Coming to Siberia

May 23, 2017:

Bucky Barnes asks Zatanna Zatara for a favor and his plans to obtain the machine that was responsible for his conditioning unfold.

Dr. Foster's Apartment - Brooklyn - New York City

Jane's apartment in Brooklyn

Characters

NPCs:

Mentions: John Constantine, Dr. Jane Foster, Phil Coulson, Agent Carter, Captain America

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

There was a point, during the drawing-up of plans for the trip out to Siberia, where Bucky looked at the sum total of all the information he and Jane were able to glean — the known exterior defenses, the number of Russian military, the estimated number of HYDRA personnel based an exceedingly boring review of supply shipments which Bucky did himself because he was used to that particular kind of mind-numbing tedium, the dimensions and density and weight of the conditioning machine itself, the number of parts that would need to be taken out along with it to make it operational…

…and concluded that, much as he didn't really want to involve Zatanna — girl had been through hell (literally) and he couldn't help but feel like an ass throwing an eighteen year-old into stuff — her firepower might be a good thing to have, if only for the sheer amount she could bring to bear. And there'd be a hefty amount needed to teleport a machine of that heft.

Such it is that he's dropped her a call to come over to Jane's apartment for a bit to talk about something. He started to make some coffee, before frowning and thinking that maybe that would be a bit loaded, and made up some tea instead. Still maybe a little loaded, but not as immediately so.

It's set out and waiting for her arrival. Bucky himself is pacing around the front room, worrying that bracelet that never comes off his wrist. He's mid-preparations for it all, so naturally — adding to the clutter of Jane's own preparations, which comprise papers and laptops everywhere — there are guns everywhere in various states of repair and cleaning.

—-

When Zatanna Zatara arrives at Dr. Jane Foster's residence, she is, as always, laden with gifts; it's the Italian in her, on top of the fact that she just likes giving people things. As Bucky answers the door, he'll be greeted not with the young woman's face, but a tower of tupperware containing different kinds of foodstuffs - a whole lasagna carved up in manageable chunks (she shouldn't have bothered, Bucky can probably eat an entire baking dish full of the stuff in one sitting), lemon risotto made with some mascarpone cheese, cacio e pepe, and cannolis stuffed with hazelnut creme. Most of what Zatanna makes are recipes that she remembers sitting in her nonna's kitchen, long-since deceased, albeit these are very few as she hardly cooks. Still, she tries.

There is also a box of Laduree macarons in different colors and flavors for Jane as well as a bag of Colombian coffee beans, bottle of red wine, flowers from the stand that she came across on the way over, and a few more books from Shadowcrest's ridiculous library.

"Hi Bucky!" she says from around the mountain she's carrying, having managed to peer around it far enough that he will at least be able to see some of her black hair and a single ice-blue eye. "Sorry, I think I went a little overboard….again."

Because of course she did.

"But now that we're back, Chas decided to spend some time with his family, so I've been cooking for John, it didn't seem right not to bring some over. I think he might break something if I don't learn how to grill a steak soon, though," she tells the man conversationally. She will gratefully accept the help in unloading everything she has brought, however, and once that's done, she gives him a quick hug. In considerably better spirits than the mood the rest had detected from her in Germany, she's all smiles from where she stands.

"How are you? Is Jane here?"

—-

On Zatanna's arrival, Bucky opens the door to find a tower of food standing there on the doorstep in her stead. He hesitates a moment, then sort of leeeeans to the right so he can look around it. Zatanna peeks back, having found just enough balance to crane her head around enough to fix him with a cheerful blue eye.

"Jeez, Zatanna," he says, amused, as he immediately picks the entire pile up off her — balancing it impeccably — and starts stowing it away. He's smiling, despite his teasing. "I asked you to come over, not FreshDirect." He's learning already. "It's appreciated, though. Haven't had much time to be cooking lately."

He returns once that's squared, accepting her hug with good grace — he's not so good with the physical contact anymore, but he's re-learning that — and stepping back momentarily to just have a look at her, in that critical way he has of checking on her health and well-being. She seems well — considerably better than in Germany, much like John.

"You look good," he says. "Jane is not here — she's picking up some stuff we'll need for…" He gestures for her to have a seat. "Well, what I asked you here about."

