1963-12-08 - The Barnes Hunt Begins
Summary: Heather brings Pepper in to share what she knows about Bucky's plans to assassinate the Ambassador from Egypt, Coulson joins them as a senior representative of SHIELD and to enact any plans based on Pepper's knowledge.
Related: Icebreaker
Theme Song: None
coulson pepper heather 

After a series of frantic phonecalls, Pepper finally got hold of Heather. Something about Jack — which Heather unravelled to determine that Pepper, by some means, had found out where the man who had eluded SHIELD for so long might be. Magic wasn't anything new to Heather but this was the first time she'd had it help her out here in New York City.

There was no real reason to break SHIELD secrecy and bring Pepper into the headquarters but it also didn't seem right to take Pepper's statement alone. Therefore: Coulson. Coulson was the solution to more problems than Heather could count.

"She'll meet us here at the Baxter Building," Heather explained on the way up to her apartment. "She thinks she has information on the man who tried to assassinate Peggy — Jack. Her boyfriend…that is a horribly inadequate term when discussing adults. Especially assassins."


It's been a day and a half since it all happened, since the strange 'dreaming', the information Pepper got, and her attempts to frantically call SHIELD. She finally got through and she's really hoping it's not too late. Pepper's put on her best, most business like suit. Charcoal gray, double breasted, tailored. The skirt *actually* comes halfway down her thighs, instead of barely skimming the tops in mini-Mod style. She's got tasteful black stockings on and chunky, conservative heels. Her hair is all pulled back. She's doing her best not to look like the board room sex kitten she often does, but the mature, professional business woman she wants to be.

She's got an arm ful of files, photos of the street corner where it's supposed to happen, information about the Egyptian minister's stay in New York City. Basically, a full fledged preparation file that would be worthy of any SHIELD agent. Business and espionage is often quite similiar. She nods to the front desk, "I'm here to see. Ms. MacNeil? Thank you…" A nervous smile is given, and a nod of thanks as she's escorted through.


The first thing Agent Coulson had done upon receiving the call was to review Heather's file. He's a quick study. The trip was made in one of SHIELD's vehicles, and as they pull up to the Baxter Building, Coulson removes the shades from his face and looks up, an expression of awe upon his face. "I've always wanted to see it up close."

As they wait in the elevator, Coulson provides Heather with a pleasant smile. "Oh, I think it's quite fine," he answers. "When a couple finds themselves in a committed relationship but no vows or promises have exactly been made, sometimes… one has to settle for more youthful terms."

Coulson is dressed as he often does. A smart, classic suit in navy, skinny tie, and a briefcase in his left hand.


Heather and Coulson make it into her very nice apartment just before Heather arrives. She settles Coulson at the kitchen table and has just enough time to get the coffee going before Pepper arrives.

"Pepper, come on in, honey," she says, waving Pepper into the apartment. "This is Senior Agent Phil Coulson. I don't know if you two have met. Agent Coulson, this is Pepper Potts. Pepper has some information about that man we've been looking for and I have some suspicions that he may have been brainwashed into committing the acts that he did. Agent Coulson is here to take whatever information you can give us since I'm just Director Carter's assistant."

She gestures for Pepper to take a seat at the table — there are tissues within reach, Heather is not taking any chances — then goes to get the coffee.

"Just tell Agent Coulson whatever you can and we'll go from there."


The redhead looks *all* business now. Cute, young, too attractive to be behind a board room table business, but business. She reaches the file down and nods, "I'm sorry, I didn't get copies for two people. It's an honor, Senior Agent Coulson. If I realized someone else was joining us, I'd have made two files." Pepper explains with an apologetic, half smile. Totally on top of things, normally. Her exhaustion is even rather entirely hidden by a perfectly artful make up job.

"If you look in the file, you'll see that I have reason to believe the man I knew as Jack to be World War Two Veteran James Buchanan Barnes. I have a friend… gifted in… I suppose psychic magic? She can go into dreams. She managed to help me find Jack's mind while he slept. When we touched through dreams… I was able to see the day he fell from a train, dropped — or thrown by — Captain America. He was asking for Steve, though. He asked me to tell Steve. I promised him that I would. I've got what public information I can find on him there and his face in the files matches that of the man I knew." Pepper gulps in a small breath, the first hint of how nervous she is. "…He also told me he's being held by…Russians. I think they are the ones brain washing him. He's made to kill people. His next hit is the Ambassador of Egypt. He's supposed to do it by a trapped explosive gas main on 4th street. I don't know when."


Leaving his briefcase upon the table, Coulson rises promptly and, with a warm smile, moves to greet Pepper. "The infamous Pepper Potts," he says, in a manner that borders on whimsical. "Just… Agent Coulson." There's a friendly laugh on his face. "I certainly don't need anything else to remind me of my age."

