Help From Old Friends

May 19, 2017:

Bucky calls Steve and Peggy over to ask for their help on a matter which may clear the conditioning from his head for good.

Brooklyn, New York


NPCs: None.



Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

The new James Buchanan Barnes, the one who came back to Steve and Peggy with a metal arm, haunted eyes, and a headful of ghosts, rarely pays calls. Rarely actually calls, even. The vivacious, social creature of the past was long gone, only visible in the present day in brief bittersweet glimpses.

So it's a rather unusual occasion when both of them get a message from Bucky about wanting to talk — and not just anywhere, but at Jane's apartment in Brooklyn. There's tea set out and ready on their arrival — old-style habits of courtesy die hard — but the Bucky that greets them both looks in too sober of a mood for simple tea and biscuits.

He didn't say what he wanted to talk about in the message, and he doesn't say anything at first. He just says, "Hey. Thanks for coming."

It doesn't take long for Steve to make his way in. Considering the 'we need to talk now' from Bucky, he figured he'd just pick up Peggy and take her there. It wasn't really much of a conversation on the way, only a little here and there during the many, many, many red lights of NYC. But the two finally arrive with Steve dressed rather causally with a leather jacket, a white tee shirt, and blue jeans. Brown leather shoes walk their way up to the door and after some knocking gains him entry, they walk him toward the seat offer to him.

"It's no problem, Bucky. So what's up? Figure it's serious with how somber you're being here."

Peggy got the text from Bucky and immediately started to pull her things together. While on her way to find a cab to take her to Jane's apartment, Steve was kind enough to pick her up so that they could both travel together. Dressed more casually, despite the weekday, she is still in pin curls and a pair of linen pants and a button down shirt.

She enters right beside Steve into Jane's apartment. The somber mood is immediately taken in and she keeps that in mind when she greets. "You're welcome. What's happened?" They've both picked up on the signals put out. Something is wrong and the fact that Bucky has called them in means something, too. This James Barnes tends to be a bit more solitary.

Bucky hands Steve and Peggy tea if they want it, but if they don't he doesn't press. He — and no doubt Steve — wait until Peggy sits, before sitting themselves. That's part of those old habits that die hard.

Steve and Peggy ask what's up. Bucky inhales a breath, leaning forward, bracing his elbows on his knees. His metal arm whirs unhappily with the motion.

"Well," he starts, "I'm sure you both know there's a risk there's still… stuff in my head Hydra put there. Stuff that might activate me again. I've had a… stopgap in place to put me down if it gets triggered, but I don't wanna just live with a stopgap, and the person holding that leash doesn't wanna hold it forever, you know?"

He scrubs his hand through his hair. "I gotta do something about this. With the… tensions building up about me internationally, I figure, it's even more urgent." He glances up, meeting both their eyes in turn. "Jane and I found information on where the conditioning machine they used on me is. I want to get it."

"I see."

While the concern is deep in Steve's voice as he takes the tea, for now, he doesn't offer anything more as he stands and as Bucky predicted, waits for Peggy to decide if she's taking a seat. There is a simple reason why Rogers doesn't say anything more at first, however. His blue eyes turn toward Peggy. While he's the front line soldier and the one for the well executed tactical plans, he knows that her skills in information management and being a 'handler' of sorts are peerless. The unspoken baton hand-off given, he looks over toward Bucky. "I could see that being a major concern. If it's important to you, it's important to me."

Steve offers the support while he leaves it up to Carter to come up with the details. Seems like a solid plan.

Peggy does sit, taking the offered cup of tea when it is put forward. It's impolite to reject offered tea, after all. She may have been living in the States for quite awhile, but the sacred cuppa is to be observed. The frown that crosses her face is nearly a mirror to Steve's as she listens.

"A stopgap," she latches onto immediately. "What kind of stopgap?" That seems something that is also relevant to their current conversation. As Steve glances at her, she catches his eye. There's a moment of a soft look that crosses her features before it's clear she slips into tactician mode. This is the woman that helped found and run SHIELD for a year before the time skip. She knows a mission when she sees one.

"So, you wish to retrieve this machine in an attempt to remove the conditioning that they did to you?" There is no judgement there, merely a desire to hear and gather facts. "I'm sorry to ask, but is it possible to reverse condition you?"

If it's important to you… Steve says.

"I can't lose control again, Steve," Bucky says, and though his voice is quiet the statement is an absolute. "I cannot."

