1964-12-04 - Project Virgo: Vienna Debrief
Summary: You're not gonna believe this…
Related: If there are no related logs, put 'None', — please don't leave blank!
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rogue bucky 

.~{:----------: features=+views :-:}~.

0815 hours. Vienna. Leopoldstadt.

The second district presses up against the ancient Austrian capital's hard like a blade, or the tip of a spear. For a boy from Brooklyn, future times will twin Leopoldstadt with his hometown. Maybe there's an element of a homecoming here, though the original settlers who made this their home generally found their brutal ends in Birkenau, Auschwitz, and more. But this district flush up against the city centre benefits from lovely parks, like Augarten, former hunting grounds of the imperial line, and a fresh surge of building in the neutral power wedged between two superpowers. A large train station servicing south and eastern destinations hangs over the border, and those old 19th century buildings, ripe in their neoclassical charm, stand alongside glass and steel facades.

SHIELD doesn't keep much of an office here, but it stands on the Praterstrasse in the middle of it all. Nestroyplatz subway station opens opposite some five storey brick building adjacent to a bank. Small eateries and shops catering to arts and services, cares of Viennese sorts, linger at ground level. In short, it's as dull as one can find in the staid city, out of the way. Possibly a dead drop, possibly suitable.

It's where Agent Paul Allen has the misfortune of having to deal with this absolute mess, sipping his coffee.

He knew Vienna, briefly, in the war. It looks strange now, not crawling with American servicemen. To Winter, it's an old waypoint and stomping ground - he's helpfully supplying cache locations and safe deposit boxes even as Buck seats himself before the unfortunate Agent Allen.

He's managed to eat, clean himself up, snatch some rest in a safe spot known only to him, neither SHIELD nor Soviet. His clothes are clean, and he's got a cup of coffee in his own hand - something good. This is the city for cafes, isn't it?

They don't disguise the haggardness in his face. He's drawn, hollow-eyed….and the look in those pale eyes. Allen doesn't know that Peggy and Steve have the keys to this one. So surely, it's got to be spider-feet up his spine to be alone with the Winter soldier.

Especially when the first thing he says, with neither greeting nor preamble, is "I was compromised."

Vienna is a city retreated from status as a world capital, comfortable in its own skin. Ashen streaks from Anschluss and the war remain but so too the reconstruction of monuments and baroque opulence smooths over those wounds. Ten years ago its division and occupation ended, and Austrians go about their way punctually, politely, heads up, smiles down.

Agent Allen is a man roughly forty-five, maybe fifty, weathering that with all the grace of a western star. The wholesome Wienerwald — Vienna Woods — keep him trim. Having perhaps the most dangerous front in the Cold War other than Berlin in the world keeps him busy, albeit he doesn't rule this roost, exactly. Neutrality counts for something.

This is the city of cafes and coffee, where the Turkish delight was perfected, and no one ever caught up. Eat that, Starbucks. Red tape melts around his petite white mug. He reaches for a glass of water rather than a pen. This will be a long morning, not the one he wanted. The situation in Berlin is bad enough.


Where to begin. At the beginning. And then when you get to the end, stop. He takes a breath, sighs it out. "After the incident at Charlie," what a decorous way to describe throwing gasoline onto the cold fire, "I returned to the AG site where I'd found the children. There was a rail line leading out, and a train came, clearly intended to transport the children east. I hitched a ride. The route ended at a research site near Voronezh. It'd been a dacha at one point, now repurposed." That line is apparently permanently carved between his brows.

"I explored as best I could, entering through a ventilation grate. I met one child inmate, a girl apparently in her teens who identified herself as Fanya. Fanya strongly resembles Captain Rogers. Very strongly. I wasn't able to bring away an image of her, but it was clearly intended. She did not raise the alarm when she sighted me - we conversed for a little. She even fed herself what looked like some kind of nutrient shake, offered me some, which I did take. It'd been more than twenty four hours since my last meal." Another mouthful of coffee, which only scours out the ache in his stomach that much more. "I continued to explore and was sighted when I attempted to make my way to the upper stories."

