Contradictions in Action

January 19, 2015: After collecting a suitable tribute, the Winter Soldier reaches out to the enigmatic Fracture for insight into the inner-workings of the Costumed Hero; the lesson proves to be far more revealing than either of the intended.

Gotham Reservoir

The Reservoir is home to trees, birds, and insects that have remained for the most part undisturbed for decades. The 09' quakes may have hit everywhere else hard but the Reservoir itself only seemed to thrive during and after the event. Tangled growth covers the area and all manner of wildlife lives within even escaped Zoo animals that have yet to be captured or tamed. Fortunately no incidents have been reported.



  • Ursus (RIP)

Mood Music:

  • None


A few unconscious muggers, a scared but grateful couple; a college student in an absurd, grizzly-themed costume.

Just another alley in New York City.

"J-Jesus," one of the frightened women stammers, trembling in the other's arms. "Jesus, they were— we— that knife…" The other woman gently shushes, rocks them both back and forth, and tries not to shake too much herself as her eyes shift between her partner and the costumed vigilante who's slapping paw-shaped cuffs on the criminals.

"It's all over now," the vigilante assures with an affected growl in his voice. "You were lucky: I was here." Once the last crook is cuffed, he straightens to his full height, all six feet, four inches of it; when he isn't fighting crime, he's a linebacker on his school's team. His mouth is visible within the permanently open jaws of his bear head mask, and he takes advantage of this to flash the women a confident smile. "Name's Ursus, a— "


Still smiling, Ursus crumples to the ground thanks to the freshly drilled hole through his forehead; screaming ensues.

As soon as the women finish panicking and move on to running(and, probably, calling the cops), the Winter Soldier will work his way down from an empty apartment overlooking the alley, taking his rifle with him. He has questions that he needs answered, and for that… he needs the mask.


Ursus' mask sat on eBay for about six hours before being yanked down; plenty of time for the coded message - a request to meet and the number to a burner phone - in its otherwise rote description to reach the right eyes.

Given a few days for vetting, initial contact, and negotiating a venue - the latter of which the Winter Soldier is especially flexible on, the former of which he tries to accomplish without leaning too heavily on HYDRA's resources - a meeting is eventually set for Gotham's Reservoir. When the appointed day comes, he arrives a couple of hours ahead of time to canvas the area at large, then stakes out the secluded patch of swampland they're meant to meet in from the branches of a tree.


Vigilante murders have taken a back burner in the news when it came to the latest attacks being handled by SHIELD. Ursus only received a small line on the front page and a tiny little memorial dedicated to him while his real persona received full honors in a mock burial. His body was never released due to the investigation, resources pulled on assisting random departments with intel over the latest terrorist attacks.

But that was neither here nor there. What was here was the woods in the winter, Gotham kept it's nature harsh and the wind that beats down carry the promise of hypothermia, or worse. Though there were few warm spots, puddles created where hotspots were visible as want in the winter, leathers and thick coat tugged on with a black mask this time to match the attire. It wasn't a full one, keeping the comedy and drama to the minimum, only a half mask that covers the mouth and nose which leave icy blues visible to easily scout and see.

No replicas, all her. Lately there was little need to go all out when meeting a potential ally or one who wants to see just how she ticks.

Whilst he arrived hours earlier? She was just on time, feet beating a path into the snow at the designated spot that she marked off with a dagger implanted into the tree, gripped with leather clad fingers and torn asunder, examined, and pocketed just in case. The tree was soon leaned upon, arms folding about her chest, not worried about an attack from behind for she could recover as quick as need be.


The Winter Soldier is wearing an old, navy blue parka over his kevlar-reinforced uniform along with a half mask and goggles. He's armed, but lightly: a pistol under the parka, a knife in his boot. His actual, metal-clad left arm— not that he can leave it at home, or anything.

His eyes lock onto Veruca as soon as she arrives, and he spends a good four or five seconds just watching her and taking one last look around the surrounding area before finally dropping from his perch and landing in a crouch a few feet opposite of her.

"A gift," he says, peeling the parka open as he stands so that he can reach inside it. The thing he retrieves is folded, kind of bulges, and readily unfolds into Ursus' mask when he tosses it her way; the neat little bullet hole on its front and the gaping, blood-lined one in the back are untouched. "I have— questions," he then says. "About them— handling them, predicting them. Understanding them; can you help me?"


The thump in the snow is what lifts her eyes from the ground, a stand aside from the tree to brace herself just in case something were to happen, always ready. She was critical of course, meeting new people, new contacts, she didn't trust anyone nor did she trust herself, as proper in this sort of business.

