response." Jane stares helplessly at the cruiser. "You think it's made out of vibranium?"

Jane, these are unhelpful questions.

Wing-like vanes unfold along tracks on the sides of the battlecruiser, water spray soaking the cobblestone as it makes its arrival, the distortion of residual metals in the moisture forming bizarre arcs of water in the air. Jane may recognize it as similar to gauss lines. The thing dims the electric rope-lights it passes before smashing right through them, making room for its vanes and collapsing posts as it goes.

After the first burst of suppressive fire, the machine slows its rate of fire, systems cycling as red lights strafe the area, lines scanning out the surrounding environments to better build responses in a scale model in real time. The deep thrum the machine emits as it emits is like the heartbeat of another country entirely. They say that Wakandan technology evolved from agriculture. To that end, one could easily fathom the cruiser as a great thresher, cutting down the harvest systematically with great swaths of energy. Only that supersoldier senses may notice that the magnetically propulsed munitions the cruiser employs doesn't have the same audible crack as full metal jacket, or even hollow point rounds. Beyond the distinct absence of gunpowder explosions, the sound is soft, entirely unlike anything heard before, almost as if the round hits flesh before it hits anything at all..

Bucky can tell, because the cruiser is shooting at him specifically.

Whatever it may be shooting, it's not leaving a visible casing, or even a projectile. All around him, windows of cars nearby shatter, and anchor pilings snap in half as if hit by an axe, but there is no discernible projectile fragments. These are only the noticeable points. More importantly, it's shooting slower now, the rhythm of its blasts carefully spaced. That means it's aiming.

Fortunate then, that Bucky can deal with more than one thing at once, lest he run headlong into a spear.

If Buck spends too much time listening to Jane or trying to figure out what's happening, he may miss the fact that a spear cut from pure energy is thrown at him from the direction he is running. Or more appropriately, the arm he's dragging Jane with. Because she is to a certain extent behind him, the actual purpose of the energy spear is to ruin every nerve in his shoulder on downward, to separate him from what may potentialy be a bystander…?

…Because the Black Panther seems to leap from the stone itself to try and kick Bucky's teeth in with both feet across the next instant. As if to validate Bucky to Jane, there really is no other greeting.

"Motherfucker," Bucky spits, as he shies to the left away from a spray of fire that powders the concrete right where he was standing a moment before. "They have caseless ammo? I want caseless ammo. And for the record every time I try to explain I get kicked in the face—"

Fortunately for them both, Bucky has developed a very fine-tuned ability to multitask responding to Jane when he really needs to focus on other things. And it's good that he has, because that means his attention is primarily focused forward at the moment that sudden spear leaps out of nowhere straight for the spot where his left arm joins his body. Trying to slice off his arm and simultaneously separate him from Jane, apparently—

He lets go of Jane, pushes off hard with his right leg, and lunges into a sidewise cartwheel right over her head, using her shoulder as a pivot point. His momentum is such that she will barely even notice his weight as he passes overhead. The light-spear hisses past her right side where his arm was an instant ago, but she isn't given too much time to think about that—

— because his next move is to hiss in her ear, "Watch yourself," get her by the waist with both hands, and fling her up and clear to the rooftop of a shop facing the riverfront.

The time he takes to do this, of course, means that the Black Panther slams into him with both feet, full force, sending him tumbling back in an uncontrolled skid across the riverwalk.

"Caseless ammo?" Jane echoes breathlessly, not in question but fascination, between strides, as Bucky pulls her at a speed faster than her smaller body can comply. The only part of her that can keep up with him is her mind.

But if she has two advantages in her favour, its months of familiarity with his strange life bringing her ready adaptation, and a simple, implicit trust even in the way the man moves. She does not hesitate where he tugs her; she does not fight where he puts her. She places without thought her life into both his hands: flesh and steel.