His gaze turns to Peggy when she starts to ask questions. The look in his eyes gets a little evasive when she asks about the stopgap, but in the end he seems to think it's important to finally reveal. "John Constantine," he says. "He wrote something into my head. Some kind of spell. If he senses my nature shift back to the Winter Soldier, he'll put me to sleep. It's been there a while, but neither of us are keen on it for a long term solution."

He nods as she concludes he wants to retrieve the machine. "Yeah. …Probably off SHIELD books," he admits. "Though I might talk to Coulson about it. See if he can help keep it kind of off the radar. He might, dunno." Bucky grimaces a little, in a telling 'he already did once,' expression.

Can he be reverse conditioned? "If anyone can reverse engineer the conditioning machine to do that," he says softly, "it would be Jane."

The tea is taken and proving how boring a man Steve is, consumed without any suger in it. Now seated, Rogers merely gives a nod toward Bucky's reasoning, not really having any argument against it. "Coulson would be a good call for this," Steve says. He's not really one for intel, but the American War Hero does know people. "He'd want this to be set right and he has the skills and clearance to keep this a lot closer to the vest than most other people we'd trust." While Steve is highly trusted, he's also highly watched which means SHIELD even knows how much milk he drinks in a day (spoiler, it's a lot).

He can't lose control again. Peggy looks between James and Steve with a schooled expression.

"And only he can enact this spell?" she asks. It's intelligence gathering, though she's doing it far more kindly than she would if Barnes were across an interrogation table from her. She's probing to see his weaknesses in the field, the state of mind he's in. She can't help it, when going into a mission such as this, she has to evaluate all the angles.

"If we're going to go into a HYDRA base, I can't imagine we will be able to keep this off of SHIELD's radar. Having Agent Coulson on our side would double our credibility." It's already clear that she's willing to move forward with the plan. If this will stop James from having a relapse and if Steve has said that it is important to him, she is involved.

"What is it that w would need to bring back, exactly?"

There's a soft click of an opening door from down the apartment's hall — towards its only bedroom. A few scuffed, sleepy steps bring Jane soon into congress with the small group in the living room, looking as if she just tried — and failed — to have a short mid-day nap. Coming into view, she doesn't look especially surprised to see company, and well-aware of what the subject matter must be, foregoes her usual greetings to something more subdued. Jane lifts a hand wordlessly in half a wave to both Steve and Peggy, not wanting to interrupt or break the conversation.

Having gleaned in approaching earshot what it is, that is the furthest want from Jane's mind. She comes in to greet him with a squeeze of her hand to his shoulder, leaning against the arm of his chair.

Both Steve and Peggy agree on the matter of Coulson likely being able to help their credibility, at the least, since there's likely not a way a HYDRA raid can fully be hidden from SHIELD. Bucky sighs, not keen on the eyes of SHIELD on his back, and not looking forward to the conversation — Coulson did some cleaning up in his wake, he's not likely to be in a great mood — but steeling himself for it nonetheless. "I'll talk to him soon," he says. Likely also off SHIELD property. Maybe he'll stalk Coulson to his house.

His gaze shifts to Peggy as she starts to dig. It's something he expects from the woman. It's what he would do himself in her position. "Only him," he confirms. "It's a direct tie. So far as I know. It seemed real specific when he was casting it." He hesitates. "Probably for the best you both know, in case I go to sleep of a sudden for no reason. But I doubt he would pull that." Except in the most extreme circumstance.

It's about that time that Jane emerges from the bedroom. Bucky turns and starts to half-rise to meet her, but her quelling hand on his shoulder settles him back.

What is it we would need to bring back? Peggy asks, then.

In answer, Bucky pulls a sheet out from under a pile of Jane's work on the coffee table. He smoothes it out, revealing a rather detailed, schematic sketch he's done of an iron maiden of a machine. Bucky never could hold a candle to Steve in rendering beautiful fine art, but he was a dab hand at technical drawing and might have wound up a draftsman if his life had proceeded in any normal sort of way. There is a chair, with powerful electromagnetic restraints in its arms. There is an overarching device, cocked over the chair like the tail of a scorpion, fitted with needling clamps obviously meant to vise down on, burrow into, and feed electric current — along with God knows what else — into a head.

"They don't really have much of a fancy name for it," he says. "Asset conditioning machine. Wipe machine, sometimes, if you wanted to get casual." His own voice is forcedly casual as he looks at the thing that removed his memories time and again. "It's in a base in eastern Siberia. Kept under guard, but not too much guard for us."