Once the little gift was tossed, she doesn't reach, allowing it to land upon the ground at her feet as she takes a quick kneel to scoop it from the ground, holding the mask aloft to peer towards him through the bullet hole that he created.

So he wanted to learn. He had questions. Could she trust him with the truth as to -why- this was being done in the first place? Possibly not.

"Let's walk. There is a trail not too far from here." She states finally, the mask itself crumpled and stuffed within her pocket, creating an imperfect bulge. Her gait takes her straight towards him, along with a cant of her head towards the trail which makes her ponytail dance. "I can help you. But you have to understand. The line is very, very thin. You will soon understand why."


The Soldier slides his hands into the parka's pockets and waits while she looks through the mask. It's kind of, sort of fuzzy with details that don't look quite so bear-like from up close; not a bad job for a college-aged amateur, but an amateur job nonetheless. It isn't often that he feels much of anything, but there's a flicker of anxiety as he watches her, because nobody actually knows that he's here. Nobody even knows that these things have been on his mind; they don't exactly come up when he's being debriefed, and work in New York has largely kept him out of contact with his handlers anyway.

When she finally invites him to walk with her, he responds with a crisp nod and moves to meet her, taking care to make sure that she's on his left.

If it turns out that he's misgauged this whole thing, he'd rather she be in reach of his good arm; dealing with foreign impulses is no excuse to be careless.

"I haven't run into many of them," he quietly says, brow furrowing a little at the comment about the thin line. "Enough to know that they're very persistent." After breathing out softly and visibly, he tacks on, "Self-assured, too; a lot of potential for trouble."


As they walk, Veruca's eyes slide towards him, a little tilt of her head given as she takes a closer look, weighing Winter down inch by inch, and.. she really couldn't help but think if he was simple. She could take him out so easily, she still clutched the dagger that she stole away into her pocket, just a quick flick of her wrist and the metal would fly.

But she was smart. She knows that people hide things, and she knows to expect the unexpected. He could probably kill her with just a gaze.

"Yes. They're annoying on that front. The one thing that you have to worry about those types is their conviction to their cause." The stroll was easy, relaxed. She forced herself into that way to ease the tension that she could feel dripping from his bones.

"Tell me about the first time you ran into one of them."


"It was several weeks ago," the Winter Soldier replies as he walks beside Veruca. "In a warehouse. Here, actually." In Gotham, probably, rather than the reservoir. "Two of them; one of them was a teenager in a patchwork uniform. I was questioning a difficult asset, and the teenager appeared near me; I shot her in the stomach. She disappeared." His tone and pitch never wavers as he relays this story; he could just as easily be describing a trip to the mall, or the salad he ate for lunch. Even though he can feel eyes on him, his own remain fixed on the path ahead of them while his arms stay loose at his sides.

"The second one came through the skylight as soon as she left, screaming the whole time, wearing the American flag on his uniform and shield. He was… different." He lets the word hang there for a moment as he takes a moment to breathe, and then he glances towards her and adds, "The girl didn't seem ready for what she was doing, but he— caught me by surprise. He was incredibly strong; my operation was blown by that point. I barely escaped from him."

The Soldier's detachment cracks a little towards the end, and the gnawing uncertainty that led him to seek Veruca in the first place peeks through. "I don't even think that the girl died," he tacks on as an aside, a moment later. "Very annoying." Turning his head more fully towards her, he then wonders, "And you?"


Her attention doesn't stray from him. Even though they're walking on a weather worn and beaten path, her steps remain true yet her eyes press to watch, to study. The story, while interesting, causes her to look towards him more closely, even leaning in to show that she was blatantly doing so, if he couldn't even guess that she was.

"Uh huh.." She says inquisitively, then leaves it at that.

Her story? Much more in the past than it was in the present.

"Nineteen years ago. Balashov district in Russia. War broke out in the streets between a rival family and the government. A hero and his comrades contracted by the government to quell and eliminate the threat happened to demolish an orphanage during their battle. Many women, men and children who had nothing to do with the raging wars were killed during the collapse with only a few to escape from their lives, displaced and broken."

She pauses now, fiddling with something in her pocket. She's never told this story before.

"In the aftermath, we looked to the hero for assistance, for he came by the request of the government, surely his duties to the republic shouldn't not end there. It was assumed. And assumed wrong." Another pause as a few more steps were taken. "He looked at us and continued his life with no thought to the disruption that he and his comrades caused. And we were left to fend for ourselves as a result." The fiddling stops now, her gaze falling to her feet. She was not sad at the facts, but it has been a long time. One of her very first memories.

