Two Soldiers

Characters: Steve Rogers, Hunter
Rated: PG
Summary: Steven goes looking for a rumored figure operating in Mutant Town. Eventually he finds Hunter.
OOC Date: 2017-12-09
IC Date: 2017-12-09
Where: Mutant Town

The rumors have never been to the point of major Daily Bugle front page stories about the Tiger of Mutant Town, but they have been there, quietly growing, for almost six years. Incidents have occured. Two of the biggest and most recent include a bank robbery stopped by Grace Choi and a ginormous tiger, and a magical troll awakened and attacking near a construction site close to a bridge, where pictures were taken of the tiger that kept the humungous troll occupied until the arrival of none other than the Justice Defenders' resident magical expert, Clea. And yet when newspapers and investigators show up asking questions, they get less than no help: no one here admits to knowing a damned thing about a tiger in mutant town. That's just a crazy myth. Stupid weirdos.

The other rumor that has been circulating implies that there is a growing population of Russian expats living in Mutant Town. At one time, that group seemed largely comprised of bratva. Then they ran afoul of something nasty. Many did not survive. Those that did relocated in a hurry. And rumors persist that they were taken out by 'one of their own' - a Russian expat, but not bratva. There is a name that is whispered, sometimes, between one of the Mutant Town residents and another, but never loudly, and never to cops or the like: Hunter.

The Hunter is the guardian, the protector of Mutant Town and the dispossessed. The homeless. The lost. The afraid. Yet no one seems to know where the Hunter is, what the Hunter looks like. Yet these people believe in the Hunter. The Hunter is their silent savior.

Saviors are magical beings who deliver justice and protection from the sky. They're anthropomorphic projections, people looking for rhyme or reason from a world that is alternatingly cruel, kind, and just bizarre.

Steve Rogers isn't looking for a savior. He's looking for a soldier.

There's a pattern to the movements and the attacks. Sketchy survivor reports correlated with police documents, sketches, even blurry cell phone footage and rare shots from the few working cameras in the area.

The hunter's somewhere in this block, on the streets below. Steve's picked out a good location— four stories up, eyelines on an alley and two major intersections. It's a low light area with a lot of friction due to crosstown traffic, the sort of traffic that breeds social unrest.

Whoever this hunter is, Steve wants to meet her.

In one of the alleyways, a homeless population is gathered, huddled under blankets and boxes against the cold. There are a few wearing an army surplus jacket or the like, but none look or move like a soldier any longer.

Then a figure comes out of the depths of the alley, from beyond Rogers' sightlines, carrying more blankets. Not a word is spoken. She just leans over, starting to parcel out these blankets. A teen, recently arrived, is wrapped up firmly. The signs are subtle and haphazzard. But whomever this is, these people defer to her, even to her non-verbal cues. And unlike the others, no matter how worn and beaten, her army surplus gear is all she is wearing. One-hundred percent.

Then the woman, hat pulled low, scoops up the teen, marching her down the street towards one of the only shelters in the area. Some might wonder why she takes the teen there, but wasn't there herself, hasn't taken any of the others.

But some would never question it. The kid is new. Not prepared. Not for this cold. It's simple survival. Marshalling of resources.

Steve moves to keep an eye on her. There's /something/ about this newcomer— small, feminine, but clearly commanding some respect from the locals. She doesn't say anything, but still they follow her orders.

Steve trots along the rooftop quietly, sneakers barely scraping the asphalt. In a flannel shirt and jeans, he could blend in with any electrical worker in the area. He easily vaults a fifteen foot gap betwen buildings, keeping the woman in sight. Even across the street and down four blocks, he can see her clear as day— Steve has little need for binoculars, which comes in handy for this sort of surveillance.

The woman largely doesn't speak. When she does, it is only a few words, piss-poor diction - mush-mouthed to say the least - and stripped-bare nearly non-existent grammar. "Girl. Bed. Night." she offers to the attendant who answers the door at the shelter. A gentle but firm shove at the small of the girl's back, and once the attendant says "OK" the woman turns back around and heads back. She makes no request for herself.

