1964-11-20 - Unburdened, Unbuckled, Unbeholden
Summary: What happens when you don't do as you're told.
Related: [http://marvel1963mush.wikidot.com/plot:projectvirgo]
Theme Song: None
bucky wanda 

OOC Note: Written by Wanda, Bucky attached as it's a Buckling.

Three people fit in the observation room with space to spare. Six folding chairs abreast gave a suitable, if uncomfortable, audience to a raised platform for some kind of spectacle. The one-way glass afforded a kind of privacy for the gathered agents. Performers might imagine no one witnessed their stomping and striding on the stage.

All the excitement for the moment took place in the dim room under buzzing fluorescent lights. Two men wearing identical, polyester black suits clustered too close for comfort over their female companion. The classic hallmarks of intimidation shaped their posture, looming, tilted from the waist.

She smelled their sweat and the cheap cologne on their coats, an acrid musk that made her head swim. Diane knew the aggressive posturing for what it was, but she still reclined, shrinking down in her seat.

The manila folder and yellow legal pad slid down in front of her midsection, clutched as a defensive shield against them. They swam in double, her blurry vision stinging with unshed tears.

“You work for SHIELD. You obey protocols, do you understand, Ricoult?” Agent Pascal was practically breathing down her blouse.

The taller of the two wasn’t much past thirty, buzzcut and chip on the shoulder standard male. He carried the swagger of a championship quarterback and the brimming anger of a weasel.

More of a SHIELD agent than you will ever be. Diane loathed her weakness, her back stiff and bowels watery. Dark eyes stayed lock on his face, the uneven breadth of his jawbone and cheek instead of looking away. Past Pascal, and his henchman, McMahon, was the sight that set her jaw twitching.

“This isn’t protocol,” she said.

“You may get a free rein in O, but where the real work gets down, you keep your mouth shut and do your job.” Pascal sneered at her sweaty palms and narrowed eyes.

McMahon rolled his shoulders. “Is it really necessary to be making a fuss?”

She drew herself up slightly in her seat. “Agent Fury directed Doctor Farnsworth,” she began for the third time.

“And the Director ordered us to secure them. This is secure.”

He waved his hand at the bowed, hunched figure bolted to the metal grate floor.

Metal rang the length of the cell, bars that swept from four anchored corners to a round collar in the middle. A young man’s neck bulged under the formidable ring. Sweat beaded on his short chestnut hair, glistening against his skull. Veins popped against his reddened forehead. His damp cotton shirt and pants, streaked in grime, stuck to his shirt and folded legs.

“That is inhumane. A titanium and steel alloy holding frame, no matter how you slice it, violates the basic human rights our patients are entitled to.” Diane’s voice echoed the venom in her veins.

McMahon squeezed in next to the chair, squatting down to meet her at eye level. “Look, ma’am.”


“Doctor.” As if that would sooth her. He humoured her, nothing more, as so many of them did.

He didn’t even bother trying to summon a silky tone or a smile. “He’s not human. You can convince yourself through your sessions that he’s a real boy. He acts and talks and walks like a boy, but as far as we are concerned, that prisoner is a ticking time bomb set to go off. You may not like it any. We’re doing a right favour for everyone taking the necessary steps.” And quite frankly, McMahon didn’t care. This was taking up far too much of his day, and only a promise of promotion gave him the patience he needed to deal with this trumped up chit.

Volya writhed in his bindings. Metal cuffs wrapped around his wrists, further anchored by thick bolts in a T-joint at the floor. He uttered a guttural sound too much like an animal to her, even though the microphones distorted and synthesised the sound into a tinny roar.

Reflexively they all looked over at the glass window.

Diane rocked forward in her seat, bolt upright. “Get him out of there. Agent Fury authorized the release of prisoners into O’s care for observation and socialization.”

The papers in her hands were worth their weight only as far as the gruff, prickly senior agent could enforce them. Just wait until Fury has you by the balls. Scum.