Heather's modesty is certainly not necessary, but Phil does little to argue. Not here, not now. Talk of brainwashing seems to have removed the smile from his face, and suddenly, he looks much more like the veteran he is.

He waits until the ladies have been seated before seating himself. "That's quite alright, Miss Potts. I can send a junior agent over to collect copies when it's convenient for you." That said, he moves to open the folder and review what's inside. While reading, he pays careful attention to every word. "Ah, yes. I am familiar with Barnes and his career, to the point where he disappeared…"

By now, Coulson bears a pensive look. "Brainwashing by Soviets is a severe indictment." He looks to Heather. "I'll need you to pull records from the City of New York's planning and development office. We need every piece of history on gas lines running the length of 4th."


Coulson has partially disconnected.


"I'll have the information for you as soon as possible," Heather says. While Pepper and Coulson are talking, she makes coffee and cookies appear on the table between them in a nearly magical swirl of activity…and then she's back to taking notes. "The assassination of the ambassador would be disastrous, especially if it interrupted UN agreements surrounding the Suez Canal — the situation there is never anything better than tenuous. Miss Potts provided us with a new range of sketches of Jack — Barnes. It fits what we know of both men. I can try to confirm the incident with the train with Captain Rogers."

Heather makes a few more notes, then looks across the table at Coulson. "Recent events involving Weapon X have brought superior conditioning techniques to light. I've seen some of the effects. If what's being done to Barnes is anything like what I saw, he may genuinely be innocent of all the charges against him. At least the original Barnes is." The nice thing about Weapon X being unveiled by the newspapers is that she can bring it up in front of civilians, at least in general terms. "And Barnes seems to have been trying to do the right thing as Jack. Telepathic intervention was successful in helping those affected by Weapon X. We may need consider that for Barnes, if we want to keep him alive."


"…If? He… he never asked to fall off that train! He was defending his country! He… when I saw him, in the dreams…he said the Russians scooped him out of the river, after he fell. They found him then. They've been working on him.. using him… ever since!" Twenty years. That means this man has been brainwashed and used as an assassin for *twenty years*. It might be a bit harder to cure than that which is done by Weapon-X. But, Pepper still has hope.

Hope, and glimmering eyes. Heather was probably right to bring those tissues, though Pepper has managed to keep herself together enough, so far, to give a full report about it all. "Agent…Agent Coulson, do you want me to pull those records? I can go and do it now. I don't know when the Ambassador is supposed to go past that area, but he's flying in this evening, from what I could get from the phones…" Pepper shouldn't have even been able to get THAT information. She must be quite resourceful, it seems! She looks between them both with some nervous hope. "Heather…you… You said you'd all help him, right? WE're going to help him. I promised him I'd bring *help*…"


An appreciative smile is given to Heather. It's worth noting that Agent Coulson is not taking notes. No, he always found it more helpful to listen, and to listen carefully, not to be distracted by note taking. Besides, he'll have Heather's notes to reference later. A two pronged approach is always preferable.

Pepper's exasperation does not seem to affect Coulson in the slightest. He looks to her, patient and seeming to be in no rush, having no desire to interrupt or calm her. Pepper's admission of gathering sensitive information does prompt him to squint his eyes a bit and study her more closely, the slightest hints of a smirk forming.

"Matters of telepathy," he says, while reaching to open his briefcase, "are particularly troublesome. I have no doubts in the legitimacy of such talents, but utilizing them in a court of law, for Mister Barnes' defense, will be… difficult." From within the briefcase, he withdraws a piece of paper with official SHIELD letterhead, reading 'Requisition for Access'. Upon it, he begins to scrawl something in fine handwriting with a very nice ink pen. "Agent MacNeil, I will have you take the car to gather those utility records immediately. This order will provide access, even after hours." He signs the piece of paper, then slides it over toward Heather.

The briefcase is closed once more, and Coulson then turns to look toward Pepper. "Miss Potts." His voice is filled with genuine empathy. "I understand this is a very difficult situation for you. We will do everything we can to prevent this potential tragedy. I am going to need to ask you a rather difficult question; I hope these cookies will… soften the blow."

Pepper now receives the full measure of Coulson's attention. He even turns away from the table, bodily facing her while folding his hands pleasantly in his lap. "I need to understand the relationship you have with Mister Barnes."


"I will get on that immediately, Agent Coulson." Heather takes the proffered paperwork and gets to her feet. Still, she stops to put a hand on Pepper's shoulder before she goes. "Pepper, if you're all right with being left on your own, I'm going to get on this. We need to begin making preparations to intercept Jack — Mr. Barnes, as soon as possible. I know he wants to be stopped, I want to help make that happen so that he can get his life back."


There is a single look in Heather's direction, almost a gaze begging not to leave her, but Pepper is strong. She *has* to be strong. She swallows her heart back down her throat and nods faintly, "G-go…Go, do your work, Heather. We… we still need to get that drink, sometime. But this is more important. I… I just want to be there. When you go for him. If I can. He'll recognize me. Part of him will, at least. So…you have my number. If you'll let me know what happens…go. I'll be fine here…" It's not really a lie, but Pepper isn't looking all that comfortable either. Still, she tries to suck it up with a half smile.

