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Revision as of 19:34, 19 June 2020

A righteous man has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.

cn: violence

Dramatis Personae

Leo, Steve, The Winter Soldier

2020-06-17


"How is that possible?"

Location

<NYC> Chinatown


One of New York's oldest neighborhoods and the oldest Chinese enclave outside of Asia, Chinatown is a vibrant ethnic community, which draws throngs of tourists annually as well. This neighborhood is packed with Chinese-owned businesses, from restaurants to groceries to theaters to fashion.

Though summer is fast approaching it doesn't quite feel like it today, pleasant and mild and perfectly springlike as the sun goes down over Manhattan. The city still isn't quite returned to normal -- there are far too many shops closed altogether, unable to weather the shutdown, the streets aren't quite as busy as they might otherwise have been on a glorious spring evening, a number of passersby still wear colorful masks -- but it's bustling enough to be returning to some of its old feel.

Just stepping out of a tiny hole-in-the-wall bubble tea shop is Leo, dressed in daisy yellow short-sleeve button-down with a subtle windowpane pattern and dark indigo jeans with yellow contrast stitching. He is cradling a small carton of noodles in his long fingers; he's just upturned his order of karaage atop this and is dropping that cardboard dish in the trash. The top of his bubble tea has yet to be punctured, the cup tucked beneath one arm. "-- and then next thing you know it's three in the morning and you're reading about Anolis gorgonae on Wikipedia. Did you know that true blue pigment is very rare in nature? The internet is such a dangerous place if you ever like to sleep." There is not truly any regret in Leo's voice. A small smile playing on his lips as he shifts his food around, tipping his tea upright so that he can spear a wide straw through its top.

Steve had inhaled his own dan dan noodles before they even exited the shop, and is busy inhaling half of his large (purple!) bubble tea, as well. He's dressed casually, in a pale blue Chimaera Art Space t-shirt, well-worn blue jeans, and one of his nicer, less scuffed pairs of combat boots, his iconic shield slung across his back by a lightweight modern harness. "I did not know that, but come to think of it I couldn't name you too many blue critters off the top of my head. Blue birds, blue jays?" Then, after a long pause. "And this -- anolis, apparently. I don't really like sleep, and luckily don't need much, but I probably need more than I get on nights when I fall into these...wiki traps." Suddenly hesitant. "That's -- what you call them, right? Wiki -- pits?"

A little more than a block behind the pair, a lone figure waits a few beats before following them. The Soldier’s own mask looks a little less out of place, yet no less offputting. The blacking around emotionless blue eyes doesn’t assist with making him a comforting figure, nor does the metal arm with it’s bright red star. If the Soldier notices the ripple of discomfort around him that his sudden presence has caused, it is paid no mind. While he follows, own boots almost silent on the pavement, the eyes do their best to stay on The Target, instead of slipping over to the Other. The Other has his own star. The Other is ~~too big, I thought you were smaller~~ potentially a problem.

As much of a problem as the sniper rifle left on a nearby rooftop.

"Y-yes," Leo answers with a small nod, sipping at his pale green tea. "They are traps." He balances the food carefully against the side of his cup, twirling his noodles but not eating any. "Well -- there are a number of birds or insects or. Lizards -- anolis gorgonae is a blue anole, by the way -- that look blue, but most of them don't actually have any blue pigment in them." Now he does shovel the noodles into his mouth, crunching down on the chicken he's speared up with them. "Like -- oh!" His eyes light; he's darting off, ducking into the not-quite-really-a-yard of an adjacent apartment building. Semi-enclosed by a ramshackle bit of fencing, a tiny scrap of a garden tended out of the postage stamp bit of earth there. "Come, here, look." He's set his plastic cup down, crouching to point out a pipevine swallowtail that is hovering and landing on some bright red hollyhock.