In the end, it looks almost intimate: as the soldier rearranges among him a woman half his weight and a fragment of his size, twisting her away from volleys of ammo, and in a split-second mastery of physics, uses her little shoulder as a means to vault his body overhead. Passed among and between both Bucky's arms, pulled one way, dipped another, and with her skirts fluttering, tricked to think this were some careless dance. Jane keeps her dark eyes focused on that battlecruiser, her eyebrows furrowed, her gaze surgical. It's something she's never seen before, but as if that's ever stopped her.

She's visually undressing it. Her spatial mind works to dissemble it, piece by piece, to a schematic.

A spear made of pure energy — ionized plasma? she wonders — shoots past her side.

"James," Jane tries to say, as he twists her back, takes her by the waist. "Remember the solid-state switch I put in your arm? The test I wanted to do? I — " Watch your, he says. " — James?"

He throws her right into the air.

Jane shrieks the entire way up onto the roof of the shop, landing in an unceremonious flop of limbs. She scrambles up to her feet, peering over the edge, staring down from her perch with a desperately-shouted, "JAMES! What the HELL!"

That's when she sees it — sees HIM. Ratification of the entire story Bucky had told her, weeks ago — what had happened in Wakanda. There are stories of the Black Panther, though so few are deigned to witness Wakanda's figurehead in the flesh. "PLEASE, your majesty!" she calls wildly. "This is a misunderstanding! He's — NO!"

Split toed boots land noiselessly on the stone beneath him, white lines of force spreading, spider's web-like, from the impact. Vibranium filaments run through knuckle sheaths, singing lightly as he unfurls claws, hands spreading in the way of the ancient dance that will see the Winter Soldier separated from throat.

"You give your people honors due to mine," the regal panther states, the accusation of his voice becoming an executioner's axeblade on the whetstone. He bears no mind to the soldier's disguise, nor the tinny protestations of the woman the soldier took great care to throw away from the line of combat. With no way to know his mind, it's debatable that he's even noticed anything else.
"I will take it from your blood."

The black thing is nigh-impossible for a human to see with just the light of the moon.
Luckily, that is not a limitation that needs obeisance.
Muscles surge as the panther passes one hand over another, then barrel headlong into the soldier.

From an elevated perspective, it becomes quite clear that the Black Panther of Wakanda has refined his methods since the conference. After having escaped him once, T'Challa seems to be expecting Barnes to run again. That would explain the Wakandan fighter ship that dominates one end of the boardwalk, firing rounds haphazardly in what appears to be now three round shot groupings. It is clear that T'Challa planned this exact battlegrounds to box Buchanan in, and leave him nowhere to go but into the panther's jaws. The ship itself is all smooth, almost seamless metal. It's clearly vibranium plated to some extent, and the weapons it is firing come from variable port-holes in the armor to cut down on exposed machinery. However, it is very self evident that the ship T'Challa is using may not actually be crewed, and is maneuvering and firing by automation alone.
The firing pattern it is using is based off of a dual parabolic geometry, penalizing excessive lateral movement into its firing arcs. It only began firing in that pattern just before the Panther made his most recent attack, prefaced by that one-hand-over-another movement…

Beyond that curious flourish, the black panther is a man of little wasted motion, attacking low to quickly try and lance his claws through the soldier's hip, not looking to stop until he is gripping muscle and piercing bone. He wants to pull the older warrior down into the drive of his knee, targetting the side of the femur, just below the knee. Once, twice. He's trying to dislocate the bone, by hitting him with the sledgehammer of his coiled form and body weight.

"Caseless," Bucky asserts. His sharp eyes track the spray of fire from the cruiser. "Magnetically-propelled. Not chemically. No gunpowder, no casings, no…" He frowns. "Wait." No projectiles, either? Or none that he can see. What the…

He's interrupted by another burst of fire. His instincts try to lead him towards civilians and civilian establishments, the graven thoughts of the Winter Soldier morally indifferent to anything except that which might provide the most personal cover from someone with presumed lack of desire to hit innocents. His conscious mind wrenches him away from that course of action, leading him to dodge instead precariously towards the river.

