Demon Bear: Alcor Sighted

November 05, 2017:

The Demon Bear has a change of plans. It sets it sights upon the guileless figure of Jane Foster.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

The cold stings deep tonight: like a needle straight to the marrow.

It's the sort of cold that empties Washington Heights to an eery standstill, families enjoying their Sunday dinner indoors — away from the nipping autumn winds, out of the chilly November rain.

Perfect weather, however, for Jane Foster to get a bit of work done.

Her first priority to James now fulfilled — his new arm built, and his mind free of the programming of old monsters — it's past time for her to finally turn her mind back on her too-long, too-abandoned work.

Drawn to the site by Agent Coulson's report — the place where the so-named Spider-Woman passed through an Einstein-Rosen Bridge and crossed dimensions — the astrophysicist sets up shop.

Shop is on the roof of the old Columbia University trustee building (closed and relocated office at the moment, cited reason 'building not meeting code, needing emergency structural repairs: courtesy of SHIELD', as she briskly ties a tarpaulin over some of her more sensitive equipment.

Dressed for the weather, in jeans and an old hooded coat, a baseball cap over her head to deflect the drizzling rain, Jane heaves a sigh, her breath misting out into the chill, too-humid air. The life of an astrophysicist. Middle of the night wormhole-chasing while freezing her ass off. She missed this.

Aligning an array of her handmade sensors — Jane's versin of LEMMS, and what she attests is even better than the hackwork on Cassini, because hers accounts for the barrage of terrestial electromagnetic noise — and hops and weaves over bundling wires to point their discs straight up into the sky.

She wipes rain off the screen of her digital gyroscope. If there's a significant curvature in spacetime, she's going to find it.


Life is hardly a predictable thing. Rarely stable.

Whether one finds themselves human, animal, or an odd-mixture of both.

Plans work, plans fail, and then plans change.

Tonight those plans go a step further and likewise evolve.

Especially for the Demon Bear after its prey once again eluded its grasp. Its strategy has taken itself one step further and evolved.

As such, outside the city a crazed-mind stretches its awareness outward. Hunting, searching and looking. Knowing what it seeks is far enough away that it'll take time to locate, the Demon Bear splits its consciousness into a dozen fragments of itself. Those slivers arc high into the air and then change shape into a familiar figure - crows. Carrion eaters. Beady-eyed and tatter-feathered.

Unlike their more normal brethren, these crows don't just fly, they also dive into shadows and within that black-shade gateways form. It's what allows the crows to travel vast distances in such a short time. It's what allows the crows to suddenly find themselves back within the more urban setting of the city.

Now their mystic senses reach outward looking for a newly familiar presence and one particular small group of crows (three in total) find themselves close to what they seek.

Or rather, who they seek.

Jane will find herself with a few more minutes of quiet, but then with a flutter of wings, three large black birds join her upon the roof. And whether their presence is immediately noticed by Jane or not, all three simultaneously bark out with a sharp and loud CAW.


Making the last-minute touches to her sensor array, Jane takes one last, searching glance up at the sky above.

Heavy and dark. And yet always just out of reach.

"Just work with me here," she beseeches it, beseeches them, because even if the rain covers her stars away, Jane knows they're still there. "Just this once. OK?"

Rain hits down on her eyelashes. She wipes the cold wet from her face.

Exhaling, the woman retreats to one corner of the rooftop, following all her wires back to where she's draped some plastic covering over the curling end of heat vent: made a safe, dry spot for her opened laptop. Wiping her damp hands dry on her jeans, she checks her connectors, and begins initial data compilation of her program.

Each sensor comes online, one after another, save for one listing uplink failures —

Jane looks back. And then, through the dark and rain, comes the sharp shriek of crows. Crows of all things, making strange perch over its dish. Where the hell did they come from? The park a block away?

Not that it matters: she doesn't have time for this.

"Hey!" she snaps, moving forward, reaching to take the hat off her head and wave it fiercely at the birds in communion. This is sensitive hardware. "Get out of here! Stupid garbage birds! Off!"


The bird's cry echoes around that solitary rooftop and then beyond. It rises higher upward and onward to another plane of existence. Some might call it the astral plane, or mystical plane, or even another dimension altogether, but whatever it /really/ might be, the song of the crows flows into it.