Pascal didn’t quite care for the expression she wore, the hardening look in her eyes. He held his ground, stance wide and low, the oily residue of a smirk crossing over his mouth.

“No. Not unless you got Agent Fury here to countermand me, I’m afraid I can’t do that, Ricoult.”

Rank meant everything and rank ultimately meant nothing if she allowed mouth-breathers like these to march all over her. Taking in a slow breath, she dropped her head, gave the impression of acceding to their demands like the good office drone she was instead of a licensed, practicing psychologist who graduated top of her class at Stanford.

McMahon turned away from her to watch the show. A display of human flesh, a carnival with a new exhibit, but rather than the bearded lady or the Siamese twins, they had a Russian soldier.

Diane quelled the urge to scream and started to stand, forcing Pascal back unless he wanted her forehead planted in his chest.

“Back to work, then?” He grinned, distracted.

In spite of all things, she forced herself to look past him. Look, truly and fully, to the battered young man straining and pulling in futility against whatever rig they’d set up. Her mouth tipped down.

Pascal scented weakness and couldn’t resist the barb at the petite woman in the matching skirt suit, a dolly dressed up to go to work. Soft fabric for a bleeding heart unprepared to work in the trenches where the real effort got done. He wanted to snort.

“Made to hold someone a whole lot stronger than him, you know, He’ll break before he gets free.”

McMahon grinned, reflection embossed on Volya's corded neck and florid cheek, a curving Glasgow smile. “Eh, he’ll tire himself out and be quieter for breakfast time. Maybe he’ll even keep his teeth.”

She yearned to interrupt but slowed the collecting of her papers, straightening them in her folder.

“See, he’s an animal, taking a bite from the handler feeding him. I’d treat him the same way on the farm.” Pascal spoke loud enough to fill the space.

Diane pushed past the row of chairs back to the locked door. A green light flashed on the pad, followed by a low tone. She stepped out into the hallway where two armed guards nodded curtly. The room wasn’t soundproofed in the same way as the holding cell. They had to hear every word. Professional composure out here doesn’t net me a damn thing in there.

Choices. What choices did she have? What choices did the boy wrapped up in enough metal to subdue an enraged rhinoceros have?

Another agonized scream chased her down the hallway, an eerie white noise fading into unintelligible gritty sound.

She made her way to the fourth floor offices. Brass nameplates replaced plastic ones, and a secretary manned an important desk at the end of a hallway lined in black and white photographs capturing the luminaries of SHIELD in grim detail. Their stern expressions imparted a dark watch, the weight of the world on their squared shoulders. It had better be important, she read in their hard expressions.

This was her duty to her country and to her patient. Diane squared up her shoulders and approached the secretary, diligently composing a letter or report on her typewriter.

“I need to speak with Agent Fury.” She presented her badge.

The secretary briefly looked up with watery eyes and never ceased typing, her pace altered by perhaps a word a minute. “He’s unavailable.”

Diane came this far. A secretary would not deflect her. The harrowing image of those bloodshot eyes and flaring nostrils flared in her mind’s eye. Dried blood had rimmed them, she wasn’t imagining that. “Then his replacement, whomever else is managing his affairs. It’s an emergency.”

“Nature of the emergency?”

Their endless spirals of bureaucracy protected the government and damned everyone to a hell of grey waiting rooms and ticking clocks. Diane summoned her courage and patience in a vitriolic surge. Damn it all to hell. “My patient is being held against Agent Fury’s explicit orders, at risk to his own health and wellbeing.”

“I will notify him at the earliest possible convenience.”

How many patients did the damn building have? All of SHIELD? Her professional neck was on the line, Doctor Farnsworth and all O Division at this rate. “One of the Site I patients. The one it took all of bloody Danbury to take in.”

A keystroke clanged on the paper and fell silent to a nest of long metal arms. The secretary swiveled in her chair and grabbed the handset on her desk, one of two. Diane noted idly she went for one with no buttons, only a receiver attached by a thin, spiralling cord into the very wall.