Remember the solid-state switch I put in your arm? Jane calls. "What ABOUT it?" he inquires back.

As for the Wakandan king? "I'd rather not anything get taken from my blood, thanks," Bucky mutters to himself as he pulls out his phone and starts fiddling. "Listen, I told you Hydra was up to some funny business in your country that was not related to me at all, but I guess it's my job to be the scapegoat of the universe, so here we go again — "

He continues in this vein as he yanks the .50 cal — quite impossibly — from his phone, with a wash of magical energy that he assuredly didn't cook up himself. The weapon isn't really designed to be used in motion, but then again it was designed with a normal human in mind, and James Buchanan Barnes is anything but a normal human.

"— and I'm sure your fighter ship over there is really expensive and I'm not really interested in causing more property damage — " Bucky is still muttering, as he chambers the first round and swings sharply to one side. Those claws rake deeply into his hip, but rather than stick around to be grappled even more firmly and get smashed around, the Winter Soldier opts to actually TEAR himself off those clutching claws, leaving behind what is likely no small amount of blood and a proverbial pound of flesh.

Staggering slightly with the injury, he hisses in a breath, yanks up the heavy anti-materiel rifle, and takes rapid aim for one of those port-holes, firing even as the weapon turns towards him.

What about it? he says to her. What about it?!

Jane Foster is officially so aggravated that she reaches for her left earring — or what looks like an earring — and buttons its homemade circuitboard on. It immediately syncs with the communication device she's long antennaed through his arm, so that Bucky can hear, loud and clear:

"I knew it, James Barnes! I knew you weren't listening when I told you about the switch! Remember, the MOSFETs in a paralleled array?" That's the explanation she gave. No wonder. "It discharges EMP! Do you know what that will do to magnetic propulsion?" she snaps out. "Of course you do! We haven't tested it yet, but — no time. Flexion of wrist, extension of digits: you'll feel a tension down the brachialis cabling. Uh — you'll feel it in the elbow. Seven seconds to charge. One discharge every eighty-nine seconds. And — they really /don't/ listen, do they?! You think people would listen for explanations! I listen for explanations! And — James! Watch for the cover fire!"

From her safe vantage up on the roof, much as she hates it, much as it kills Jane to feel stranded, left helpless to watch Bucky fight to keep his guard between both the fast-moving bogey and the battlecruiser… she knows why he put her here. Where he doesn't need to worry about her. And, more importantly, where she can be his extra pair of eyes. Every sniper has his spotter.

In the way Bucky extricated his weapon from his phone — that same ozone-pull of magic — Jane brings out of nowhere her laptop, quickly setting it to the roof of the shop and opening it as she keeps look out. The first torrent of cover fire she follows with her eyes, following those parabolic arcs. He's being caged. Those bullets at his sides. The Panther at his front.

Jane touches her earring. "You're going to want to disrupt the fire at its Beloch Fold near the lactus rectum. Disorganizing the first will confuse the second pattern. You'll need to feel to account for ricochet trajectory and where you're going to direct those shots. You know what to do, James. You —"

Her voice tightens and twists with dismay to reflect how the Black Panther puts claws into him, and how Bucky retaliates by /giving/ those claws his blood and flesh. Jane, from her point, cries out with shock and sickness. Whatever that armor is, it went through her nanofibre-aggregate cloth like /paper/. It's supposed to stop bullets, and yet —

"Are you OK?!" she yells, terrified, as Bucky takes that shot at the cruiser. Her expression opens in shock to witness the effect.

The blue vapor trails drift in the air, crackling faintly on the wind as unseeable projectiles stab past Bucky with nary more than an uncharacteristic gulp, a strangely inoffensive sound for something that is putting four foot long cracks in the wall. The cruiser tractors slightly to the side, tracking the fire to the old dog's movement. Dimly illuminated ports bark lightly as they reorient, winking eyes in the dark.

"I am sure HYDRA /is/ involved," Panther notes, acidly, blood dripping from his claws.
Then he advances.