"Tis annoying with those types, yes. Those that do not die when they should. Those that meddle in affairs that they have no relation to. It was written before, that a hero only exists to get other people killed. And it has been proven true time and time and again."


The Winter Soldier didn't adjust his posture any when Veruca leaned in, and at first glance, it would have be easy enough to conclude that he was, if not ignorant of the focused attention, unconcerned with it. Thanks to the staring, though, the cracks that showed near the end were even more pronounced than they otherwise might have been, and he ended up shifting a step away from her once he was done. Even with distance and a sanitized account, dwelling too deeply on the warehouse is— uncomfortable.

A stream of frozen condensation wafts through the air in front of him as he slowly exhales and allows Veruca's story to push everything else from his thoughts. Nineteen years ago; he would have been asleep then— and really, even if he hadn't been, trouble like what Veruca's describing probably wouldn't have merited attention from the KGB. Not once the tension reached the point of open warfare, anyway. It's rare that he gets the chance to hear stories about the place that the Motherland became once the Cold War ended, so he listens intently until she's finished.

"It's unfortuante that they had so little love for their country that they could not be bothered to think of Her people; inevitable in a way, I guess," he quietly remarks. "Do you do what you do for revenge, then?" He doesn't seem to want to summarize her so much as check a theory off of a list. "They aren't all employed by their governments— are they?" he then wonders. The girl seemed to have fallen into a box full of cast-off costume parts, then rushed out without changing; the flag-wearing man's loyalties were a little easier to extrapolate, though.


"No." The answer to his question cut through the air quick. It wasn't spoken with disdain or ire. "I do what I do to force their hand. To force them to think about the ones that they've indirectly hurt, killed, or left behind with no home or hope to save their souls." She smiles beneath her mask now, hands placed behind her back, joining fingers around her wrist. "Though, it does seem to contradict my actions. Killing them, that is." This was a horrible time to self reflect, but she does it anyways. There was no shame in her voice, no pride in her actions. "The truth is, that the line between us all is completely blurred by their own perception and what they and we perceieve to be right. I could feel, with my whole heart of hearts, that murdering these heroes and making a point is the right thing to do. Therefore my cause is just. Just as they believe that leveling an entire city block in defense of those they try to save is also right." She stops now, looking towards him to see if he understands.

"And I ask you, do you see any difference there? Are you a villain, or are you a hero? Or does that matter?"

She begins her stroll again, then gives a slight shrug of her shoulders.

"As for the government, I would like to say yes and no. You say that the man who barreled through the ceiling on attack wore an American flag on his person. It is right to assume that he is affliated with some sort of government sanctioned operation and mayhaps be a representative." Then a smile. "Or he just loves his country enough to proudly put it on display."

Though her brows lower faintly. "The younger, not so much. That person seems to be new. Unaffilliated. Green. Those are the types that seek to run with a crew to learn, and often times take the initiative to go alone on a hunt for the criminal mind and turn up hurt or dead. Or worse."


The Winter Soldier has been following orders for as long as he can remember; the only thing that's really changed is who's giving them, and with enough time spent learning of and absorbing the inherent righteousness of a given cause, each one has been every bit as just and worth killing, even dying for as the last.

It's the kind of contradiction that he really isn't really equipped to examine closely, as he tends to function better that way.

When Veruca stops, he pauses a step ahead of her and meets her gaze. For a second or two, he seems content with a non-verbal show of understanding, but— the goggles. "I understand," he states with a slow nod. Shortly after they begin walking again, when he's had a chance to consider it, he answers, "I'm a soldier; my commanders know what's just. That is what matters."

That he's even having this meeting - not to mention the encounter in the warehouse - without having talked to any of them is another one of those contradictions, which is probably why he turns his eyes back to the path after answering. Her perspective on the heroes he met is taken in and filed away, but he asks, "When their hand is forced, what is it that you imagine them doing?" instead of commenting on them. Right now, it's the larger picture, the macro details that he's interested in. "If they're capable of destroying everything around them by accident, when they're trying to protect people… what might they do if they made you their cause?"


Curious. He understood her but she could tell that something bothered him. Perhaps it was the reason for this meeting, but Veruca never assumes anything about a person unless it was /herself/. "I followed that same mantra before. What they believe is right and unfallable, and I will do what my keepers command. But I was a child then. Possibly ten. Maybe older. I cannot remember."