While they could have fled back into the safety of the shadows they don't. Not when Jane Foster comes out of her 'nest' to find the birds perched precariously so. Her 'hey' garners the attention of the first bird; the other two stay focused upon the sky. That first set of glassy-eyes watches the woman's approach. It's only when she waves her hat so ferociously that the second bird shifts its attention to the woman as well.

Then, finally, with that last insult of hers the third crow likewise shifts its eyes away from the sky.

Fear doesn't seem to be a factor for the three birds. In fact, they only offer an intelligent and canny look to her. Until, as one, the crows dip their beaks and peck at the dish of the sensor.

With that figurative line drawn in the sand, the birds straighten and look at the woman again. Only their attention doesn't last long -

Not when their caw is finally answered.

Off to the side of the brown-haired woman the birds now look. A deep well of shadow can be seen there and while shadows don't typically shift, or move, this one does. It causes the square of black to alternately distend and then retract; almost as if it was a living, breathing, thing. Only shadows aren't alive and truly, neither is this one.

Instead it's become a doorway and from that inky entranceway something emerges.

The shadows part like water and as they flow away a claw-tipped paw rises upward from the depths. Then a second joins it. And finally the beast itself pulls itself forth.

It has the head and paws and legs of a bear, but beyond that, that's where the similarities end. The torso of the bear is made completely of shifting blackness. And while it could have easily blended in with all the darkness around it, the bear's eyes help to give it away. They glow with an internal light which helpfully reveals the madness that's etched upon its face. A face, that for this moment, is on a similar level as Jane's.

And then, because it can, it opens its maw and roars.


A couple weeks ago, Jane may have run cold, sensing that astral call.

The last trace of blood magic gone from her veins, its lingering imprint tracked over by the constant beat of her heart, she lifts her head, knots her eyebrows, and in the end, hears nothing but the simple, banal cry of crows.

Crows that will not leave.

"Get — off!" she snaps, words winded by the fierce, frenetic way she bats her hat at their feathery bodies, trying and failing to be the world's littlest scarecrow.

In fact, it only seems to compel them to start nipping and biting at the shiny metals of her work. They're not even afraid of her.

That in itself is nothing new. Who, in all this world, has, is, or could ever be, afraid of little Jane Foster?

She paws the rain out of her eyes, aggravated, damn certain if anything is going to get in the way of her work, it's not going to be a few birds. She swats ferociously. "Assholes! Get the — Jesus Christ! I hate birds! Good for nothing — little flying rats — get off my equipment before I —"

Something beeps at her from across the rooftop.

Jane looks back, eyes wide. She knows that sound. It's coming from her laptop. Even at fifteen feet, the readout scrolls her moving screen, rich with data.

DETECTED: CASIMIR PRESSURE

It's happening.

She looks back —

— and it happens so fast, so sudden, and there right before her eyes, as Jane watches a monstrous animal pull itself free from shadow. In existence. Alive. And right in front of her.

Her hat drops from her right hand and hits the roof.

Then the bear roars, the sound horrible and alien and REAL, and Jane responds with a breathless cry, stumbling backwards and tripping immediately on her own running wires. She knocks her array in so many directions as cables tangle with her legs, and she goes numb with panic, rainwater running into her eyes as she tries to kick herself free.

This isn't happening —

Until Jane looks up, skin shocked white, and it is. She needs to —'


All those vile words from the scientist simply rolls off the bird's backs.

In fact, if birds could look smug, these ones would.

If they could laugh they'd likewise do that as well.

But as it is, all the crows can do is take wing when Jane (ironically) trips over the wires and pulls the equipment down herself.

Their flight is short-lived as they arrow for the bear's body and then disappear within the hazy outline of its torso.

Then it's all about the bear and Jane.

And the rain. Only the rain is no longer falling. Instead those droplets of water begin to crystalize, as the temperature of the area steadily starts to drop. The first few flakes of snow drift downward toward the seemingly surprised Jane Foster.

Apparently, winter has come early for her.

And now it's time to run.

The beast known as the Demon Bear watches the woman. It can see and sense the shock and that brings a chuff of sound from it. The sound holding a note of amusement. Even with that noise that doesn't seem to stop the Bear as it extends one a paw at Jane. In this case, instead of sinking claws into her, it reaches out to give her a hard swat. Something that could potentially roll her forcefully away from the bear.

Something that's clearly intended not to kill her.


The rain beats down.