To his own merit, he does not seem interested in Foster in the slightest, despite her yelling from the rooftop, a sound that cuts out the moment she switches to an electronic means of communication. As Bucky appears to use a phone app to remove a rifle from the battery compartment, the black form stops in his tracks, knees lowering. Pupilless eyes narrow in concern, wordlessly. Hand lowering to his opposite wrist, the panther explodes forward, his hips extending into the motion. Just as Buchanan gets of those godlike shots, the report of the rifle loud enough to shatter glass, the panther leaps at him again. His first slash is from his left, one meant to take off the soldier's face. With the man's hands occupied, T'Challa fully expects to be countered with the rifle. This is ostensibly what he wants, because he intends to go through it, cutting it into three pieces to get to his quarry.

As for the battlecruiser, it lists as the single, powerful shot lances back into it, the port cracking ominously as the lght in it goes out, ejecting a pale blue liquid which evaporates in the ensuing detonation along that cavity. The fire is seen only briefly before the port closes, sealing up the damage. The cruiser tracks back in its original heading, making a slow advance as it goes for the renegade, just passing beneath Jane's vantage point as it hovers past.

He's sure HYDRA is involved, the Wakandan King says. Bucky stares a moment, before it parses — "Oh, you're kidding me," he mumbles.

He nearly misses a step when Jane turns on the communicator and starts yelling science in his ear. "I did listen the first time around," he argues back as she blathers something about arrays and MOSFETs. "But you put it in THOSE goddamn terms when you did, so — "

He doesn't really have time for banter. It will take all his concentration to make this shot within such a tight timeframe. The deadly Panther is leaping for him already, even as he gets his rifle up, aims, and fires. There's no time for him to dodge, only to block, and from just one deep rake of those claws, he knows that not even his arm is going to be able to stop them without severe damage. And he's gonna NEED that arm. So it comes down to an awful choice. He makes the only one that he can, but having an extremely expensive weapon system slashed into three pieces makes this master marksman cry inside.

And get angry. Really angry.

Left holding two of three pieces, Bucky violently wields both, ramming the stock low towards T'Challa's midsection even as he flips the sawn-off barrel and drives it muzzle-end first towards the Panther's face. Despite the violence of the attacks, they are not meant as killing maneuvers. He knows the Black Panther can tank the hits even if they connect. They're just moves to buy time.

Time for the way he turns and makes tracks again, away from T'Challa and towards that battlecruiser, his left arm humming to life per Jane's specifications.

Jane Foster watches keenly, closely, as the battlecruiser responds to the shot. Responds, recalibrates, and readies itself to continue. The technology is unparalleled.

But her attention swings back to Bucky, even as her mind processes these things parallel to each other, trying even from her height to keep watch on him, his safety, and how he blurs inhumanly fast with the strikes of the Panther, the two, darkened figures engaged in a brief dance that ends with the weapon in pieces.

Her lips part in shock. What melts through ballistics weave and metal, and is in vat, guarded supply in Wakanda. "Vibranium," Jane says through the comm what must already be apparent to Bucky. "Jesus Christ. How — you — shit. Shit shit shit."

She paws a hand through her hair, thinking. "Hold on, James. I'm going to think of something."

Lips pursed, she crouches down, skirts pinned as she knees down onto the roof in front of her laptop, pulling up scans of magicians' spells, courtesy of Shadowcrest's library: how to imbue physical artifacts. It's time to start a script.

"That gunship — thing. I think it runs on magnetic propulsion," Jane rambles in the meantime. "Like those bullet trains in Japan? Only — well, they don't /fly/. Wakanda. Bullets aren't going to do it. Their momentum depends on a changing system of polarity. You have to breach it. Maybe its own weapons? And a focused EMP blast into a weak point might disrupt it enough to crash it. Ground it, at least, and — I got it. I — James. Hold on. I got an idea."

Jane's voice goes suspiciously quiet. Tunnel-visioned. Her fingers fly against her keyboard as she begins to write a program that — oh, Jesus, sweet Jesus, if it works…

Even hitting a king feels different from hitting a man.