Steve frowns, perplexed. "How is that possible?" he asks even as he follows Leo over to his impromptu classroom. Pivots as he sinks to one knee beside the smaller man, his eyes scanning the street has he does so -- lingering just a moment on the man with the metal arm, though only a moment. If he's much alarmed he gives no sign, though he stays on the balls of his feet, keeping the street in his peripheral vision. "Oh, wow! That's amazing -- butterflies generally, but some of them are so bright they practically glow." He blushes faintly. "Or are you about to tell me this butterfly is not actually blue but -- some kind of illusionist?"

The Soldier does not slow when the Target and Other veer away from the sidewalk. There is no visible reaction when he notices the Other notice him, even as static-filled pain flairs up behind the eyes. At least now the white star is not staring. The plates of the metal arm ripple, expand as the Soldier draws close enough now to hear their conversation, metal fingers gently closing into a fist. The flesh hand pulls out a knife. This was meant to be a distance mission; the amount of close range weapons available are low. The Soldier will simply have to. Improvise. Changing his route, he walks toward the door of the apartment building, keeping the others at the corner of his eye, quickly measuring distance and angle. Three steps to make a clear path for the knife. One. This was a distance mission because the Target is dangerous in close quarters. Two. The Other is the one setting off every fight instinct the Soldier has. Three. The Soldier pivots on his heel and throws the knife at the Other’s face in one smooth, fast motion, before barreling after it and towards the Target.

"Yes!" Leo's eyes widen, a brighter excitement in his tone. "Essentially they are. It isn't that far off from what Jackson does, really." He waggles his chopsticks towards the butterfly. Its wings shift slow and sedate -- brilliant blue along the bottom from one angle; from another, nearly solid black. "We see them as blue because of how they're shaped, but there's no blue in them. The blue comes from the way the wing surface is structured. There are layers of membrane, so as the light travels deeper each wave is a little more out of phase -- the interference is what gives them --"

He breaks off, sharp and sudden, as the Soldier approaches. At first it's just with a deep blush, a duck of his head, a lowering of his eyes -- whatever he mumbles isn't quite distinct but it carries a tone of apology, as he lowers his chopsticks back to the carton. It's only a moment later -- as the knife appears -- that his eyes widen again, this time with clearer alarm, his fingers clenching tighter against the cheap wooden utensils.

Steve listens with rapt attentiveness, watching the colors on the butterfly's wings change as it opens and closes them slowly. He does not turn toward the approaching man, though he does lean forward slightly, setting down his tea. It's only when Leo breaks off that he turns fully to look, his eyes latching onto the knife. He rises, fluid and inhumanly fast, turning on the ball of his leading foot to simultaneously put the shield -- still on his back! -- where his face had been and his entire -- not insignificantly sized! -- self between the attacker and Leo. Only when he feels the knife skip off of it does he snatch the shield from its harness, slipping it onto his right arm and bashing it directly into the incoming charge.

The raised metal fist slams into the shield, the impact ringing out like a bell. The Soldier feels it all the way up the metal arm and into the bones. The back teeth seem to rattle before he clenches the jaw and ignores the screaming pain that echoes up from his spine and ribs. It will be far worse if the mission fails. It will already be unpleasant; the Soldier did not follow orders; the Soldier has compromised his mission. To fail now…

Fear is a spark that burns pain into anger. The Soldier quickly straightens, the metal hand moving to grasp the edge of the shield and twist it out of the way, one heavy booted foot coming up to kick the Other in the chest.

Leo's eyes are still very, very wide. He rocks back on his heels, flinching visibly at the crack of the metal arm against the shield. He reaches one hand out slowly, carefully, a finger extending light and delicate to touch just his fingertip to the edge of one red blossom. The flower sways gently, the butterfly interrupted in its drinking. Something in him relaxes as the insect opens its wings again and flutters off, past the clash of combatants and out of the garden. He scoots back towards the fence, slow, his tea forgotten on the ground and his food clutched tight.

Steve grits his teeth as the force of the blow he just blocked -- vibranium shield notwithstanding -- skids him back a few inches. Despite this he's clearly not prepared for his opponent's immense strength, the metal arm wrenching the shield aside though not dislodging it from his arm at least. All the same, he take the kick squarely to the chest. In fact, he seems to collapse, his trailing leg buckling beneath him.