It batters Jane where she sprawls, darkening and weighing her clothes with cold water, soaking through her exposed hair. With no longer the brim of her hat to shield her, it beads down her face, over her trembling mouth, into her blinking eyes.

In all the things she's seen this past year, witnessed, had happen, had turn on her, this —

Now this. A bear, real but not, made of darkness, and up here with her. Turned on her. Staring at her.

There are moments when all simple, sad little prey animals freeze, locked in a stupor so much they forget they need to run. Jane is no different, staring up and up at the animal too large even to be real, and with no thought in her head but the question why — why her?

Rain chills into snow. It dusts through her wet hair.

Jane holds the bear's eyes. Terror holds her in place. Can't move. Can't think. She needs to —

The bear moves, and she remembers. Breath misting between her lips, she tries to kick the last cable off her ankles, pushes herself up — and immediately is caught up in the swipe of that gigantic paw.

It knocks her away as if she weighs nothing, and she does, slapped away and hitting the side of the roof in a hard crack of bone and limb. Jane tries to cry out in pain, but even sound evades her, her breath knocked clean from her lungs. Her first movement is a preemptive one, and she fists over her coat pocket, feeling it. She has her phone.

Get up. She opens her eyes and grounds her hands, scraped up from the roof, and finds herself backed to a literal corner. Over the edge of the roof, a fatal drop. A drop and — the rusted ladder of an old fire escape.

With that, Jane scrambles, pulling herself over roof's edge, not even wasting time to grab the rungs of the ladder. She drops, and has faith — and faith hurts too, as she hits hard, several feet down, the first level of the iron-barred escape. Climb down. Call James. Hide.

Head still pounding, hands so cold she can't even feel them, she grapples the ladder to begin sliding down.


The Bear watches. It allows Jane to scrambles over the edge of the roof. Allows her to drop down hard to the fire escape below.

It allows her to run.

A game of cat and mouse. Or perhaps, fox and mouse. Where the fox looks on from above ready to pounce at any moment.

Slowly the Bear ambles over to the lip of the rooftop and with bright eyes it cants it gaze downward, to the 'escaping' figure of Doctor Jane Foster.

It waits, now, watching, as the woman slides downward. And as she makes her way toward the ground she might even feel the snap of cold echoed through the metal of the ladder. Enough to potentially bite at the skin upon her hands, possibly even pull some of it from her fingers and palms; if she isn't quick enough.

For the Bear, he waits until she's on the ground. Truthfully, he waits even longer than that. He'll allow her to start running, even punch a number into her phone, and only then does he move. A shadow upon the rooftop is (once more) strolled to and with a shift, the Bear disappears within.

A corresponding patch of darkness down upon the ground fluctuates and with a flourish along the edges, the Bear pulls itself free to join Jane Foster at street-level.

The hazy swirl of snow continues to fall scattered around the two.


Her hands stick to freezing iron.

Jane's shuddering breath clouds on the air. It was cold before, but now — it's freezing. Freezing her numb. Freezing her in a way she can only recall once, one year ago —

— reminded even now, amidst her panicked descent, when she landed on that frozen planet and the cold burned her straight into the bone. James was there. He came for her. He'll do it again.

Skin rips off her hands; Jane barely feels it. The flesh is too numb, and she's too busy — too busy descending floor after floor, her shoes rattling the iron escape each level she lands. She doesn't dare look up. Won't let herself. No time for it. No second glance to make sure that thing is real, if it's still up there. She believes it.

The ladder won't unhitch down to ground level, and she doesn't have time, so Jane holds her breath, vaults the rail, and drops.

It's a ten-foot hit straight down to cement, sending her on an imbalanced roll, and she wastes little time and less breath to pull herself back up, immediately breaking into a terrified sprint.

Jane refuses to look back as she runs.

She isn't sure where to go. It's not an animal, indoors won't help her, no place she can barricade and lock herself. She has to hide, hide and wait, as she thinks bitterly — if she had her equipment, she could do more, could even bring the magic back to her blood, but she threw it out, she gave it up, she has nothing, and she has to think —

She catches the sprawling dark body of J. Hood Wright Park, yellowy street light filtering through skeletal trees. It's enough. Her chest hurts from taking that hit; her breath hitches in pain, but Jane pushes herself on.

It's not until she moves through those gates and off the cobbled path — crunching dead leaves underfoot as she knees down in a well of shadow — that Jane pulls free her phone. The screen illuminates her in its glow, all of her frozen, wild-eyed panic. Her hands miss punching in his number. Her fingers are so cold — so cold.