Blue eyes flicker toward Jane as she makes her way in, calmly noticing the touch of her hand upon Bucky's shoulder. It's odd that during the conversation that is what he focuses on, but as the sheet is pulled out, his gaze changes to the machine in question. As he looks over the device with clear distain for it, Steve agrees with her, as if often the case. "Considering how the last HYDRA hit went, we'll definitely need to be careful. While it's common for things to get unorthodox when you involve other heroes, we can't afford to do it too many more times. For a lot of reasons."

As the door to the bedroom opens and Jane emerges, Peggy glances toward the scientist she regards as a friend and gives her a smile. She's acknowledged, but her conversation and attention remains on the task at hand.

Leaning forward, she takes in the target of what their extraction would be. A chair. It looks menacing even from drawing and Peggy takes it in with a bit of a frown on her face. Glancing to Jane and to James, she asks, "And you think that having this chair will enable you to remove the spell Constantine put in as safeguard?" She just wants to make sure she has everything right. She sits back and takes a sip of her tea. "There'd have to be extensive notes and recordings of progress," she tells Jane and James seriously. "I will attempt to ensure I am the one classifying them, but everything would have to be documented." It's not just for bureaucracy sake, but for their own, in case they would need to present information at trial.

"We may not need to involve all of SHIELD, but having some help would not go amiss." She looks to Steve with a smile and nods at his assessment. "Yes, the smaller we keep this op the better. However, I do believe Agent Coulson would be helpful."

"The chair's gonna remove any hidden HYDRA dictates or conditioning left in my head, God willing. The safeguard spell, John can take off anytime he wants," Bucky says absently, still staring at his own rendering of the mindwipe chair. The familiar way in which he refers to John Constantine is probably indication enough why he felt able to trust the man to steward his sanity, in the short term. "I won't let him take it off until I have some assurance my mind is clean."

He starts to look skittish when Peggy talks about fully documenting the whole process, but he holds his tongue. He doesn't want SHIELD to have any more records than they already do, but at the same time he can feel the looming threat that such documentation will be needed if worst comes to worst.

Instead, he just rubs the bridge of his nose. "No," he says, his voice a little strained. "Not all of SHIELD. Likely just the four of us. If Coulson will assist… five. It's not something that should require brute force, if done right."

Jane listens on calmly, a certain awareness to her eyes to suggest she's been long-briefed on this particular plan. Neither does she seem particularly excited about more significant involvement of SHIELD, to some transparent hesitation and wariness, but says nothing — this one is all Bucky's call.

Instead, her eyes drift down on said schematic of that terrible machine, drafted out by Bucky's pen: a glance she quickly regrets. She does her best to avoid looking at it again, the very woman who will be attempting to reverse-engineer the real thing.

A simple glance is given toward Peggy's talk of taking the information and classifying it. There is a firmness to the look, perhaps having some grievance that will be aired at a later time. Oh wait, it's Steve, so it gets voiced right away. "The less of HYDRA tech we keep for ourselves, the more likely it will come up again." For now, he seems silent on the talk of who to bring and why, clearly in agreement with whatever they decide. But well, he has serious grievances with the Indiana Jones' End of Raiders of the Lost Ark SHIELD treatment of dangerous information.

Not that Steve would get that reference.

If anyone would know what that chair does, it would be Bucky. So, Peggy bows to his superior intelligence on that. "Okay," is what she says. It's an acknowledgement that she trusts him and that she will trust in his judgement.

"I'm not suggesting we keep the chair forever," Peggy reassures Steve. "As soon as it has done its duty I believe it should be put in a warehouse to never be seen again." Seemingly, she does not understand that he has a problem with the the Raiders of the Lost Ark SHIELD treatment of dangerous equipment. She believes he has completely other issues on the subject matter.

Thinking that matter resolved, she looks to Bucky and Jane. "I will ensure the documents are classified. As high a Level as I can manage. However…I believe having a record will be useful. Just in case." There are a lot of contingencies that these tapes would be helpful. "I might be able to ensure that I am the only one to retain the copies. However, despite my pedigree, I am not sure I have that sort of pull in SHIELD any longer."

"I believe I should rip it the fuck apart," Bucky says, without any alteration in his tone of voice nor change in the cool expression of his eyes. But his hands are tense on the sketch.

He shakes his head. Whatever violence roosted briefly in his mind comes and goes like a cloud. "At the least, documentation might be… of use… however," he admits. "Proof that they did fully control me, and how they did it. If you can't get the classification level needed, you and Coulson together might be able."

He sighs, the gesture seeming to release some of the tension he's been holding. "Anyway… thanks. For doing this." He glances up, his eyes briefly meeting Steve's, before skating away again with a gloss of something like shame. "I'll have a clearer briefing after I talk to Coulson.""

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