Striking the panther is a little bit like slapping the surface of water with an open hand. The panther grunts with exertion, spine flexing as he pulls away from the stock ramming into the middle of him, curling at the neck as he ducks to one side. The muzzle end of the thirded weapon snaps within centimeters of one clowing optic, the crack of thrust metal snapping through the air resounding in his ear as it cuts past his temple, stars flooding his view from the earlier checking blow.

Center of balance moved away from his core, T'Challa bends into a full core backflip, his body tucking tightly as he rolls into it, his heels never reaching more than five feet off of the ground as he goes. The move is executed not for evasiveness, but for speed—the panther hits the ground running, one leg snapping into the ground as he shoves off, launching into a full chase.

He catches the scent of it. The vapor trail is too faint to see in the rush of motion, but the smell will not escape a warrior such as the black panther. Frowning, it takes only a moment of thought to determine the strategem. The sound of the woman that cut out, the scent on the air. Only a few clues is what the panther needs.

He skids to a low, ragged stop as he moves one hand over another quickly, wheeling his momentum into the stone, draining force into the earth by swinging one leg wide. He lifts an arm, and makes his own shot.

The massive ship breaks from its tracking, rotating and following the black panther's discretion. A spray of that powerful fire, now cutting from one port less, follows after the panther's own attack. While the boxing fire was very clearly procedurally generated before, now it is focused, forming twin arcs at exact lines around the Black Panther, who has lifted his own arm, the gold fangs on his bracers flashing as—

He's shooting as well?

The panther's aim is different than the ship's. The ship is apparently meant to box the soldier in. But once T'Challa realizes what Barnes may be up to, he now fires at him directly. And this time, the rounds may come close enough to hit. As the fire from the panther continues, the shots streaking by will have a wet scent to them, an indistinct line. Almost as if they weren't made from metal at all…

Bucky may only make the full connection to the Wakandan gel ammunition if any number of the stun rounds hit him, long after the chemical suppressors have had a moment to work. To distract him. To slow him down. Even an inch of a sacrificed stride may be decisive.

"Vibranium," Bucky grunts back at Jane as she identifies the material of the Panther's suit — and deadly claws. He doesn't sound surprised, though. More like he already guessed. He probably did — he's well-familiar with how it feels to strike vibranium, for reasons he doesn't really like discussing. "I can't defend against vibranium for long. Can't even hit that shit. Hitting Steve's shield is like hitting a sack. No give, no — "

He cuts off, instinctively dodging center as the ship's fire boxes him in on left and right. There's really only one reason for a ship to fire in that particular pattern, however, so at the same time — with only one glance back — he makes a strong leap both up and forwards, clearing over much of T'Challa's unexpected fire from behind.

Some of those rounds tag him on the left ankle and leg. They don't impact like regular ammunition, don't smell like it either — no gunpowder, no flash, just a wet gel smell — and for a moment he's confused. Up until the slowing effect starts.

He hits the ground again short of his intended landing spot on the ship. Gritting his teeth, he glances up at the ship, trying to gauge where such a weak point for this EMP blast might even be.

Hold on, James, she says. I have an idea.

"Now's a great time for ideas," he mutters, as he tries to split his attention between the ship and the Panther. He has a moment, given the Panther's distance, but it is a moment that will not last given the Wakandan king's speed.

"I might have a work-around. No, no, I do have a work-around. It's unconventional, but bear with me. Bear with me — James?"

Jane's hands freeze on the keys as Bucky's voice cuts out. As, distantly, that Wakandan gunship begins to fire. She is Orpheus, her back turned all that who is her heart, the love of her life —

— and she wants so badly to look back and see him, know if he's all right. Jane, whose death is always not to know. But she knows if she looks now, she'll sacrifice precious time. She'll be afraid for him, and lose focus. So she grits her jaw, holds strong, trusts in James Buchanan Barnes, and keeps her eyes locked on the strange script she's writing: a mixture of programming language and magic.

