“That’s not funny.”
“Not laughing. Hydra has infiltrated SHIELD. The rot goes all the way up, Nat. All the way to Director Pierce. Maybe higher. Sitwell, STRIKE team Delta. Some of the crew. Watch your six and keep your head down.”
“What about Barnes?”
“Cognitive recalibration.” He grinned faintly. “And Cap’s voice should be enough to bring him back. But there’s a book of trigger words.” He shook his head. “Make sure Tony doesn’t find out about that or go to Siberia. JARVIS will explain.”
“Cap will tear the world apart in order to save Bucky. The Avengers are stronger together than apart. And there are bigger things to stop before Bucky.
Ask Bruce – subtly – about the Ultron program, and suggest to Tony that he may be on the right track but that the scepter is warped and the stone perverted. Thor needs to take it to be cleansed before it can be used for Ultron.”
Steve’s jaw tightened. “Tell Thor – and Tony – that the madman in their dreams is named Thanos. And that Thor needs to go for the head, when the time comes.”
“Why trust me with all of this?”
“You’re the bravest, strongest person I know.” He said. “Besides, I have faith that you, with that logical, pragmatic, female brain of yours will hit ‘em all where it counts when it counts. I didn’t trust you once, and everything went to hell. So I’m doing it now – trusting you with everything, Nat. My best friend. My family. My life, and hopefully, my heart.” He smirked. “Well, Cap’s heart.”
“He’s still a kid.”
“He’s a man, and a soldier. He’ll adjust.” Steve corrected. “And the interest is there, Nat. Always has been. You just have to make the first move.” He paused. “Probably a second and third one too.”
“He is nearly flawless. The almost perfect weapon.” Madame studied the man standing at parade rest in front of her, his grey blue gaze staring straight ahead. She could feel the contained energy, coiled, like a snake. “It is ironic that our first successful super soldier serum worked not on one of our local comrades, but on an American soldier,” she mused, and watched the stormy grey irises flicker, once. “James Buchanan Barnes. Sargent, sniper, and best friend of Captain America himself.” She laughed cruelly. “Perhaps we shall send you to hunt him down, make sure he sees who exactly kills him.”
“He is flawless, Madame.” The weedy scientist hovering at her side murmured.
Madame pursed her lips. “Romanova.”
“Madame.” A husky feminine voice replied quietly from the shadows.
“Enlighten this man as to why our weapon is nearly flawless.”
“Weapons can be turned against us, especially one with no fail safe, no off switch or safety.” The girl murmured. “He is, at his core, still a loyal American, a good man.” Her lip lifted slightly. “Good men are always fallible.”
“What do you suggest?”
“A reset.” She replied. “A set of trigger words that wipes his memories of his time as the Winter Soldier and brings back Barnes. A memory wipe in reverse, if you will. You cannot confess what you do not remember. Such a fail safe will protect our comrades, if the Asset ever falls into enemy hands.” She met Madame’s steady cold gaze. “I would suggest that these words be in a language that is not our mother tongue or English, to lessen the possibility of the trigger being pulled inadvertently.”