—-

"I know, but I've been here a few times and I always bring….a lot. I figured it's tradition now!" Zatanna grins broadly at Bucky at that, though she looks considerably relieved when the man manages to take everything she is carrying in one go, watching him as he quickly puts things away with all of that self-assured efficiency she is used to seeing from him. Still, it's a marvel to watch him move. "And yeah I figured the two of you are always busy, and I don't think I've ever seen Jane not work, ever."

Taking a seat on the offered chair, she does look considerably better, brimming with that typical, enthusiastic good cheer. A hand reaches up to push a lock of hair back from her face when he tells her that she looks good. "Thanks, so do you," she says with a laugh. "Getting away from Germany helped, I think. John and I went to French Polynesia on a holiday and the break was much deserved." As much of a break that was, considering what they found there, but compared to the toils they suffered in Berlin, anything was vastly preferrable.

But when he tells her that she has to ask her something, she reaches up to pick up the tea he so considerately prepared for her, blowing at the steam and taking a sip. "Okay," she says, without any hesitation. "What's up?"

—-

"Not a tradition I'm gonna argue with," Bucky says, reappearing from the kitchen. He's already eating a macaron, in fact. ONE OF JANE'S MACARONS. It's the orange blossom one, though, and she always lets him have the orange ones, because his fascination with oranges is very well known to Jane Foster. "Now the tradition of Jane constantly working, that I might argue…"

He indicates for her to sit, and only once she's seated does he sit himself, across from her. He nods briefly as she mentions herself and John getting away for a bit. "Probably for the best," he says, bluntly. "Shit was tense. You'll work better when you're not under so much strain. The both of you."

His mood and mind are transparently shifting to the task at hand, though. Zatanna prompts him, and he sighs, leaning forward and scrubbing a hand through his hair. "I didn't wanna ask you," he says, "but it's gonna be a big lift. You know by now John's got a sleep hook in my head. I want myself cleaned of any possible conditioning before we take that out."

He glances plainly at her. "I found where they keep the machine they used to wipe my mind over the years. It's in Siberia. We're gonna go get it."

—-

"Hey!" she says with a laugh. "I hope you save some for Jane!"

With that bit of levity dispensed, when he talks about John and strain, she has the good grace to look somewhat sheepish. "We just rubbed each other the wrong way about that issue with Daddy," Zatanna says, which Bucky would be fully aware of, considering he holds two bullets that could kill anyone that follows her father's magical template before they could even react. "But I think we've come away with a better understanding as to what we're about. I think. The both of us." She doesn't go into detail, as in many ways, the man across from her reminds her of how John is, emotionally, but she does provide him with a few details in order to reassure him that everything, at least at the present moment, was fine.

But when Bucky reveals just what he wants her help for, her brows furrow faintly. "Bucky, of course I'll help, you don't have to hesitate in asking me," she says. "I'm a big girl, I promise. And yeah, Jane told me when we were in Germany. I asked her if there was a way to make it so John doesn't have to hold your switch, and she said that she was working on it. That was then, though, does that mean she found a way?"

And then he mentions the trip to Siberia.

"I don't think I've ever been," she tells him, honestly. "Calls up images of just snow everywhere." She makes a mental note to pack light and warm. "So when do we leave? Who's coming with us? Does that mean it's an old HYDRA base? Is it still operational? Do you remember how big the machine is?"

As usual, the young woman doesn't hold back when she's asking questions.

—-

"Understandable," Bucky says, of John and Zatanna's conflict about the idea of killing the girl's beloved father — or at least, something vaguely father-shaped. "Not exactly an easy topic, is it? I guess that's par for the course with magic shit, though. Alternate realities. All that… nonsense." As she guesses, he's decidedly terse on the subject, not really one for talking at length about feelings. Or acknowledging they exist.

He summarizes his opinion on all that with a sigh. "Well, good. Life's too short to be arguing." He finishes his macaron (a protest of "I only take the orange one!" implying he regularly thieves her orange macarons), and pours himself tea, and outlines exactly what it is he asked her here about.

"I don't have to," he says, when she protests, "but I do anyway. I like to not pull people into shit they don't need to be in. Run a lean op and all." Obviously, he now thinks she does need to be in. "The way is to re-engineer that machine. Jane can do it. Reverse it so it removes anything it implanted before."

