1964-08-15 - Project Virgo: Cold Reflections
Summary: With Coulson there to chaperone, Bucky encounters another Winter Soldier.
Related: If there are no related logs, put 'None', — please don't leave blank!
Theme Song: None
coulson bucky rogue 

The Triskelion has sublevels, then there are sub-sublevels; those places designed to be utilized when the utmost secrecy and security are required. This is where Bucky Beta, as Phil Coulson so eloquently penned him, is being caged.

For this exercise, the Senior Agent has put on field gear, including the armored bodysuit and rifle. He stands outside the room with Bucky by his side, looking through the two way mirror with a pensive expression.

"Remarkable, isn't it?" he asks.

Buck's been antsy to really see this apparent replica face to face, no matter what he really turns out to be. And now he's agog, staring through the glass at the other Bucky. It's his nightmare, to know that his suffering won't end with him, but continues on in other bodies in cold rooms. An infinite series of reflections, like a candleflame caught between two mirrors….sons he never sired, or twins he didn't share a womb with.

He's not armored, himself. He's just still in his jumpsuit, with worn sneakers on his feet, not his accustomed steeltoes. "It's insane," he says, flatly. "I can't understand why me. Why not some Spetznaz superman? Some mutant hybrid. The only thing remarkable about me was HYDRA trying out its superserum on me during the war, and even that didn't have me turning out like Steve."

An oddity: not all those Buckies are Bucky. There are differences if one knows how to look deeper than the surface. Errors in eye shape or colour, the crop of the hair and of course the build. None of them precisely match just so, but proximity is a necessity to determine one calling card from another.

Yet only with ease can this one be deciphered. The nose is longer, the jaw sharper. Of course the difference in hair length is there, and the frosty, empty stare of a man condemned to death and just not insane. Calm, cold, there is nothing to return a word, a name, a look. That's true for their captives. They just don't respond, shut down by the grueling regimen of whatever made them. Whatever did this.

"It's also remarkably unfair," Coulson answers. "For both of you." It is but a moment of empathy, for there is a job to be done.

Coulson's demeanor becomes less soft, a touch less friendly. Not to Bucky, but to the situation in general. "It was HYDRA, looking for an advantage. Something they could use to balance power. It is our job to make sure that balance becomes… unbalanced. To assure these clones aren't able to do what they were made to do." He casts a look to Bucky. "You ready?"

After a moment, Coulson opens the door. Bucky Beta has been restrained, of course; the same design used to restrain Bucky Prime, in fact. He steps in and allows James to follow. "You have a visitor," he tells the prisoner.

"Yeah," says James himself, still flat…though he han't lapsed into that brooding grimness that shows up from time to time. "On all counts." Then the Winter Soldier steps in behind Coulson, and then to the side - not going to hide behind the agent. He situates himself in the other Soldier's field of vision, looking into his face calmly - waiting to see what the prisoner's reaction might be. In that flawless eastern Russian, complete with a trace of a Vladivostok accent, he asks, softly, «Hey. Do you understand English?»

The brooding figure merely stares out, grim and unremarkably focused on whatever vicissitudes fascinate him. Fauxcky leans back slightly and stares past Coulson when the door opens. Restraint doesn't give him much choice about what he does. Wall himself off is about it. Bucky's arrival alongside him hardly causes shock. Why woudl it when he spent the better part of an hour in good company of his literal cousins and twins or clones?

"«Why?»" The question in Russian is completely neutral as they come. Tone devoid, the neutral grind is akin to James himself. That isn't so entirely different. "«No.»"

Coulson folds his arms, now allowing James to take the show in his hand. He's merely the observer for this movement, silently observing every detail he can dredge from Fauxcky's responses.

«Some of us do,» Bucky replies, easily. Coulson'll know the pronoun. 'Us' not 'you'. «What are you called?» In contrast to his….kinsman's studied neutrality, the blue eyes are bright, for all his attempts to keep his body language just as easy. «Do you know who I am?»

The man gives a slight tip of his head. No smile rests on those features uncannily like Bucky's own. Fauxcky doesn't look like he'll ever laugh at the outcome of a Yankees game or stroll down Coney Island, admiring the lights. He's the byproduct of a torture chamber and a rigorous regimen meant to strip someone down. The response is an abbreviated shrug considering the position. "«You.»"

There's something awful in the temptation to immediately reach for that string of words, the one that might make this one yield as easily as he always does. But it's there. There's a pre-arranged signal for Coulson - two in fact. One hand gesture for the phrase that makes the Soldiers go into that pliant standby mode, ready for whatever directive. And another to use the one that shuts them down into unconsciousness.

James sits back a little, himself. He's not a trained interrogator. Not like this, anyway. «What's your name? What's your designation?»