But no, he's going down much too fast for it to be unintentional. He claps his left hand against the metal one gripping the edge of his shield, trapping it and yanking the other man down with him as he executes a sharp lateral roll in a bid to dissipate the force of the attack and, kind of incidentally throw his opponent flat on his back -- right into the flower bed that the butterfly has just vacated.

The butterfly may have survived, but the red hollyhock does not. Air rushes from the Soldier as he meets the ground with a thud that seems to almost shake the dirt beneath him. The metal hand tightens it’s grip on the shield before the Soldier twists around, the left shoulder and back wrenching at the force as he rights himself, one leg extended to sweep the Other’s knee. The flesh hand, in the meantime, has found another knife that is again thrown, this time at the Target’s knee.

Leo's eyes dart between the two men, his expression paling. His shoulders curl inward as the flowers crush beneath the Soldier's body. He sucks air in between his teeth, his hand starting to stray toward his pocket. But hesitating, moving instead toward his mouth. He coughs. Coughs again. The flick of his fingers is quick and almost irritable, just before he quietly starts to crosses himself. The gesture is aborted by a hiss, by the sharp crunch of a knife embedding into bone.

Leo's cry is only a small wordless -- "ah."

Inside the Soldier, invisibly, something -- many tiny somethings -- start to churn. It doesn't immediately feel like much. A climbing temperature. A bit of nausea. His breath just that much harder to catch. His thoughts coming just a touch slower.

Steve doesn't bother freeing the shield from the Soldier's grasp, but he actually dodges this kick, bracing his right hand against the ground and flipping himself briefly horizontal. While in mid-air, he snaps a powerful kick of his own right at the Soldier's throat -- too late to stop him hurting Leo.

The Soldier leans back to dodge the kick. Somehow, he is not quite fast enough. The kick finds the face instead of the neck. The mask collapses against the face; the Soldier feels the nose and teeth and orbital bones break in a giant red flash of pain as the feet leave the ground completely. Somewhere in the Soldier’s flight, the metal hand loses the so recently acquired shield, before he thuds to the ground a few yards away in a tangle of flesh, metal, and cracked concrete.

The cardboard tray of noodles and karaage drops from Leo's hands, spilling its contents across the ground. Leo's teeth have gritted, his shoulders hunching further and one hand digging fingers hard into the dirt. He reaches towards the knife -- checks himself, leaves it. Starts to push himself upward, checks that movement too with a strangled cry as he sinks back down.

The invisible churning, meanwhile, is starting to become more visible. A spreading speckled-red rash where the Soldier's skin is visible around the mask and blackened eye paint. More noticeable to the Soldier, as well; a throb of headache, his fever spiking more acute, the warm spring sun growing painful on the eyes. Somewhere on the heels of this, the nausea wells up sudden and intense, though in the realm of Problems this perhaps takes a back seat to the constellation of bloody mess roiling somewhere within the Soldier's head. Rupturing blood vessels, uncontrolled bleeds welling into his brain --

at least the slow drip of red from his eyes is a nice complement to the goth makeup. It almost looks intentional.

Steve lands in a crouch, rolls again to snatch the shield back up with his left hand. He winds it back to throw the shield, but Leo's cry of pain checks him. With one last glance at the Soldier, he returns the shield to his back and rushes back to his friend. Takes one look at the knife protruding from the man's knee. "Let's get you out of here," he says. Scooping Leo up as gently as he can, he hastens away from the stunned would-be assassin.

The Soldier does his best to use the pain to focus instead of getting lost in it. Blood fills the mask, making it impossible to breathe now. The metal arm begins to push the Soldier up, the flesh hand fumbling at the mask to pull it free—between the pain and unseen internal forces, the hand can’t seem to grasp it. Then, the bright red flash again; lightning through his skull. Gurgling a low groan that is muffled, wet, and ragged, the Soldier collapses back to the concrete. The body stays there, unmoving, save for the occasional twitch as the body’s healing factor does its best to ward off death. Somewhere inside the chest cavity, a different kind of bug activates at the lowered heart rate, turning on a GPS chip.

The body will not be there for long.