Then Bucky's speaking back into her ear. Oh, thank God, thinks Jane, her heart hitching with relief. Bucky and mentioning great time for ideas.

"Patience is a virtue," Jane answers, as she finishes the script and toasts it with a nip on the cuticle of her thumb. She draws blood and annoints her keyboard. Weirdest part of this craft, but when in Rome.

"OK. Crash course in quantum tunnelling," she begins into his ear, as he dodges between both Wakandan King and his armaments, "it's basically allowing matter to travel through a potential barrier via which you decrease the probability amplitude to perfect zero. Easy enough?" Of course it is. Jane pulls her handbag from her phone, upends it, and grabs a few mechanical odds-and-ends. Ladies carry make-up. Fosters carry wiring and batteries to build home-made, high-powered magnets. She anoints her creation with a bloody thumbprint. "If this — when this works, yes, yes, when this works, I need you to clear your head. Don't think about vibranium. Just think about hitting. Trust me."

She leans over the edge of the roof. "One chance, babe. I'm dropping it! Catch it! Put it in your arm!"

Jane lets the blood-anointed magnet go.

The panther's helm tilts. It is an impressive defense. Despite having nearly a full parabolic field of saturation fire, the Winter Soldier resorts to some classy moves to avoid the main thrust of his attacks. As is the rhythm of this fight, he only attacks with full committment. Anything less would result in failure, and would be an insult to the only god that rules over the jungles of Wakanda. However, beneath the thrum of powerful magnetic engines and in the hailstorm of eroding weaponfire, he is powerless to consider the exact contributions Barnes' bystander is making to the man's strategies. He is at a disadvantage.

But then, he accounts for that.

Once the Winter Soldier begins to feel the sting of his weaponry's chemical sedatives, the panther leans forward, breaking his ready stance to drop into a low crouch. He favors his right arm, engaging gesturally something on his wrist. His movements are fast, silent, marked through with the kinesis of a creature far beyond the reach of Western convention. A glance determines he is controlling the ship remotely, for the ship ceases fire at his will, moving seamlessly over the course of the battle from heuristics driven dynamic geometic automated attack to subordinated unified target fire, to complete dormancy. The ship tracks powerfully over the ground, gauss fields more than enough to hold even the residual magnetism in the stone and deeply buried ore. Gunports, once like open eyes, all wink shut sequentially as it advances, its approach more of a controlled dive than a cautious advance, the machine careening over and through the battlefield.

The size is such that the whilring start to its approach cause it to clip a section of the building it started off near—coincidentally, the one Jane is perched upon, sending mortar and rock cascading onto the stone below in deep bass thumps.

The shadow of the cruiser passes over T'Challa only briefly, but the panther leaps at an angle up into the underside of the machine's magnetic drive, his body vanishing beneath the near-invisible ripples for only a moment. It takes a certain knowledge of physics to willfully engage with the underside of that machine without being torn to pieces by the oscillating gauss wake. That fet is redoubled, as the machine hurtles towards Barnes. Though it doesn't seek to ram into him directly, the ship cleaves trees in twain as it rockets overhead, making a low pass.

The distraction is almost enough to obfuscate the panther's own attack, dropping from the underside of the ship after Barnes, carrying a coil of cable reeling from the ship in his wake. Like some great leashed creature, the Panther leaps, in order to chase the soldier down and, moving to sink claws in the back, bring the Winter Soldier to the ground face-first before he can successfully scatter.

It is a defense that requires all his concentration, all his skill, and still falls just slightly short.

The Winter Soldier is not just a master acrobat. He has trained master acrobats. He turns and skids on a dime, twisting in the air to eel through so many fired shots ripping through the air. But in the end, sheer saturation wins out, and the jaws of T'Challa's trap snap shut. A few of those drugged shots hit home, slowing him for a few critical moments. Staggering him enough that he falls short of his intention to land on the ship itself, instead hitting the ground.