The brief conversation ended as she was ushered into a completely barren room, as much prison cell as waiting area. She took a seat in a flimsy metal chair rather than a broken down loveseat at the secretary’s insistence and picked at her notes rather than trust the selection of stale magazines piled up for show.

Her legs had fallen completely asleep by the time the door opened, the secretary preceding two guests. One she recognized immediately; the chairman of the committee from Washington, the second a female senior agent so forgettable she couldn’t place her name.

“Agent Hill,“ the woman offered her hand for a brisk shake. “You’ve got word on patient 1791.”

“Volya.” Diane’s correction brought a pair of sharp looks onto her. The resemblance in their expressions told all she needed to know. They weren’t used to being corrected. “We use names for the patients to help distinguish them and establish a sense of identity.”

“And the emergency?” said the chairman. Hill crossed her arms over her chest.

Now or never. The psychologist drew herself up. “The patient is being restrained in a contraption on his knees in a holding cell. He has no range of motion, absolutely no way to move without strangling himself.”

“You’re aware the patient attacked a guard?” Hill asked.

Diane nodded. “He is diagnosed with severe mental and emotional trauma, as my testimony last week declared. To that point, Agent Fury agreed isolation and confinement in full restraints was unnecessary as long as O Division supervised the patient at all times.”

The chairman frowned lightly and motioned her to go on.

“I know he bit someone. Pascal — or someone else — took control of everything but his voice and installed personnel who don’t speak Russian or Ukrainian. That’s all he has left.”

“He tried chewing a guard’s arm, Doctor Ricoult.” Hill glanced at her badge, the pause registering in the moment. She ran her hand through her dark brown hair. “Not a defensive bite. A shark or a lion taking a sample of long pork, if you’ll allow me to be crude.”

Diane stopped up short. She breathed slowly to curb the urge to respond at once. The matter required the utmost delicacy, not seizing the sidearm from Hill’s belt and marching down to the subbasements to demand a release.

“Unexpectedly violent reactions can be anticipated when a patient is driven to desperation. Agent, we can manage him through acceptable means. Sedation, careful stimulation.”

“And code phrases.”

The committee head wasn’t giving her any escape. Blood drained slowly from her face and pooled somewhere near her feet, while the gelled butterflies rattled around in her abdomen.

“Well, that would be one way to bring the solution to a tidy end. You could demonstrate he’ll cease to be a threat with one of the commands and take him out of there.”

Hill eyed her up. Diane thumbed the spine of the folder. “That would be depriving him of any free will.”

“Including biting and lashing out at officers, escaping, or injuring himself. Consider what is worse, confinement in a metal cage or returning to his room.”

She hated them. She hated the shadowy, nameless Soviet masterminds who shaped human clay into such fell purposes. The man that fathered these poor boys and left them to their doom instead of taking responsibility. All the agents stacked up against her doing her job. O Division for its helplessness.

In the end, she had no choice. She swore a Hippocratic oath, she believed in that oath. And they knew it. They had to.

“Can you get me onto the overhead system?” she asked. Her shoulders dropped in defeat.

“Patched through the next room. I can get guards on the ground in a minute or two.” Hill nodded.

That explained the wait. Her nerve ebbed away, water when the tide pulled back. The chairman held the door open after the woman in her all-black attire swept out, guiding Diane on numb feet into a room jam packed by microphones, rolling reels and strings of tape going from one corner to another.

The seat she took was still warm, though no technicians were in evidence anywhere she could see. A single foam-padded mic with a pair of white buttons sat in front of her.

“Do you have the programmed phrase?” he asked.

Her notes held the details in typed arrangement, a protocol required for any clearance. She laid down the four pages and lined them out in neat formation, the arrangements bringing together subtle codes.

He watched only with mild interest. Her dreadful information would be no secret to a man with clearance to the eighth degree and past.

“Would it help to hold down the button for you?”

She thought of saying no and changed her mind. “That would be helpful, thank you. Can I start?”

He checked the clock on the wall and nodded. “Longing. Rusted. Seventeen.