He's going to need that pen after all. Allen reaches for the biro and gives a good tap, warming up the ink after a brief twiddle to hasten its movement. Then time to write down the record for perpetuity, though perhaps the Viennese consulate might send over a few Marines and armed consulate guards, plus that plucky little blonde stenographer to help. He can dream. To the show. Words link up in quick, hard sentences. To the point, nothing more. "You rode a transport train to… Voronezh." He has to know something from Russia House on what that means. Russian name, somewhere in the SSRs. Mainline. Find a map. "How were you not spotted? Border checks? Trains inbound have plenty of scrutiny."

A child inmate is the last of his concerns, reaching for that coffee to down the contents. It's going to be all he can do to keep up with the splintering parts of this. "A girl. In this… dacha. How many others? Politburo family there, do you suspect or somethign else? You believe her presence was intentional for you, bait?"

"Non-stop. Prior clearance, I assume. It makes sense - a train taking stolen kids to a research facility, they're not gonna want every Ivan, Kiril, and Olga knowing about it," he says. "Past Voronezh. We were pretty remote when I got off." He taps gloved fingertips on the paper cup. "Number unknown. I didn't see where they were kept. The train I took did have children on it. Drugged. Presumably loaded elsewhere before I boarded. Politburo? No. This place was for research."

His hair's pulled back, tight and low, but one lock has come loose, and he pushes it back, impatiently. "When I made it to the second floor, I encountered two men. And they'd been expecting me. I don't know their names, but….they'd been observing me, it seems, all along. Arnim Zola was….present in some form. I didn't see him, but he was part of the conversation. I don't know if he was present physically, or somehow remote. To my surprise, and his, they didn't remand me to him immediately. To be brief, they ordered me to return to America, and either return the subjects made from me to them, or terminate them. They were well aware they were talking to James Barnes, not the Winter Soldier."

Non-stop train on a German track going into Soviet-occupied heartland. A city of provenance largely identified as industrial, scientific. At least it's not one of those closed science cities that might as well be Gulagtown, USSR. The agent catches several notes, questions arrayed off to the side. "Research facility. Staff onsite? Security? The children were aboard when you entered at the vicinity of AG." Now to put a trace on a line, then determine the stopping points, and now some other technicians and analysts will earn their money. Spygames are so much easier on the ground.

His expression is florid after a few minutes of this. "Arnim Zola. In Soviet…" He doesn't finish that sentence, almost to the point of pressing the button under the desk. Radio feeds are already giving what they need to know. "The activities at Berlin have caused no little amount of chatter. You would be a known quantity to anyone listening in." Not telling his orders for here, and now, but rather assessing. "After you complete that. Full holiday in America or decommissioning?"

"I know," he says, simply, face like a porcelain mask. "I thought we had him, but it looks like the paperclip bent. Security: mines, trip wires. Presumably sensors. Armed men. I think I wasn't fired upon because I was expected. I don't know. I assume they might well hand me off to Zola, however…" Nevermind the way it makes even his metal hand shake - he carefully sets aside his coffee cup, lest there be a repeat of the teacup incident.

He describes the two men at and by the table, Volga, Viktor. "Now, I don't know how familiar you are with what's been going on in the States with my….clones is the word we've been using, but they aren't true replicas. There's variations in appearance, and in powers. Some of them have metahuman abilities. One of them, called Volya, used some kind of psychic ability at the incident in Connecticut. None of them have been terribly stable. Anyway. At Quebec, they reportedly had seven subjects. WE only transported six. The last one, whose name I don't know, has….his own abilities, and has not simply bugged out to go live like a lumberjack in the forests of Canada. He's an agent in play in this. I encountered him in the streets of Berlin - more accurately, his partner, Nikita. Where, I will note, they made no attempt to harm or obstruct me. After I was released from the facility, he was able to contact me. He's familiar with this place at least by reputation. It seems that the children that are sent there are….rendered into some means to grant their abilities to the subjects the Soviets choose. But the subjects in question, or so the black haired man claims, are not able to live outside Russia." He lifts a leather-clad finger. "Not the Soviet Union, Russia. He claims that if I don't bring them back, they'll die anyway."

The alertness of the case officer isn't so weak he overlooks the tremor. The cadence jitters in his ears along with certain sensations that everything has gone tremendously pear-shaped and now this is his problem to deal with. It would be easy to take a debrief on the men, the physical descriptions, and the finer points of their nature — no accents, or do they have accents, preference for gesture, indications of KGB service, military service, or something in the other educational lines?