She doesn't think she's ever been to Siberia. Bucky laughs shortly, the sound humorless. "Few people have. It's not a place you really go recreationally. It's where they kept me for many years, while I was working for the USSR." His features darken. "The selfsame place they created the Winter Soldier. This place was retired when they sent me back to HYDRA in '91, but they've reopened it for some purpose. Sent the machine back there just a few months ago."

He laces his fingers together. "It's Siberia, so I don't want this to be a big op. Nothing explosive. The last thing I need is to cause an international incident with Russia. I've only talked to Jane, Steve, Peggy. A higher-up from SHIELD who can requisition a quinjet, draw up false identities, kit us like Russians, and keep shit quiet." He cants his head. "You and John."

Do you remember how big the machine is?

In wordless answer, Bucky hands her a sheet of paper. On it is a rendering of the machine, done in his precise drafter's hand, a technical drawing that shows the thing in its macabre detail. It is ostensibly a chair, but one fitted with so many restraints, vises, and straps as to seem more an instrument of torture. The piece de resistance is what looks like an attachment meant to clamp around the head of the chair's occupant, lined with long, fine, current-carrying needles that really only look like they have one place to go once the clamp secures.

"It's pretty heavy," he says, in a wild understatement of just what she's looking at. "I've tried to render it accurately, in case that's important to you preparing any kind of transport spell. You and John are probably how we're going to get something it out discreetly."

—-

"I know. You're a very efficient guy." There's a small smile. "I'll help however I can. John didn't tell me much, just that the two of you talked and that he might need to go on a trip, soon. Now I know."

One would think anyone would tell his significant other at least some details, but Zatanna has lived with this for years, and magicians have an unspoken rule when it comes to secrets. It probably isn't unlike Bucky's ingrained discipline on the issue, so she doesn't press much on the man's reasoning behind it. What is important, to her at least, is that he is fixing a very serious problem and he has plenty of trustworthy backup. Even if she wasn't going, herself, the news that he will not be alone brings her some degree of relief.

But she listens attentively to these small pieces of his life; the Winter Soldier is one of the most dangerous men in the world, and while John tends to make a sharp delineation between the man he knows as Bucky Barnes and him, Zatanna does not, having enough emphatic sense to know that there is bound to be some bleed-over, and the last thing she wants is to reject any part of Bucky that the Winter Soldier might share. It is the way she has always been; young as she is, her life is perpetually filled with difficult personalities, the greatest of these being her father. Giovanni Zatara is not an easy man to love.

When he emphasizes that this is a covert operation, she nods. "I'll try to keep my being….well, me, in the downlow," she says, looking somewhat sheepish again. "I don't wanna piss off Russia, either. John doesn't deal well with the cold, but if it gets bad, I'll help with that problem."

The painstakingly detailed sketch of the chair slid to her, ice-blue eyes take in the thing they used to develop the Winter Soldier, her expression sobering considerably when she takes in the needles, the spikes….the wires and all the equipment attached to it. It would probably be massive, and heavy, but the idea of him being strapped in while they drilled holes in him is not easy for the young woman to swallow. And if it's already difficult, she can't even imagine how Jane would feel once she gets her hands on it.

She'll be taking it apart at least, and figure out how to reverse everything, she thinks. And then maybe she'll get some sleep…

She does reach out though, to rest her fingertips gently on Bucky's wrist.

"Not a problem," she assures him with a smile. "So long as I'm in the same room as the chair, and so long as I visit where you want me to transport the chair and take a look at it first, I'll be able to move it there."

After a pause, she speaks up again.

"So once Jane figures it out and you're all de-conditioned, we can all take a bat to this thing, right? Like that scene in Office Space where everyone just gangs up on the printer?"

—-

You're a very efficient guy, Zatanna smiles. Bucky smiles too, but the expression is briefer and sadder. "I used to worry that was all just the Winter Soldier," he admits. "He was somebody stripped down to do nothing that did not immediately lead him closer to his objective. But then I remember that was me, too, before. Being a sergeant in the army meant making do with very little, and a whole buncha assholes complaining why you couldn't do better than you already were." His smile turns a little more genuine, reminiscing.