He's recovering a lot faster than he should be though. The serum in his blood makes his metabolism burn through toxins and sedatives like wildfire. He staggers up, panting, tracking the ship as it starts to move at the Wakandan king's bidding.

It gets way too close to Jane. Fury makes his blood burn even faster.

That might be why, when the cruiser wheels around — T'Challa now in tow — the Soldier actually moves forward to meet it, aggressing on it head-on as the serum dutifully purges the foreign chemical from his system bit by bit. He hears Jane in his ear, explaining her idea, multitasking processing the complex information with the kinesthetic awareness needed to survive the Panther's onslaught with the coordination only a super-soldier can achieve.

Huh. That's some weird shit she's talking about. But if it's what he thinks she's saying —

He passes by beneath her roof. The magnet falls — and then arcs, slapping into his left arm. It doesn't seem like anything happens, at first, which is pretty bad, because the next thing that happens is that the Panther descends on him from the ship like a leopard dropping from a tree, claws extended.

Enough of the chemical's still in his system that he can't react fast enough. Vibranium sinks deeply into his back, all ten talons of it, and the Winter Soldier hits the ground on his front hard enough that blood jolts up even around T'Challa's deeply-embedded claws.

That is about the time Jane's device kicks in, and runes light up down the length of that left arm.

The Winter Soldier twists violently under the Black Panther, heedless of those claws, of the agony and damage he causes to himself as they rake through his flesh with his turn. Heedless — because his focus is on bringing his left arm around, the metal howling, and driving it straight for dead-center of T'Challa's mass.

The runes flare, and that rudimentary quantum tunnel opens a brief improbable pathway through all the heavy vibranium of that habit.

Horror hitches across Jane's too-expressive face, a helpless mirror to every painful, agonizing thing that happens to Bucky Barnes. From her vantage point, she is helpless, unable to help — only able to look on and watch, distantly and far down, vibranium claws tear through his muscle and flesh.

Only able to watch — and drop down a gift to try to keep the man she loves alive.

It connects, though so far down, she cannot witness the precise connection of her powered magnet to his left arm. But Jane can certainly see the heralding light of all those activating runes. HER runes. It works.

Her breath catches in silent exult.

Then the battlecruiser clips her building and shakes it dangerously on its stringy foundations, old and archaic and not designed to bear collision with the unimagineable creations of Wakanda. The woman yelps and falls, shaken off her own feet, feeling a nauseating slide as the shop tilts now in a way the structure should not. She kicks herself back up, kicking one leg up to stop the perilous slip of her laptop over the now-inclined edge.

Jane tries to think. Her phone is still in her left hand.

She stores her laptop and thinks blurringly over the odds and ends and countless creations she's put in magical storage: some of it complete, some of it not, prototypes she felt might be necessary here, others she was too afraid to leave unsupervised at home. Her mind stops at one thing. She's never tested it. But. But!

Hurriedly, as the two men fight below, she pulls a pair of ballerina-flat slippers, innocuous until opening their soles reveal a futuristic hum of shopped-together quasi arc reactions. So she's been reverse-engineering Tony Stark's propulsion technology. A bit. It's not working, because she is new to the entire field, and fine, the man is a freakish genius. Footwear that can fly, however, didn't seem off the table. Especially activated by clicking their heels together, Dorothy-like.

It's a pity she's never going to be able to try them.

Because, with quickly-moving hands, propelled only by the fury of seeing Bucky's blood, Jane presses her side perpendicular to the caving-in roof, holding herself safe from tumbling over, as she grabs a loosened piece of stone and tears a long strip off the hem of her new dress. "Try this on for size," she snarls under her breath, "you son of a bitch —"

Jane steadies her bound creation in her lap. She takes in a deep breath. She clicks the tethered shoes' heels — and immediately lets go, barely escaping third degree burns as it fires blurringly away from her, aimed where she pointed it: right at the damaged gun ports of that cruiser.

They go to ground tumbling in a cloud of dust.

