I hate this country

Summary:
November 19, 2014: Falcon and Jericho break into an abandoned launch facility for the Soviet cosmonaut program, but end up finding far worse than they expected.

Abandoned Launch Facility - Russia


Characters

NPCs

  • None

Mood Music:


It's been a couple days. Jericho and company had to lay low while he yanked data off the hard drives they recovered from the now ruined FSO server farm. Said data has been interesting but inconclusive. Now the little group has moved on and is now in far Eastern Russia at the site of the old Cosmonaut Launch facility. This area is, allegedly, abandoned but the soldier turned hacker is of the considered opinion that it's probably best not to operate alone anywhere in Russia. Besides, only two of them actually speak any Russian so it's not a particularly good idea for Sam or Carol to be going anywhere alone.

Not that Jericho's too worried. Sam is a soldier as elite as he is, albiet skilled along different lines and right now is a time for them to make use of that. To wit: Seeing if this place is really as abandoned as it's supposed to be. The facility is overgrown now, visible from the air only because of the wide concrete landing strip and launch pad. Otherwise it looks like a fairly pristine stretch of Eastern Siberian forest.


Sam's far less visible from the base than it is from his airborne vantage point. To start with, he's tiny by the standards of RADAR systems designed to detect aircraft and missiles. Furthermore, his flight suit and wings are coated in a material that absorbs rather than reflects radio waves. Beneath that, he's wearing a layer of powerful insulation that both keeps him warm in the freezing air and muffles his heat signature. Put simply, any system that might conceivably provide anyone on the ground with early warning of his approach would have to be sensitive enough to be constantly set off by things like balloons, rainstorms, and yes, actual birds.

"Have I mentioned how much I hate this country?" he asks over his headset, scanning the base with goggles dialed to highlight electromagnetic fields, radio waves, and heat. "I mean, in the last five minutes? Because I really, really hate this country. A lot."


"In Soviet Russia, country hate you?" Jericho chuckles from his own place, further back. He can fly too but arial recon is Sam's bag and the hacker's more than happy to let him do it. The facility certainly looks abandoned from up here. Heat signatures are nil, there's no power running to anything and there's nothing at all that's transmitting. Electromagnetically speaking, the place really is just a pristine stretch of forest with some crumbling, kind of depressing buildings scattered about it.


"This really is some kind of Soviet jam," Sam says, flicking through a few more less obvious filters before giving up on the aerial inspection. "All brutalist and frozen and abandoned. So symbolic." There's a short pause, then: "Yes, I know what brutalism is. I read." Another pause. "Blogs, mostly."

By that time, he's soaring over the landing strip. There's no noticeable activity below. "If there's anybody down there, they're hiding from us as much as we are from them," he says slowly, as though sneaking up on an unpleasant truth that he would rather not acknowledge. "The only way we're going to spook them into revealing themselves is by getting up close and personal."


"Remind me to e-mail you some classics." The hacker notes drly. "I'll work my way in from the south end. Allegedly there's some old computer hardware here that was abandoned when the base was. And when I say abandoned I do literally mean the people all just left one day. See if you can restore power. The generator shed should be somewhere on the northern outskirts of the facility. And watch your tail." Jericho's voice cuts out and in the distance there's a flare of amber as he takes off skyward.


"You got it," Sam answers, banking and swooping toward the indicated building — which is helpfully flagged on his HUD. "Unless it's, like, an abandoned nuclear reactor. But even for these guys, that would be taking the whole 'ashes of the Cold War' theme a little far."

He tugs a small device out of one of the pockets on his flight harness, hits a button on the side, and then simply lets go of it. A gasbag on the side inflates, and the device hovers placidly in his wake. "I've deployed an aerostat monitoring drone. Nifty little gadget — it'll keep an eye on the situation and send us an alarm if there are any sudden, widespread changes. Like a smaller, slower, less awesome version of me."

That done, he dives toward the building's entrance, hitting a running landing that ends with his shoulder to one side of the door. He listens for a second, making one last scan for heat signatures, then notifies Jericho: "I'm going in."