He doesn't seem too surprised, though, that John did not tell Zatanna. There is a similar sort of secrecy about both men, a reticence to reveal too much about their own lives and the lives of others. The cloak of shadows under which the spy lives is something with which the reclusive magician can identify. One little similarity between what are otherwise two very different men. It is a secrecy most significant others would find hard. Jane found her way around it. For Zatanna, though, it's unspoken… an aspect of the magical circles in which they move.

"Right," he says, when she acknowledges she doesn't want to piss off Russia. "You really don't. You and John'll have to be pretty hush about yourselves until the moment comes, unless shit goes really wrong." He picks up a pistol off the coffee table, checks the magazine's out, checks the chamber to make sure that's empty too, and then flips it around to present it to Zatanna, grip first. The entire process takes less than two seconds. His grin is a little mischievous now. "Might even have you carrying some of these, just to look more legit." He waggles the pistol. "You might as well get comfortable holding it now, if you ain't already."

The machine, however, is not a topic that can be discussed with any levity. Bucky lapses into silence as he hands over the sketch and lets her have a look. He keeps his own gaze on the floor, not looking up until he feels her touch on his wrist.

She tells him not to worry. She can move it, as long as she's in the room and knows where to send it to. "That part'll be easy," he says softly.

Something darker does flicker in his eyes when she asks if they'll destroy the machine afterwards. "I plan to," he says, though he looks a little lost at 'Office Space.' His education hasn't caught up that far yet.

—-

"I'm hoping that when we do get that machine back, we can all be reassured that whatever pieces of you that are yours will stay," Zatanna tells Bucky quietly. "I have a tremenduous amount of faith in your resilience and Jane's brilliance. If there's anyone who'll be able to figure it out, it's her."

And then, he presents her with a gun.

There is both horror and curiosity there at the sight of a gun; odd, for a young lady who is very much a magical nuclear reaction to look so nervous at the sight of it, but she has yet to grow the calluses necessary to be thoroughly desensitized to the terrors a human being can inflict on another, and most of the time, those involve guns. But the curiosity, a novel experience that she's never really had a chance to explore. So while there's a brief moment of hesitation there, it vanishes when she reaches out with a decisive gesture and takes the gun with a firm grip. An adrenaline junkie to the core, the moment she touches cold steel puts a shot of it in her bloodstream immediately. Excitement slowly overcomes the fear.

…except she's a little hamfisted when she does it. It's like watching a toddler hold a rattle for the first time. If nothing else, Jane held it better the first time the two women met, and that was well before she got Bucky's crash course in covert operations.

"So….do I just point and shoot?" she wonders. "Am I holding this right?"

No. No she's not.

He assures her that the things she needs to transport the chair is easily provided. "So where do I need to transport the chair?" she wonders. "Does Jane have a workspace she would like it in?"

His confirmation that he intends to destroy the chair once they're done with it has her nodding grimly. "I'll help," she tells him. "If you want me to."

—-

If anyone can figure out that machine, it's Jane, Zatanna says. And if anyone can survive it, it's him. Bucky looks tiredly appreciative of the statement of faith. "Getting it will certainly be the hardest part," he says, "Sure Jane could have it re-engineered in a minute once we actually have it."

In the meantime… he has some impromptu lessons for Zatanna, on how to look natural with a gun. She's… definitely in need of them, he thinks, as she first regards the gun with some fascinated horror — then decisively reaches out to take it in exactly the wrong way. Well, points for enthusiasm.

"It's kinda funny, the reactions you and John have to guns," Bucky says, commenting on THAT because the alternative is commenting on her grip, and he is crying internally right now. "You guys float around glowing and shooting magic outta all your pores like that Lord of the Rings stuff, yet it's this you're nervous about." He nudges a rifle which is probably literally Jane's size. "Well, I guess what's familiar seems most natural, and all. A gun's got a kinda… dirty immediacy, I guess, compared to magic. Point, shoot, dead. Magic seems more courteous about letting you know it's coming before it kills you." He's probably thinking about the giant fireballs.

Does she just point and shoot? He tilts his head back and forth, weighing that. "Yes and no. Easy to use, hard to master, I guess." He reaches forward and gently adjusts her grip.