Blood and blades flash in the shadow of the battlecruiser as it careens overhead, a powerful, vicious hunter-killer craft hellbent on giving the panther the momentum to take the Winter Soldier down. Having latched onto him, the cable whirls overhead in ominous loops, trailing behind the young king as he drops Barnes to the ground, fighting and whirling.

Normally, this would be the end of it for most combatants. The Black Panther excels in putting a swift end to opponents who have lost their footing. The claws would be enough to open any armor as if it were tin. However, it may become increasingly clear to Barnes that he may not actually be fighting him with the intent of killing him. At least, not on the spot. Is there something else he's thinking about? Clarity is a hard won thing.

T'Challa sacrifices a sure grip on the soldier to draw the spike from the belt at his hip, a small metal blade terminating the end of the cable he's been dragging with him the whole time. This he slams into the ground, an instant before Barnes whips into him, full force.

The next moments unfold as if in slow motion. The revelation is that the magnetic drive of the cruiser above begins to flicker, powering on and off in rapid succession, the silent pads crackling with energy. The propelled reactor pads loosed from the top of the building slam into the cruiser's surface right near the port initially damaged by the high powered rifle T'Challa first dealt with. The port, though closed like all the others, is suffering from a telltale pneumatic failure. Vibranium is only as strong as the hinge that holds it on, and when the energy explosion rips into the cruiser, the rippling of the armor reveals a thin orange network across its entire surface, flashing in response to only partially absorbed energy.

The cable crackles with conducted power, a second later.

Then, the Black Panther's maneuvering becomes clear. He — for some reason — anticipated an electromagnetic pulse attack from the Winter Soldier, and responded by reconfiguring the vibranium shell of his cruiser to absorb the wavelength. In effect, by carefully splitting the plates so as to introduce an impromptu Faraday cage, leading in a conductivity trail straight into the earth, rather than the exposed pads of the unit. He seemed to infer this by the blue trails emanating from Winter Soldier's arm alone.

Unfortunately, T'Challa cannot scent quantum particles, and so he guessed wrong.

The arc weapon explodes across the surface of the cruiser, ripping through its left gunpod and its mobility pad, causing the entire affair to list dangerously towards the bay and the buildings on the other side of it. Even this does not evince a noticeable reaction from the great hunter, the young king having enough time to only slowly look up… just as Barnes gates his blow right through his panther's weave and slams a cannonball's worth of force behind a spearlike fist into his midsection. It is potentially one of the hardest hits T'Challa's ever been struck by.

The panther is knocked away, body lengths of space and ruptured lung air spilling out between them as unnatural ripples churn across his suit. He inverts once in the air, and lands on all fours, toes and claws dragging long furrows in the stone as he recovers. He looks up slowly at Barnes as air slips back into his chest, anger white hot in the young king's aching breast.

The only thing that gains T'Challa's attention is the metallic snap of the cable planted in the ground only moments prior. The cable's blade comes singing past him, to slice the head of a post right off of its mooring. The cruiser spins, partially flaming out towards the river. At the angle of its turning radius, it will slam into the buildings on the other side of the river, and quite likely level more than a few of them. A slow, raking hiss emits from the panther's chest, before he looks up, lengths of cable whipping past him, writhing like a dying snake.

Favoring more than a few buttons of the control unit embedded in his suit, the Black Panther turns his attention away from Barnes for moments, latching onto the singing cable, looping it around one arm. The whole run pulls him off of his feet, leaving him skidding across the cobblestone on his backside, sparks flaring from the fibers in his suit as he reconfigures the thrust patterns of his ship, even as it drags him along. When he slams against a piling, his muscles bunch at his thighs, the panther leaning into it to keep the leashed ship under his control while he guides it away from the civilized area. His suit thrums as circuitous patterns light up along the hems. Another man would have lost an arm to it. It is a titanic effort.

The piling cracks, just as the ship crumples in the air, and slams right back into the river, yanking the Panther angrily out to sea with it. He leaves behind a boardwalk chewed to pieces with ammunition that leaves no trace, and a boiling river that is stern indicator of his rage.

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