But that damn spook has to keep throwing zingers to take away what little sleep he has hope of obtaining. "Clones." He doesn't choke on that. "You mean to tell me another one of you is out roaming through the cities of Europe. On his own recognizance. He is not answering to any handler?" Grade levels, promotions, all fall to the wayside. They have another of him running around. Grade A bullshit going down the craw. Parse, don't question. Keep talking. Easy rules from long ago in the annals of the late war. This is a whole other beast. "And this one has been near a human rendering facility in the western USSR, where you have witnessed this? Or is it speculative based on the accounts from this.. clone." He really needs a moment for that one, his stomach acid crawling back up his throat. Maybe shore leave through ulcers is a tolerable pattern. "Because the intelligence on the dissidents is quite clear. They disappear. We've had alerts flying for any traces and there is nothing."

"We don't know how they're made," he says, quietly. "They look like me, but not identical. Fraternal twins. And one of them, that I know, have this," Whereupon he takes off that glove, and waggles the fingers of the metal hand to Allen. "That's what he claims. I've found the place they disappear *to*. Maybe they just get taken to the parts I didn't see and turned into students. I hope it's that benign. I don't think so. Two of these guys have abilities I never dreamed of. I'm not a mutant or anything like it, and this stuff doesn't show up without the genetic potential."

Buck leans back, rests his metal hand in his lap. "And here's the thing we all need to consider. I'm blown wide open when it comes to the USSR. But…these guys let me walk out with this information in my possession. They did not wipe my memories, against Zola's vehement protest. Moreover, this ….clone, brother, child of mine, whatever you want to call him, claims the dark haired man has some kind of sensory link to his environment. He senses what's near him, no matter what. They must've known I was there the minute my boots hit the ground."

"Arnim Zola furnished with another academy whereby he may perform his experiments upon children transported by force through bloc nations. You know how this is going to look on the register." Paul takes his glasses off, not that he really needs them, and pinches his brow. It could be a show, the weary agent, the man pushed to a brink rather than the cool, hard lines of Nick Fury and the excitable enthusiasm of Phil Coulson. He doesn't have the red lipstick panache. He can do exhausted by the very news.

"And you're giving me some kind of metahuman earth-reader. At this point, what I want to know is what keeps him from landing on a beach somewhere convenient, pointing all the defensive weaknesses out, and suddenly we lose Willie in Dusseldorf or a summit in the Netherlands, as of tomorrow. That you might be a distraction for that," because it's a fish story, "puts us in a rather fine spot. You're standing in neutral soil. Next stop, Geneva?" No need to squint. "Until the directorate gives instruction, your role is sitting put, out of sight. No Sachertorte, no roaming around the Albertina, and please no game of football in the Prater Park. Half the intelligence around here are Russian, you appreciate."

"I'm well aware," he says, with just enough of a pause. He was their ghost story here for long enough, the passing face that jangles the nerves and raises the hackles of nearly NATO-aligned service agent. "I know what you're thinking. It's bullshit. And certainly, the fact that they let me walk out of there knowing my own name and denying Zola what he's wanted and had for almost the past two decades means the game has changed radically where they're concerned with me. I don't think this guy is human at all. We've got creatures that are effectively the gods of Norse myth hanging out in Manhattan. Consider what else might be crawling out old shadows in Russia."

"We heard the broadcasts. We watched Kennedy lose the back of his skull and the nice man smiling behind the gun claiming he was the same person on the Ed Sullivan Show. We smelled a rat." The agent puts his pen down, given the ink is wet on his fingers and drying in smudges on his wrist. "I don't make the decisions on what or who those people are. I compile the data, analyze your risk, and decide how far a tether we need on you. As it stands we have bulletins for your whereabouts because an asset falling off the grid causes no amount of concern. Especially you. Under the circumstances, we have questions and questions still. All of this is going to keep the midnight oil burning. Unless that thing is striding over the border or wearing a Soviet general's face, which is it? He? Someone pulling strings and rank, immediate access?"

He acknowledges the fairness of it with an inclination of his head. "I'm here. I'll wait. But time is ticking. I have until the end of December, according to Mr. Black Hair." He has no names for either of them. But will he stay? How long can SHIELD keep him here dangling.

"Roger that. And you can get yourself another cup of coffee because we have notes to write out and you have a box of pens to get started with." It's a long day ahead of them, and Paul Allen will share the load. Welcome to SHIELD.

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