When the Valkyrie, astonishingly, doesn't explode during the crash, Steve knows his odds of survival still aren't good. Whatever he landed on, it's interfering with sensors - he's fairly sure the automatic distress beacon isn't getting out, and he's not sure anyone looking will be able to find him.
Part of him is, in a way, glad - he hadn't really wanted to survive. The fight is done, Schmidt gone, and Steve's lost more than he can bear. He's so tired.
And if the ship had exploded, taken him with it, that'd be alright, but now that he's faced with the idea of having to lay down and wait for death, he can't bear it. Turns out he's not that kind of person.
So, with his enhanced memory and the hours spent watching Stark tinker with all kinds of ship's equipment, he manages to cobble together a way to survive indefinitely. He reroutes power to the transporters, disables the rematerialization process, and hopes that the diagnostic cycle will be enough to keep his pattern stable for however long it takes someone to find him.
Then he steps inside the transporter, hopes for the best, and -
- he's staring at three people in strange outfits. Uniforms, maybe? They're all of a similar style - one in red and black, the other two yellow and black - and there's a generic cut to the outfits that remind Steve of uniforms. What kind of uniform, he couldn't say - the red one has more pips on its collar than either yellow one, but other than that and a star-shaped badge on their chests, there's no identifying markers. They all look to be human, which is as promising a sign as any. Two have pistols of some kind raised, and Steve lifts his hands to show he's defenseless, that he means no harm. They lower their weapons, eyes wide.
"Thank you for finding me," he says, slowly telegraphing his movements as he picks up his shield. He wishes vibranium could be transported, but it's one of those rare elements that can't be dematerialized. He doesn't remember his time in the transporter buffer, but he still knows he missed having his shield with him, the way he misses other things - people - now.
All three of them are staring now, and it occurs to Steve they might not understand him. "You, ah - you speak Standard, right?" He winces; yeah, like if they couldn't understand you before, they'd understand that. He tries to pull together some of his rudimentary Vulcan, hoping they're still an ally.
Before he can mangle the language, something chimes. "Commander, report," says a voice from nowhere. Steve looks the people over carefully; he doesn't see communicators anywhere on their person, but he's well aware that he has no idea how long he's been in the transporter buffer.
None of them respond to the voice. The Chinese woman in yellow, her weapon still half-raised, asks, "Who are you?"
Oof, now that's a blow to the ego. Not that Steve thinks overly much of himself, but there was a time he was pretty well-known. If he's not recognizable, it must have taken a long time to find him. He fights down the questions he wants to ask, snaps into military posture, and introduces himself. "Steven Rogers, former Captain of the SS Enterprise."
"Oh, my god," says the balding white man in the red uniform. He reaches up to his chest, pressing down on his badge. "Captain, you're never going to believe who we just found."