But she also doesn't head back to the alley. She makes no outward sign, but she strolls down the sidewalk past the alley without slowing down. And then turns around the corner.

Steve has done this long enough that his instincts tell him that woman is reacting to a tail, despite there being no sign of how she could possibly know.

Steve isn't the equal of some spymasters, but he's done enough to know when to trust his gut. He frowns, watching the woman deliberately taking two right turns in a row and disappearing from sight.

He hesitates. She's the only person of real interest so far in a few days of monitoring the area. Getting to her new location would require crossing the street, which puts him on ground level and raises the chance she'll see him and spook.

His decision already made up, Steve moves to a fire escape ladder and starts climbing down. The fifteen foot drop at the end bends his knees a little and he moves across the street with a pedestrian's idle hurry, looking for all the world like one more blue collar worker on his way home. He keep his eyes on the sidewalk fifteen feet ahead, using his peripherals to watch for the woman, and starts heading to another corner where he might see her pop out of the alley.

And when the Soldier gets to that corner rooftop and settles in, looking for signs of the woman … he at first sees nothing. No sign of her on the street. On the sidewalk. Down either of the alleyways.

And then a soft, purposeful scuff of a modern military boot sole on asphalt, coming from about twenty feet behind Steve on his rooftop.

"Electric here. Work good." And there, behind him, coming around from behind an HVAC tower is the greasy ashen blonde, hat low, blocking most view of the slightly amber-glowing green eyes.

Sharp super-soldier eyes would likely pick out that very casually the right hand laid along the back of her pants seam is holding a hand canon of some variety, pointed down at the ground behind her heel, out of the way. It's a defensive, preparatory posture, not a threat or an attack.

Steve turns slowly, hands clear and to the sides. He's carrying a concealed firearm, but makes it clear he's not moving for it. Diya gets a slight nod of greeting, and his hands drop a little as he relaxes. He's not going to make a move for his weapon unless Diya prompts him to.

"Nice job," he tells her. "I'd feel bad about you getting the drop on me, but I don't think there's anyone who could cover that distance that fast without a little help," he says. He nods at the gun. "I'm not here to pick a fight. Just to talk," he assures her.

The homeless woman shrugs her shoulders, just slightly, and then lifts the back of her jacket with one hand, quite smoothly sliding the pistol away and flipping its safety, then dropping the jacket back over it all in one smooth, economical motion. It's something she's very comfortable doing, plenty of practice.

"Help?" comes the word, the accent still swallowed up by the mush-mouthed speach pattern. "None else. Up here. But me." She doesn't introduce herself. Then again, neither has Steve, yet.

"Talk?" she questions, waiting. "Why talk me? Homeless. Waste. What you need?" Is Steve sharp-eared enough to realize that this woman is talking like it's around a mushy potato or an old sock for a reason? Can he realize what she's hiding?

Steve never spent time in Russia, but Russian units were not uncommon in parts of Eastern Europe during the desperate days of the war. She's making a sincere effort to hide her accent, but Steve has a sharp ear for tones and vowels.

"That's a military .45 you're carrying," Steve tells her. "Not exactly the sort of snubbie I'd expect a hobo to have. It's surplus gear, but it fits you, so I'm thinking you didn't find it at St. Mary's donation bin. Boots are in good repair and you've got all your teeth. If you're homeless, you're doing it by choice," he concludes. "Someone with your skills is only unemployed if she wants to be, I think."

The ash blonde woman watches Steve carefully. There's still an odd hint of an amber glow coming from behind her green eyes, under the brim of that hat. "No interest. Mercenary." she offers honestly. Steve has watched her. She takes good care of her people. She protects them, all without making waves. She doesn't skim off of their begging. She doesn't demand her due. She just takes care of them.

Like a good soldier should for civilians in her care. Under her protection.