"I dunno if I'm ready to handle a less awesome you. Does that technically make the drone your sidekick?" Jericho teases. Sam's been doing the patriotic unaligned hero thing for long enough that Jericho likes to tease him about being conflated with the costumes and capes types. "The place used to be hooked up to the main power grid. Obviously it's not anymore but there should be backup generators in the shed there. Gasoline powered, I'm betting. I'm moving in through the southern perimeter on foot. Will contact you if anything changes. Out."

The shet is dark though Sam ahs night vision so that's less of an issue. The generators are here, as predicted but they're old and have been subjected to the elements (albeit with some protections) for a decade or more with no maintenance.


"It's not really a sidekick so much as, like, the annoying robot pal," Sam replies, his tone easy. "It's my R2-D2. Or, wait… that was the not-annoying one. What was the annoying one called?" He knocks down the door and sweeps the area with his SHIELD-issued ICER. Nobody. He enters cautiously, and starts to take stock of the generator. "Well, I guess it only makes noise when there's danger, so it's technically not that annoying. I guess it can be R2-D2. But Cricket's gonna be pissed if she hears about this when I get back to New York."

Sam's expertise generally lies in patching up broken bodies, not broken equipment, but the general principles of battlefield maintenance still apply. He's always had a head for engineering, anyway — one reason he was valuable as a tester in the Falcon program. It doesn't take him too long to improvise a solution, borrowing generously from other pieces of broken equipment that he has no use for. "Okay, I'm gonna hit the switch. Pray that I don't blow myself up — lotta gasoline in here."


"C-3PO." Jericho replies. Don't ask why he knows that. "Why is Cricket going to be upset with you?" The Hacker is familiar with Cricket. Hell he likes Pepper's robot PA. The two have worked together in the past and he counts her among potential allies in the ongoing struggle that is his life. No seriously, it is.

"If you die, I'll tell May that you left your sock drawer to her." That'll get her to pull something out of R and D to bring Sam back… just so she can kill him again.

The switch pulled the power hums back on. The old clanky generators are noisy and smokey but they are workng. "Good work Sam. I've got p-" His congratulations are cut off by Sam's drone warning of multiple movement and heat signatures all inbound.


"Shit." Sam taps a switch embedded in his gauntlet, pulling up a drone's-eye view of the compound as an overlay on his goggles. "We've got unknowns inbound from all directions. Soldiers, I'm guessing." He abandons his work and runs back out into the snow, wings already unfurling as he crosses the threshold into the frigid outdoors. "Have I mentioned how much I hate this country?" Unless he comes under fire, he's immediately going to jet into the sky, hoping he has enough of an early warning to escape the net closing around them.


Jericho looks about from his own location near the perimeter. He can't see anything. His eyes go red as he flips to thermal and… holy shit! Over the open radio link Sam can hear a clang of metal on metal as Jericho's blade unfolds just in time to allow him to block a strike aimed at his head. "Not soldiers!" The hacker shouts. "Definitely not soldiers. Watch it Sam whatever they are they're nearly the same temperature as the ground around them. And they're invisible to boot!"

Sam can hear doors being kicked open across the compound.


"Invisible? Aw, you have GOT to be kidding me!" With no way to know whether he's completely alone or surrounded by enemies, Falcon takes to the air. He sets his goggles to the thermal filter and tries to figure out where their enemies came from and whether there's any pattern to their defense. Truth be told, the drone's recordings are likely to be more valuable in that regard — but only in a post mortem for the op. In the moment, the direction of this mission balances between two alternatives: "Do you need an extraction, or are we gonna try to push through this?"


"Good for now." Jericho says in the manner of someone clearly otherwise occupied. Once Sam has his thermal set he can see the.. whatever they are. The variance is between their bodies and ambiant temperature is slight, yes, but once you know what to look for it's not too hard to pick them out. Of course thermal doesn't give you much detail so all he can make out is the outlines which are distinctly lizard like. They appear to be weidling crude, improvised melee weapons, likely scavenged from the very facility they're in.

"I dunno what we stepped in here, Sam, but we need to prevent them from wrecking the computers." Whatever they are, the activation of the generators seems to have stirred them into a frenzy and they're running all about. Some of them are attacking the walls in their fury.


