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Avalanche

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The targets were moving.

The Winter Soldier fixed her eyes on the car ahead of them. Her body was poised on the hood, and as soon as they were within range, she leapt.

Sitwell was the primary target.

She wrenched him from the car, hurling him aside. A rag doll, she thought, would have weighed more. An odd thought. They came on her sometimes

She put it aside and pressed her gun to the roof of the car below, firing four shots. She much preferred a clean shot without obstacles, but sometimes, expediency was required.

If she hit them, she did not know, but the brakes slammed and she was tossed from the roof.

Falling was familiar to her.

She rolled like a cat, catching the road with her metal hand, and dragged herself to a halt. The car was still, and she could see the faces of the passengers. Three of them. Alive. Unhurt. Unfortunate.

Her team rammed their vehicle into the car from behind. Clumsy work. Sloppy. Amateurs. Men who favoured violence over a clean kill. If they had stopped, as she ordered, three shots through the windscreen would have brought an end to the affair.

She leapt as the car careened towards her, bracing her hands on the hood and flipping up. One hand curled around the edge of the hood. The other went to the revolver at her back, drawing it. The woman in the car shouted something. Red hair. Familiar bone structure. A child?

The blond man grabbed the wheel, twisting and the car spun.

The Winter Soldier was flung, rebounding off the barrier. She rolled onto her knees, and raised her gun. One shot for one tyre. One shot for another. Simple. Clean.

The targets were trapped as their car skidded out of control, flipping end over end.

She rose, prowling after them. Her flesh was bleeding, but it could be repaired in due course. She flexed her fingers around the grip of her gun, aware of shouts around her, panic. People were like sheep. They bleated incessantly at any threat, even if it was not directed at them.

The targets, however, were still moving, and they were not sheep.

The fair man was dragging the dark man from the car, and the red-haired woman turned, looked towards the Winter Soldier. Through her smoked lenses, the Winter Soldier could see recognition, and fear.

A grenade flew past her head.

Her team, of course.

The fair man grabbed up a disk of metal, one she remembered from three nights earlier. A shield? An archaic weapon against a grenade. He dived forward, towards the grenade, and the concussion lifted him and the shield into the air, sending him hurtling from the bridge.

The Winter Soldier could recall a thousand men and a thousand grenades.

Very few would run towards them.

She frowned, turning her focus to the other two. The red-haired woman was crouched over the dark man, both of them half-obscured by the blazing car. The gunfire of her team was focussed on them, which left the fair man.

A level six operative.

Someone capable of surviving a fall.

Anyone could survive a fall, if they knew how to land.

She ran, vaulting over the edge of the bridge and dropping. There was a bus below, and she landed, rolling along the rocking roof. The bus screamed to a halt, and she could see the target lying in front of it on the road, staggering to his feet.

She raised her gun, but something alerted him.

Someone.

A voice crying a name.

Steve.

He looked up, and before she could fire, he saw her, and hurled the shield. The impact caught her in the middle, knocking her back off the bus. She twisted in the air, using the shield to catch her weight as she fell, coming up into a crouch behind it, her gun raised.

The fair man was clever.

He didn’t emerge from behind the bus, not until gunfire from above made him move, by which time, she was already moving towards him. He was strong and he was fast, and her gun was sent spinning from her hand.

A blade from her waist served well enough, and she twisted and brought him down onto his back, flipping him over her shoulder. He used her momentum, flipping her hard. She barely had a moment to catch herself, a handspring bringing her back to her feet.

They circled one another, watching for an opening, then she lunged, feinting to the left and bringing her knife in with her right, while her left - a weapon even when it was empty - thrust into his ribs. He was hurled up, and crashed down on the roof of a nearby car, metal and glass splintering.

Once more, he jumped up, dodging her follow-up blow that crumpled the metal.

A true soldier, then.

She stalked after him, drawing another pistol from her hip. Not good for close range fighting, but it was taking too long, and she could not expect her team to finish efficiently. She raised it to fire, and the shield was in the way again, turning away the bullets one by one.

A thought crept upon her.

Yes. I think it works.

Strange.

She ran towards him, firing as she went, and brought her fist down hard.

Nothing could withstand a blow from it.

Nothing save the shield.

The vibrations shuddered through the length of her arm, and the surprise gave him an opening. Her gun was twisted out of her grip by a hand much stronger than an average human, and her arm was pulled up behind her back. She launched herself back, overbalancing him and sending him back into the ruined car, somersaulting back over the length of his body, and wrapping her flesh arm tight around his neck.

He didn’t go for her arm.

Instead, he grabbed her head, knocking aside her visor and mask, his fingers scrabbling at her eyes. Weaknesses. He knew to aim for weak spots. She arched her neck back, then realised her mistake as his fingers caught that instead, and she was pulled over his head, her grip torn from his throat, and slammed her down hard on her back.

She was winded, but only for a second.

Any other man would have snatched up her gun or his shield and brought it down on her head, ended the battle.

He seemed wary of striking her. Traditional. Gentlemanly.

She rolled back onto her fingertips and toes, looking up at him, breathing hard.

He was half-crouched too, reaching for his shield, but he met her eyes, and then he did something no one had done. He stopped. He did not attack. He did not pick up his weapon. He simply froze, staring at her, as if she was a ghost.

“Peggy?”

A name? A code? She didn’t know.

“What’s a peggy?” she asked, panting.

She didn’t know why she spoke to him.

She didn’t know why she wanted to know.

He left his shield on the ground and started to rise, but she was on him before he could attack her.

If he had been unwilling to strike her before, he was even more so now.

He grabbed her arms, his hands broad and strong, and enough to stop her in her tracks.

“Peggy, it’s me. It’s Steve.”

She looked up at him. He was fair and blue eyed and earnest, and he believed speaking to her would save him.

She smiled her sweet smile reserved for the sentimental men who liked docile women, and lifted her hand to touch his cheek, then brought her knee up hard between his legs. He folded to his knees at her feet and she pressed her gun to the nape of his neck.

A rattle of gunfire raked across the ground behind her, a bullet tearing through her right shoulder. The gun slipped, dropped, and the primary directive echoed through her mind: if you are compromised, retreat to safe distance. Do not allow yourself to be captured.

The man at her feet looked up, and she knew he would say that word again.

She struck him with her left, knocking him senseless, then ran.