He frowns a little as he's doing that, because Zatanna just asked a very good question. "I'll have to ask Jane which lab she wants it in," he says, because of course Jane has multiple labs. "But I have a feeling I know which one. We'll let you know."

As for her offer to help destroy the chair? Bucky is silent a few moments, as if not really sure how he DOES feel about how the thing should be destroyed — and by whom. "Might be worthwhile getting some magic atomization on the pieces once I'm done," he finally allows.

—-

"It's probably like your thing with guns," Zatanna tells Bucky, letting him reach over to adjust her grip on the gun. But she does learn quickly, following his silent instructions until she is holding it properly. "Like this?" She has the good sense to point it away from him and down towards the floor, though, even when she knows that the man has removed all the bullets.

And good thing, too. She would have had a firearm-related accident immediately.

"You've used it almost all your life, so guns feel natural to you. Magic's been with me since I was five or six, so it feels more natural to me. It's probably the same with John. Still, though, this is pretty exciting! I've never had to go on a spy op before." Always one for new experiences, and she's helping out Bucky on top of it. Not to mention she gets to go on another run with Captain America.

"Okay," she tells him. "I'll have to visit it once she picks which one, my teleportation skills are more immediate if I've actually seen the place I'm opening the portal to, so that's key. Let me know as soon as you two settle on a location, okay?"

The magic atomization plan has her nodding. "Anything you need," she tells him. "While we're there, I'll do what I can to help and stay out of the way, if I can do both." She is at the very least cognizant of the fact that she will be well out of her element on this, and she will help when she can, but she is clearly concerned about being a liability. "I can at the very least toss up shields and stuff and be a walking defense mechanism if need be."

Finishing her cup of tea, she looks up at Bucky and smiles. "Is there anything else I need to know?"

—-

Bucky is oddly silent as he adjusts Zatanna's grip, tweaking it until he can answer her 'like this?' with a confirming smile. The expression is bittersweet, mostly because he's thinking of his little sister, and how he used to teach her things as well — his larger hands over her small, slender ones. How he used to help her with her hair because their parents were working and he was her older brother, her only sibling. How he used to button the buttons at the back of her dresses she couldn't reach.

How he missed her entire life, in the ice, killing people on behalf of slavers who took everything from him without remorse or reservation.

She's never had to go on a spy op before! she enthuses. "They certainly won't be expecting you or John," he winks at her, her cheerfulness helping dispel his own melancholy. "Kinda like how none of those mage fucks in Germany expected me. That's an advantage in and of itself. Magic shields, et cetera, they won't know what to do. Not trained for that."

He pauses. "HYDRA is known for dabbling in the occult, so there is a nonzero chance you might actually be needed in that capacity if there's anything like that there, but I doubt it." He grins. "Clandestine ops aren't as exciting as they sound, though. Not much sound and fury and magic shooting everywhere. Mostly just a lot of waiting. A lot… of waiting. Some sneaking, between the waiting."

He takes the gun back presently, letting her finish her tea and wrap up. Anything else? "Not yet," he says. "…Thanks. I'll be in touch. Probably give you a few more pointers on how to hold that gun. You'll probably need to pass some pretty critical eyes."

—-

"At least we're going to be able to help keep the lot of you safe," Zatanna tells him. That is, as always, her primary concern.

It isn't as if she doesn't catch the sudden melancholy air that Bucky exudes, but she knows better than to pry, or trod into places where she isn't invited in. She has had plenty of practice in that arena, and she would be one of the last people to pry into the man's secrets. But she does give him a small smile and a subtle nod, when he corrects her grip; in instances such as these, she simply resorts to doing what she always does and just keeps on being herself.

There's a small frown when he points out HYDRA's occult leanings. "I'll keep an eye out," she says. "John and I've always been pretty sensitive to magic, a whiff of something like that and we'll know where it is, at the very least. Still, though, that's something new. I'm way too used to kicking down the front door, as John likes telling me. I'll have to mentally recalibrate by just following your lead."

She readily relinquishes the gun, though at the word about pointers, she laughs. "I'd appreciate it. Especially if I'm going to be in a run with Agent Carter and Captain America," she says, moving to stand up from the table. "I'll wait for your call. Thanks so much, Bucky. We'll get the chair, come hell or high water."

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