"Okay, great. Any guesses how we do that?" Sam asks, observing the havoc from above. He can't help but notice that he hasn't taken any gunfire at all. And, as he sweeps over the launch pad, he can't help but notice that the frenzy is oddly directionless — like they're not mad at the interlopers so much as the base itself.

"Hey, you sound busy and all, but I just had a crazy idea," he says, sounding cautious but thoughtful. Call it flying-guy-who-isn't-being-attacked-by-invisible-lizard-men privilege. "I turned on the power and reason number five hundred seventy-three why I hate this country went nuts and attacked. Suppose I turn off the power?"


"Worth a shot." Jericho can be seen fighting in place. He's not bothered taking off yet because he's not entirely certain he wouldn't get a spear to the back or something if he did. Much better to keep them at bay now that he can 'see' them. "If they're not already swarming the shed. Which I can't see from here."

Oddly, they're not already swarming the shed. It seems like they're giving the noisy machines a wide berth.


"Looks like the generator building is clear," Sam reports, already coming in for a landing (as close to the front door as possible — speaking of wide berths). A couple of thrown weapons come at him as he does so, but only one is accurate enough to clang off of a metal wing. "If that leaves a dent, I am going to whoop your invisible Russian ass," Sam growls as he dives through the doorway. He pauses with his hand on the toggle that will deactivate the generators, then draws his ICER and aims at the doorway. He's really hoping this won't leave him in a zombie movie last ditch standoff, but there's always a chance. "Power's coming down… NOW!"


The effect isn't instant. It takes a few minutes for the creatures to stop trying to tear the building down but they do all scamper away over the course of those few minutes as if suddenly realizing that they're nowhere they wanted to be. "Okay…" Comes Jericho's voice over the comms. "That was damn odd. Conditioned response, I wonder?"


"Could be," Sam says, taking deep breaths as his drone-view overlay shows him the invisible creatures retreating. Finally, he lowers the stun pistol. "That or an experiment gone wrong. We may have just met the Russian version of the Ninja Turtles. I told you this country sucked." He slowly makes his way out of the shed, still looking around warily, sidearm still drawn. "Let's find these computers of yours and grab the punch cards or whatever. No need to actually read them on site."


"Good point." Jericho was hoping not to because, well, computers like this are liklely to be a bit on the bulky side even though the site was abandoned in the 90's, not the 60's. Still, he jogs on over toward the main room and… "Huh… this one's locked pretty tight." THere's the sound of metal going through metal as he slices the chains open. "Why secure this particular building? Not like anything here was super classified." Beat. "Allegedly."


"Um… except for the invisible ninja lizards," Sam answers pointedly, coming to a stop behind Jericho and watching the man work on the door. He keeps his ICER pointed downward, but at the ready, in case of further surprises. "I don't remember seeing those in the opening ceremonies at Sochi. Clearly there was some weird stuff going on here."


"Fits right in with the notion that this place might have been involved in some classified dimensional resarch." Jericho murmurs as he tears open one of the panels and starts rooting around in the electrical components. "Keep an eye out for anything useful or dangerous while I pull the memory banks here?"


"You got it," Falcon confirms. He hasn't seen a thing from their stealthy attackers since deactivating the power, and there don't seem to be any security measures coming into play. Still, he watches for unexpected movement, and dials in some low-light compensation. "Man, I wish I'd never seen The Thing."


"The thing?" Jericho's voice is muffled as he begins to pull components and shove them into a backpack. There are documents and such scattered everywhere. Seats upended. Coffee cups left out at stations. It's like everyone just packed up and left in the middle of the day. In something of a hury.


"The Thing, man! I mean John Carpenter, not the Fantastic Four. It's a horror classic." Sam pauses, then adds in a darker tone, "And it just happens to be set in an Antarctic research station. You've never seen it?" He glances around at the shadowed, chilly time capsule that they have just unsealed. "There are…certain similarities."


"Huh. I may have to look it up. Later. I'm more Sci-Fi and Fantasy myself." And he was before Illyana thank you very much. The room is, with the power off, rather poorly lit and by rights should be rather poorly ventilated, which is why, as Sam moves and looks about the room, it may come as a surprise to get a blast of cold air from below.