Then blue eyes are turning back to the older man, still trying to smile, trying to look brave. She reaches out for a cookie, but she doesn't eat it. She just plays with it between her fingertips, like some sort of worry-doll-pastry. It was something to get out the nerves. "..Jack… *Barnes* and I…we… We were lovers. A long while. He… stopped me from being mugged… back in the summer. I got him a job at Stark Industries, as a janitor. I… thought… well, He said he was a veteran. He was staying at the VA. I thought he meant from…Korea. He never slept well, but…lots of boys had shell shock, you know? I just thought it was that… I was trying to help him get his life back together. He… was… Gentle with me. Kind. He cooked…"


To Heather, Coulson provides a thankful look and a slow nod of his head. "Don't worry about me, I have a ride coming." That is trailed by a knowing grin. Apparently, Coulson knows how to plan for contingencies.

Now a mug of coffee ends up in Coulson's hands, warming them for they are still cold from the bitterness outside. He drinks casually while Pepper speaks, all the while exuding an air of calm and safety. He encourages her to continue with occasional smiles and a nod of his head here and there, until she trails off a bit near the end. "It sounds like he was quite nice to you, Pepper," he remarks with earnest. "Most likely, this was the part of him that rejected the brainwashing. We're still studying this science quite a bit, but often times, there are…" he gestures with a free hand, "two sides to a person's personality when such psychological mistreatments are in place. There's the side loyal to one's benefactors, and then… the real person, the one that hides underneath."

Coulson then reaches across and, lest she pull back, he will grasp Pepper's hand with a warmth that is almost brotherly. "I need to ask you just one more question, and… I apologize, but this one might be the most difficult one of all." He leaves some space there, giving Pepper room to prepare for it.

"Is there any chance that Mister Barnes has had access to places within Stark Industries that he shouldn't have had?" His eyes squint. "Sensitive files… proprietary research documents… prototype technology?"


As that reassurance comes, Pepper does relax a bit more. She's not stupid, however, and her smile grows just a bit more wary, "…you..You don't think he was just doing it to…Use me? I don't…either. I don't think he'd have showed me that if he was. I think there is another side of him but… Hell, how do you know in these situations? Maybe I was just stupid, Agent Coulson. God…I was so damn stupid over it all…" Pepper admits, embarrassment behind her voice too. Self chiding. She's normally so much more on top of things.

And then that line of questioning happens and a fair amount of color drains from the redhead's face. Her eyes go slowly wide. She's suddenly sinking into the chair behind her and, thank goodness there is a chair, because her knees are weak. "He…he was a janitor. A… trusted one. Did a great job…in all the labs. Shit, Agent… shit. He…had access to everything. He was just a janitor. We… never imagined…"


Coulson's hand tightens just so, offering encouragement toward Pepper. This is one of those factors that sets him apart from many of SHIELD's assets… he isn't strictly after the information, he's interested in forming allegiance, in fostering loyalty and trust. "No, Pepper, I believe he truly wanted to be with you," he tells her, and there is no false honesty in that statement.

Brainwashing is, after all, a complicated thing.

"There isn't time to formulate the proper requisition for all of Stark Industries' records, and quite honestly, we don't have the time to go through it all," he tells her. "It would be helpful if Mister Stark could prioritize potential hazards that such an information leak might present, especially considering the threat to Ambassador Elquni. I would advise you to remain here, in the Baxter Building, until I call for you."

With that, he takes one final drink of coffee, releases Pepper's hand, and turns to collect his briefcase while standing. "Oh!" He turns back toward her with that same pleasant expression he wore upon entry. "One last thing." He points upward, head cocking just slightly, the motion paired with a mirthful grin. At the same time, the beating of airborne rotors can be heard from outside the building. "I don't suppose there's a heliport up there?"


"…On… Stark Industries? Yes, there is. It's right outside the penthouse. Tony insisted on it." Then Pepper actually hears the beat of airborne rotors outside and her tired eyes widen. "Oh! You…mean here. I… goodness. I don't know. But I…I will ask Tony to figure out those files. Or, more so, figure it out myself. I know just as much of what is going on. God… I'm… so sorry. I should have realized… sooner." Pepper sinks back in the chair, not even protesting being trapped here. That speaks for just how overwhelmed she feels right now. She'll be going stir crazy in 20 minutes, but right now, she's happy to sit.

"…Good… good luck with your ride, Agent Coulson. It was nice meeting you." A half smile, a little salute, and Pepper lets him go. She just stares out the window now, letting herself just sit and drown in thought for the first time in days.


"Call me Phil." Coulson smiles on his way out, headed toward the nearest stairwell.


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