There shan't be anything remotely akin to hope for them. He stares back with those pitiless eyes cast in a pallor of long-sighted misery. Bucky versus his icon is not bound to get terribly much reaction. "«None.»" That's got to be terrible. He's not even distinguished as a person, a thing. Is he even that much? "«You. Why do you do this?»"

Even the AKs racked in the bases have individual serial numbers «Not even a serial number? How do you know when you're being given orders to, as opposed to another individual? Or does only the group have a name? All the men who look like you, that you were fighting alongside….what are you called?» A hint of frustration creeping in - he didn't expect teary-eyed welcome and open arms, but this….Foolishly, of course, he yields to the temptation to reach out and touch, laying his hand along the prisoner's jaw. No force, he's not trying to make this…clone? look in any particular direction.

"«You.»" The clone repeats itself quite clearly. "«I am you. We are called when you are?»" Fauxcky isn't smiling darkly in the night or mocking with laughter in his eyes. He simply remains frozen in place without the means to much escape a disturbing coil of events. That Bucky reaches out to touch him, so like doing it himself, leaves a rather incurious expression. He stares back, puzzled. "«You are here. You did not finish the mission. I did not finish the mission. We failed.»"

When Bucky moves forward to take his counterpart by the jaw, Coulson displays just how cool-headed he can be. Inside, he's tensing. Outside, his fingers remain still, eyes unchanged; the pace of his breath is not quickened.

"«No,»" Coulson interjects, his Russian clearly not natural but well practiced. "«We won.»" He's curious to see what a low dose of humiliation might prompt, before ramping it up at all.

With his metal hand, he touches the breast of his jumpsuit. «I'm James. James Barnes. I was born in Brooklyn in the United States of America in 1917. Yes, I failed the mission I was sent here to do. I did not eliminate Steven Rogers. I no longer fight for the Soviet Union. You are a replica or descendant of mine, you and all the men like you….» He bites his tongue. «Report. What mission were you on when you were captured?» There's no 'good cop, bad cop' if your interrogation's subject doesn't give a damn what happens to him….doesn't even have the capacity to worry about himself, because as far as he's concerned, there is no 'self.' Bucky shoots Coulson a look, and for a moment, the expression of puzzlement is eerily identical, if sharper than that of the pale prisoner beside him.

"«Leave.»" The soldier uncannily similar in nature to James, minus the actual metal arm, looks puzzled. "«To leave. Go. The objective failed. All those capable of doing so were ordered to leave. Americans burn everything. Nothing to be had. You lost. We lost.»" His gaze flicks briefly to Coulson, and if there's any confirmation there, he does not really seem to recognize the man.

"They must be programmed to follow a specific set of instructions, and just that," Coulson remarks. "Nothing more. Somehow, the trigger words… it must not be all there is."

He steps forward then, eyes glimmering with something dangerous. "«You failed,»" he resumes in Russian. "«You failed the mission, and you failed to leave. We have you now, and we are the enemy. What happens next is that we will break you. You will no longer be who or what you are. A tool, nothing more; to be discarded when it's blade becomes dull and worthless.»"

Maybe it's programming, even fragmented and buried; Xavier wallted it all off, but didn't destroy it. Maybe it's a deeper instinct - recognition of nearly identical DNA. But it's very clear, by the way Bucky lets his hand fall from the other Soldier's face and turns fully to look at Coulson, that there's already some kind of loyalty there. Imprinting, perhaps. Because it's almost combative, that posture. Some part of James's psyche has decided that this particular little automaton fills the 'kid brother' slot once occupied by Steven Rogers. Mine, says the expression, mine.

But he doesn't argue with Coulson. It's the truth. The programming will be broken, by hook or by crook. What they'll be left with - God willing, they can get a functional person out of this. "It sounds," he says, slowly, "Like that, yeah. I mean, he doesn't even seem to understand that he's an individual. They're not telepathic, I'm guessing. But….how do you give specific orders when you don't even have a number?"

Those hang-dog eyes turn from Bucky to Coulson. They hold even less concern for their status than some might. Take the metal from the ore vein, hammer and refine it, and decide to give it a matte finish, the object will always have that finish. Even through hard use, it's not going to sparkle. No smile follows Coulson's admissions and threats. James has not fully turned his near doppelganger to begging. Could such a fate even be in their makeup?

"«What do they do with you when you fail? Remember that.»" The tone isn't particularly cruel.

"I don't have an answer for that, James," answers Coulson. His tone remains harsh, though it's not directed at Bucky himself; moreso, it's an effort at maintaining the act. To remain convincing. "«I don't fail,»" he then tells Fauxcky. "«I want you to tell us just how they use you. I want to understand how they give you directions. If not, we will…»" He casts a glance briefly toward James, then back to his not-so-much-brother. "«… unlock it from within you.»"