"Yeah, I sometimes regret being a horror buff," Sam answers. Case in point: a sudden, frigid gust with no apparent cause. "Like, for instance," he says, pointing his ICER downward with a little more purpose now, "I happen to know that you would call that a cold spot. A freezing cold pocket of air with no explanation. One of the classic signs that a ghost is about to nab you. I don't even believe in that crap, but it's still rattling around in my head. Thanks, Hollywood."


An explanation is shortly forthcoming. UNderneath one of the workstations is a hole large enough for Sam to have fallen into had he not been alerted to it first. One the goes down, down, down into darkness. Go go gaget horror movie imaginaiton!

"Cold spot?" Jericho looks up and the amber gleam in his eyes reminds Sam that he is working with someone with close connections to literal demons. "Really?"


"Yes, Egon, a cold spot," Sam says through gritted teeth. This stupid Soviet bunker is just full of stuff designed to freak him out. As if he needed more reasons to hate. This. Country. But bottomless pits, at least, are usually easy to put to rest. He turns his ICER aside and grabs a flare from one pocket. He uncaps it with his teeth, the harsh magnesium flame throwing the shadows in the room into relief. Then, he drops it into the pit, to get an idea of just how far down it goes.


He gets a very good idea that it's only about ten feet deep when the flare hits kind of textured, pebbly surface at the bottom of the pit. Which then opens its eyes, focussing almost comically cross eyed on the flare for a moment before looking up at Sam. No. Something is not at all pleased. Not. At. All.

"Problem over there Sam?" Jericho is just finishing stuffing his bag full of all of the components that could possibly hold useful data and is perusing one of the old documents left laying around.


"You said you were a scifi buff, right?" Sam asks, backing slowly away from the pit and pointing his pitifully small-seeming ICER pistol into it. His voice has gone a bit high-pitched. "You ever seen Dune?"


"Yeah, kind of a classic." The hacker finally stands up and looks over to Sam and his gun pointing and backing up. "Er…" He goes very, very, still. "Why?"


"You know the bit with the giant worms that lived in the ground and ate people?" Sam asks in that same unnatural tone of voice. "Yeeeeeeahhhhh."


And on that wonderful cue a large snake lunges out of the hole. Jericho belatedly realizes that the place was locked up not to keep things out, but to keep them in. "Oh hell…" He says in that 'we're so screwed' tone of voice. "Sam I don't think it's happy with us." Maybe that's why the whatever-they-were went berserk. Not that Jericho's holding his breath for an explanation on that one. "Suggest we leave. Now."


Sam pops off a few shots laden with dendrotoxin. The creature may not even notice the hits. "Agreed. Do we have what we came for? Because if not, we better get it." He dives to the side as the iceworm charges at him, barely avoiding becoming a smear on the floor. "FAST."


Jericho's blade folds into a compact looking carbine which he fires off one handed. "Yep, we're good. I- ack!" No ordinary snake, a shower of quils of some kind fly at the hacker, one grazing him. When he looks, the wound is coated in a greenish slime. "Ah… hell…" He pants. He barely makes the exit before whatever it is (a toxin of some kind, likely) has slowed him down to the point that he's near collapse.


Sam sees the quills fly at Jericho, so when they come in his direction, he is forewarned enough to get one metallic wing up and deflect them. Without whatever toxin is slowing the hacker down, he also gains a lead as they rush toward the exit, but he notices Trent's struggle and turns to help. He grabs his comrade by the waist and forearm, kneels, and has him in a fireman's carry in less time than it takes to tell. "You almost made it," he huffs as he runs through the exit, barely slowed by the burden, "an entire operation…without getting shot." He shifts his grip, spreads his wings, and launches into the air in a burst of kicked-up snow and thruster fire. "Almost."


Jericho coughs. "Yeah well…" He takes in a deep breath. Yep. Toxin of some kind. He hopes Sam has antivenom in his kit somewhere. "I have a reptuation to maintain after all. Can't have you thinking I'm supercompetant or anything like that. You might stop hauling all your kit out into the field and then where would we be?"


"Yeah, speaking of which," Sam says darkly, "Did you know what I did not expect to run into in the middle of frozen Siberia? Snakes." He pauses. "Cold-blooded species! They aren't exactly native around here! We've got to get you back to the plane." He pours on all of the thrust he can. "I. Hate. This. Country!!"


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