Her heartbeat clamoured in her own ears, smothering the distinguishing bleat of a phone ringing behind her. Let that dreadful secretary with the bleached hair grab it.

Fresco. Maple. Obligation.

The words traipsed from her stiff lips. Bells rang and whispers formed a banshee hiss behind her and she continued. This much she could offer him, a happy reward for his labours now.

He stared in shaking fury directly ahead. The metal collar bit into his throat and neck, cutting scratches in a failed decapitation. Bruises throbbed red against the back of his head, sure to purple in time.

Speakers carried the feminine commands to him in ashen blitzes, and he hauled furiously up on the handcuffs bolted to the grated floor. First syllables in cadence took him by surprise and the sick lassitude in his back portended so much worse.

Volya hummed so loud his teeth rattled, words flooding his sense in defenseless abandon. He turned then to screaming, shrieking, a cacophony to bleed out whatever penetrated through the muzzy PA system mounted within.

The bolts groaned and wailed as he sawed back and forth with the minimal leverage allowed him on his knees. Blood ran freely from open cuts and sores ripped into his wrists, a collective patchwork of raw skin and running fluids that smoothed the slip-slide of his limbs. Not enough unless he wanted to dislocate his wrists. He was considering that now.


He screamed louder and threw his entire weight back. The deltoids and trapezius muscles stood in sharp relief, all the muscles flanking his spine rigid. His toes sought purchase and failed on the grate, too numb to be felt, his knees torn at the backwards pull. Attempting any form of leverage was slow, fumbling.

Thick metal poles welded to the walls wouldn’t let him move back more than five millimeters, but he ripped his arms back against the strained metal bolts jammed through.

Metal tore. Gridding split and warped, allowing twisted bolts to go through. Sweat streamed off his battered skin. Heat poured through the constricting cotton shirt enveloped him. Somehow he found a little more endurance through the ripping muscle fibres and stars exploding in front of him, stealing his vision.

He smelled copper and tasted salt and iron, even as something burst deep in his sinuses and seeped.

But his hands hung heavily over his knees. They were free, as were his feet. Now simply his head, but that unequivocal vise must be shattered.


The dark wave threatened to bash down upon him, wiping out the intemperate thoughts. His body vibrated in pure exhaustion, weakened badly as the last dregs of adrenaline burnt out. He pulled on his left wrist, the one more expendable than his firing arm. Somehow the balance wouldn’t be too bad, as he clamped the metal cuffs between his thighs and pulled up. Sweet pain was his ally, his brother.

It was coming. Time out through the glass, only a matter of moments now. He pulled harder, spending all his breath from hoarse lungs to shout at the top of his lungs.

“Brother. Brother. Brother. Brother.”


Diane shoved the microphone away and slumped over the desk atop her notes, breathing heavily. Hill was on the phone, pressed to the wall. The chairman mopped his head with the handkerchief.

“You’re certain that is the command phrase?”

“Absolutely,” the psychologist said in a whisper.

“Was it in order? You might have skipped anything?” Hill was shouting at her, repeating questions into the receiver, giving instructions.
“Of course I’m sure! I do not enter rooms with men who can snap my neck in under two seconds from sitting still without knowing the command phrase to put them unconscious or make them docile!” Diane was unaccustomed to hearing anyone shout, much less herself.

Hill frowned. “I told you he was a time bomb.”

The chairman shook his head. “When were the patients last tested with the phrases?”

“That phrase worked in Québec, it worked here. What are you suggesting? I did what you told me to do.”

Hill covered the receiver with her hand. “He’s not going down, Ricoult.”


The chairman froze in place while Hill’s hand went to her sidearm.

Diane cried out, “No! You can’t be certain. I may have said it wrong. That has to work, we know it does.”

“But he’s still conscious and he’s moving.” Hill thrust the phone at the chairman, and started out the door, shouting for people, shouting for cover.

The doctor went to her knees. How could he have broken the programming? It wasn’t possible. It simply wasn’t.

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