She allows his lines to continue, taking stock and weight of the words, stopping briefly, yet continuing on again with a lowered chin, eyes pressed to the ground, smirk hidden beneath the mask and dropped to answer his question without the inflection of emotion to carry.

"I imagine that death would be the answer." That answer alone covers all questions and scenarios asked. "If they are smart. But there are so many ways to kill a person other than actual death itself. Bullets to the heart."

There was silence there, the temptation to reveal secrets high, just to see. "Take away everything I love and know. Performing the less human by rewriting and erasing everything that made me who I am. A complete rewrite and character of history. That would murder the idea of Veruca completely."

She lets her name slip, but it does not matter. In a way, she wanted to be caught and put out of her misery, but there are things left to live this life for. "If they truly believe that all life is precious, those options are their best bet. No jail can hold me. No jail can hold an idea."

And now to turn it upon him. "The star spangled man. He bothers you. Why."


There's no pride for her comparison to her ten year old self to wound, and the Winter Soldier's faith (in HYDRA, these days) is strong enough to withstand dissent; whether it's an insult or just an observation, he just accepts it.

His eyes remain on the path as he listens, but when she drops her name, he turns his head her way so that it's clear he's looking at her. Even with the prying questions, he hadn't really expected - or, truth be told, intended - to ferret out that kind of information, but since she doesn't really linger on it, he doesn't either. He does, however, continue looking at her as she speaks, and just as she's finishing, he starts pushing a hand up under his goggles to nudge them towards his forehead and reveal dead, brown eyes with a glimmer of curiosity.

And, once Veruca adds that last twist, creeping anxiety.

"I— " he begins, trying to put words to the feeling. The fear— not of the flag-draped hero's strength, or of being captured or killed by him, but of the fact that he seemed to know the Soldier in a way that he didn't himself.

For that matter, even thinking about knowing himself is barely trod territory for the Ghost of the Cold War.

It takes a good five seconds before he's able to formulate a response, during which his eyes get increasingly wider; even then, all he manages is a quiet, "— don't— know," laced with that unspeakable dread.

Given a couple more seconds, he is able to supplement that honest answer with, "He's dangerous, and I don't know if - when - I'll encounter him again," in a slightly flatter tone. As excuses go, it's a pretty pragmatic one.



The million dollar question finally gains a reaction from the Soldier. Their walk was halted, possibly just by that question alone and the reaction that she sees within his eyes. And she knows it well. It was the same glint on her eye that she had when she faced off with the God Wolf and in her definition, won. The same look when faced with possibilities of seeing the Sun Eater on the grounds of battle again, to rip.. to run.. to fight and tear assunder..

But yet. His gaze carried something different, not akin to bloodlust. And she intended to figure out what.

Her steps carry her close, but not /too/ close, personal space aside, she was respectful and wary.

His answer, it gave her chills. "Do you /want/ to know?" Another step taken. "And is there a desire to see him bleed?"


A white star blazes in the middle of an endless ocean, casting dim light on the buried corners of the Winter Soldier's subconscious as Veruca approaches. Even before she poses her questions to him, he's trying to answer similar ones because he hasn't quite been able to stop himself since the warehouse: how could he kill the hero without first learning what he knows?

Considering what even the spectre of it's doing to him, how could he not?

Doing his job is so much easier when figuring out whether or not to kill someone is purely a question of directives; this is not the kind of risk assessment he's made for.

At least he doesn't hesitate too much in quietly replying, "Yes," to her questions, even if surprise flashes over his features afterwards. A shiver passes through his body, and as he tucks his hands into the parka's pockets, a hint of desperation enters his voice as he adds, "Please."


That was all she needed to hear.

She takes a step back now, her own hands sinking into the coats of her pocket, her gaze turning towards the left as a card is soon withdrawn, only a phone number placed upon it's surface, obviously hers. She'll wait for him to take it. In fact, she knows he will. And with a twitch within her left eye, her icy gaze settled upon him as the plans were soon made.

"Take the card. Find a phone that cannot be traced. Keep calls to a minimum. There is a large concentration of heroes and vigilantes located within New York based on the sheer size. We will start there. Whatever organization you are currently working for must /not/ know about this. This is personal."

Once the card is taken, she begins to walk, not the way they were going but the opposite way. She had her own plans to make, people do disappear from, possible lies to tell just to slip away.

"Consider it a vacation." She says loudly, drawing up a back-handed wave as she leaves.

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