«Not what you think,» Buck retorts, instantly. «They could've killed me any time in the last months. Yet here I am. Americans….we're different. It's not like that. You'll be free. You've spent all your life in chains, little brother….but we're going to break them.» He puts a hand on the other Soldier's shoulder, squeezes it gently. «Tell him.»

The dark figure doesn't ever try to smile in response to them. He listens, as it's not as though they leave him any other choice. The soldier stretches against the bonds holding him, trying to keep his muscles from seizing up under the heavy green and brown garb he wore into the field. It's a limited effort, movements tested more than anything, for his discomfort is a reasonably messed up situation he can endure for a while. "«What difference does it make to comply?»" Reasonable question, isn't it? "«I do what you want. You take it anyways. You torture me and unlock it.»" He puzzles over the situation for a few moments; there's no absence of purpose in his thought processes, slowed though they are. "«Forgive me, but we have no promises of anything. You say 'free' and you say you will 'break' our parents. What kind of man am I if I submit to this? There are no promises here. You can say any of these things. They treated you well. They did not kill you. They did not; they have not; they won't. What good are these words? They can offer them and discard me in a moment. What is to say they are not preparing the injections or bullets even now? You see our predicament. This… promise… This offer. I betray everything and what does this leave us? What does it make us?"

Coulson's jaw remains squared, his shoulders strong, arms crossed. "«I won't mince words,»" he answers. "«We either break you and free you, or you stay like this. Locked up. Forever. Unless word of this gets to the President, and he signs an execution order. You are a war criminal, after all. It's too dangerous to let you loose until we can assure… like we have James…»" He gestures toward Bucky. "«That you won't comply with the enemy. Does that make sense to you?»"

Injection. The thought makes James bristle, wolfishly, despite himself. «What does it make you? In time, free men. There's a whole world outside Siberia. There's a whole world that does not have to be your enemy. The Russians….they don't have to control you. You'll be able to make your own choices.» He rises from where he's almost crouched at the other Soldier's side, to pace, all nervous energy. «I promise it. If you try….you won't be tortured. You won't be killed. I know what you went through to become what you are. The cold and the pain and the weariness. It doesn't have to be like that.» Then something strikes him, and he turns on the Soldier again, brow furrowed. «….parents?»

"«You ask me to take your word. A promise. How do I know it's true?»" He's attached to that line of thought. His expression is pained slightly by thought. "«Parents? What?»"

"Our parents," Coulson asides to Bucky. His gregarious demeanor falters, willingly of course, but he steps up close to James with a furrow to his brow. "Not brothers, parents. What on earth…?"

And that's what Buck has seized on, in turn. «Who're your parents?» He asks, slowly. «How old are you? If you don't have a name…» How fast, exactly, *did* they grow these kids? «And as for proof…..» He glances at Coulson, and then he's undoing the front of the jumpsuit. Which, happily proves to have a clean white tank top beneath. No striptease. He shoves one shoulder off enough to reveal the metal plates with their crimson star, his own little waffenamt. «They found me dead in the water off the coast of Germany. They revived me, but I'd lost some of the arm in the explosion. I could've had an ordinary prosthesis, but….they wanted to try out some augmentation techniques, so they cut it off at the shoulder joint and attached this. When I woke up again, my memory was gone, so….they made me into the first Winter Soldier.»

Boohoo, no Bucky striptease. One day.

The Fauxcky in their midst isn't particularly expressive. Truth told, he's probably eager to fall facefirst into an uncomfortable cot, grab a few hours of sleep, and munch on flavourless bread. He could be daring and even think about a fresh change of clothes in a day or two. Instead, he's looking with those dark, matte eyes at Bucky. "«I don't know.»"

"He doesn't know," murmurs Coulson. He drops his arms and steps away, reaching up to run a hand through his receding hairline with a tired expression. For a few moments, he paces around the cell, contemplating all they've learned. "Whatever they have locked up inside of him, I don't think it will come out so easily. Maybe… maybe they had more time with them -" He nods to Fauxcky, "than with you."

«You don't have any,» he informs the other Soldier, as he tugs the jumpsuit back into place, redoes the fastenings. «More accurately, your father is George Barnes, your mother is Winifred Barnes - those were my parents. Which makes you….» He fishes for a name, «Matvei Yegorovich Barnes» Bucky spreads his hands. «Look at me. I'm obviously one of you. I'm the template, except for that stupid arm. And here I am with this crazy story….I bet none of you, none of us, have names except for me. You don't remember a childhood before the Red Room. Because they made you, you weren't born. They took what they had of me - samples, DNA….and made you all.»

He's all but pleading. As Coulson speaks, he says, "…..I was gone for eighteen years. Even if they started experimenting with me the minute they got me…..they can't be more than eighteen years old. But they don't look like kids. They look like men in their twenties. They were grown. They've probably got the absolute minimum in implanted memories just to be able to function."

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