It rings the first number she would ever call.

"James —" is Jane's first word into the phone. She's breathless like a bad dream, no words when you need them, no voice to scream. She's begging. "James —"


The phone only rings once before it's picked up. James never keeps her waiting. Not since the trial. Not since Wakanda.

It's not important what he's doing at the time, because it's immediately dropped and forgotten once he hears Jane's voice over the line.

"Jane?!" he responds, the name in itself a question: what is happening? He's already halfway out the door.

The GPS locators on their phones tell him where to go. It's an hour and a half, at least, to Washington Heights from Bay Ridge, as a normal person would go.

Too slow. He's running it, full tilt, the entire way.


Jane runs.

She doesn't look back.

If she did she'd see the Bear languidly walking after her.

Her hurried footfalls take her down the street and into that ever-so-close park. Her steps actually take her far and fast enough away that the snow shifts back to rain. Those droplets once again pelting down upon her head, her body, even the face of her illuminated phone. The water a contrast to the snow; warmer too, thanks to the temperature rising that few necessary degrees to revert back.

For Jane, she'll be able to get out a few more sentences before a familiar sight greets her eyes again.

Snow.

A warning of the Demon's approach. The only warning she gets.

Then a second later, the area around her erupts -

Specifically the shadows that she herself creates from the light of her own phone. From within her silhouette the Bear appears. There's a roar as he emerges - it's a sound of triumph, of the predator who knows the prey is now caught.

With that roar the sharp talons of one paw slash downward, intending to impale themselves through the young woman's back.

The sharp song of magic dances along that blighted keratin, singing of the joy in taking a soul.


Her voice breaks to hear his.

Jane closes her eyes in relief. She knows immediately: it's going to be OK.

"James," she begs a third time, her voice tightened into a whisper. He can imagine her from the way she sounds: hiding from someone she doesn't want to hear, breathless from running, afraid, and alone. Counting down the seconds she cannot waste on unnecessary words. Needing him here. "Fort Washington. 173rd. Park. It's a b—"

Snow falls. Her voice cuts out.

Over the line, there is a rattle of her phone moved, her fingernails stratching over the receiver.

The call picks up that roar — not human, not made with a man's throat, huge and animal and right there, right there with her —

Jane looks up at the shape unravelling out of shadow, spreading too many times larger than her, swallowing her in its growing, mantling shape. She looks up and up, eyes begging to their whorling whites, as the Demon Bear looks down on her.

There is no breath to scream.

Those claws punch through her body, and one last, small sound seeps through the phone: a sound the Winter Soldier has heard many times over so many years.

A blade in the back. A body being ventilated of its last plea.

Jane drops to the ground. The phone slips through her fingers.


The claws pierce clothing, pierce skin, muscle, bones, lungs and heart.

A wound like this would likely kill, but the Bear doesn't wish death upon the young woman, as such, she doesn't die. Not with the magic flowing from the Bear to Jane.

From that, the woman lives, even as she hangs painfully from those curved claws. Then both she and the Bear descend into the darkness beneath it, the touch of icy madness all around the two.

Upon the rooftop the disturbed equipment sits. The ladder still holds the bit of skin from frost-burned hands and a block away, where the trail abruptly ends, a few rain-slicked leaves hold a half-dozen droplets of blood.

The snow once again rain. Rain that's trying to wash away those last traces of Doctor Jane Foster.


James arrives too late.

By the time he scales to the rooftop, panting, heart leaping from his chest, there is nothing but Jane's equipment, Jane's lingering scent, and the last few drops of Jane's blood. He is white-faced and silent as he searches out the tiny hints that the rain has not yet washed away, decades of experience tracking prey allowing him to follow even such a scant trail.

It dead-ends barely a block away. Doesn't fade, doesn't trail off — just stops. He stands where it cuts off. Shorn unnaturally short… as if Jane herself had been clipped out of the fabric of the world.

There is nothing left. Not even her phone.

Nothing left to him — except the sound of Jane impaled through the back, recorded indelibly in his perfect photographic memory.

He stands a long few moments, staring at the ground where the last drop of blood fell. The rain washes it away, and still he does not move, blink, or speak.

Then, with a sudden convulsive movement, the Winter Soldier turns and leaves the rooftop, fading into the greyness of the misting rain.

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