"What you want?" Diya finally asks, a hint tensely. She's trying not to flip out. But proficient observers with military skill and awareness hunting her happen to be her worst goddamned nightmare.

"I'm just trying to head off a problem," Steve says, cautiously. He turns his wrists out slightly— he's not the one with the problem. "You're starting to get noticed. Police reports, word on the street. Sooner or later, some task force detective looking to make a name for himself is going to decide to bring you in for questioning."

"Cops look the other way in Mutant Town, yeah, I know. But metahumans attacking gangsters, that's only going to fly for so long. Either the gangs will get wise or someone sympathetic to them will have you clapped in irons and thrown in a stockade. You can't keep this up forever," he points out.

The woman watches Steve curiously. There's no facial expression at all; it's a thousand-yard stare he has seen countless times. When he's done, she finally gives a half-shrug. "They hunt and kill mine. I stop them."

Yep. That's the honest truth of it. An entire bratva gang virtually wiped out, all because they killed a couple of homeless people in Mutant Town.

Diya lowers her gaze, no longer contending with Steve. "Worse is coming." She says it coldly, ominously, but it is no threat. Not her act that is forthcoming. It's something else. Something she knows about. Something, perhaps, she thought Steve was a part of tonight.

"It's only going to get worse— unless you start thinking strategically," Steve points out, carefully. "A few gangsters here, a few mob guys there. THat'll just be enough for the higher-ups to take you seriously enough to start gunning for you."

"I'm willing to make you a deal. I'll help you deal with your gangster problem here— permanently. I can point the cops right at their main drug house when the bosses are there and they've got hands in the till. It'll take the wind out of their sails for six months, at least. Maybe longer."

Diya jutts her chin out at Steve. "What you want?" Because he offered a deal. A deal implies that she owes him. Figures that someone who survives on the streets like this would latch onto that and want to know what the other thinks it'll get them to 'help out' like that.

"It's not what I want. It's what's good for both of us," Steve remarks. "I have a pretty good idea of your skills. And I've got a pretty good idea who you are," he remarks. A hand lifts, to forestall any objection. "I'm not gonna out you. Everyone's life is their own business. But you could do a lot more people a lot more good if you were working for an organization."

"I'm putting a team together. It's small. Just a few people, with specific skills and a willingness to fight the good fight against bad people in exotic places."

"This isn't really a 'deal'," he clairifes. "I'm going to break up this gang ring anyway, just because I can't stand bullies. I've already done the scouting and preliminary work. So there's no axe over your neck if you don't want to play ball. You can just go on doing what you do. But if I clear them out, and you sign on with me, I can help you. A new name, new life—papers, even a path to citizenship."

The woman tenses, but says nothing for a while. She listens. She weighs. She does take a good sniff, but it's subtle, and it's cold out. Mostly, she's just weighing what Steve has said. "You try hire me, soldier, black armors come for you. For yours. Don't want that. For you. Yours. Mine." She looks past him, now, and down towards the alleyway where her people huddle with one another against the cold.

Of course, information has reached Diya's ears that the black armors may already be in the area. That her cover may already be cracking. It may already be too late.

"Didn't say hire," Steve says, firmly. "I don't need mercenaries. People who work for money are the ones who walk away the minute the job isn't worth it anymore."

"I see you out here protecting people. You're lookin out for the little guy. That speaks a lot about you. Whoever's coming after you, they're going to do this community some harm if you're removed."

He digs in his pocket for a business card, holds it aloft, and then sticks it into a narrow gap on the roof's parapet. "Don't make a decision right now. Think about it. Call me. You can either spend your final days helping a few dozen people out of the streets, or you can help me protect thousands of people from even worse things."

He holds his hands aloft, ceding the argument, and backs away.

Diya watches Steve as he speaks. She listens. And she watches him go, curious but not getting more involved. Not yet. Little does she fully realize just which soldier it is who was standing here talking to her. How ironic that is, right?

But she does take the card, after he's gone.

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