The Promotion
Roleplaying Log: The Promotion
IC Details

Amanda Waller gives Bucky Barnes the rank increase he's pretty sure he never wanted.

Other Characters Referenced: Owen Mercer, Harley Quinn
IC Date: June 15, 2019
IC Location: Belle Reve Penitentiary, Louisiana
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 17 Jul 2019 09:16
Rating & Warnings: PG (Language)
Scene Soundtrack: [* ]
NPC & GM Credits: Amanda Waller by Ursa
Associated Plots

The Suicide Squad touched down in Thailand at 0100 precisely, local time.

Which means that it’s only 1400 in New York and 1300 in Louisiana, technically the day before.

Amanda Waller has been listening very closely as the operation unfolds, intermittently reminding the miscreants under her command and sway that she’s there. That she’s listening.

But, early on, there’s a slip. Waller heard it, and remained quiet for a time. Then another slip. Then another. The rest of the mission continued, and then concluded. All in all, her team was in and out in under an hour. Not bad time, really. No immediate losses on their side. A pile of ash lay behind them. They should be on the way back to her, hauling precious cargo. Important intel which she would put back in the right hands, secure American interests, and enjoy the favor returned at a later date.

But not everything had gone right. Which is why Waller went to the pains of taking the recording and having the mission comm chatter transcribed. And then she made a call east.

“I’ve got a plane waiting for you at Newark Liberty, and I need you on it five minutes ago. We may have a situation.”

Waller doesn’t say much more than that; she knows better. She simply folds the handful of pages to the snippet she needed, the small passages highlighted in yellow, and then sets them down to continue eating her very late lunch and answering emails like a proper bureaucrat while she waits.

MERCER: Going soft, Zelle?
QUINN: You got somethin' ya wanna say, there, B? Before I actually probably get myself shot?
MERCER: Nope. How about you? I bet everything's just grand and you're not gonna end up a sobbing mess when he blows you up again, right? Just peachy?
QUINN: He ain't gonna do that. We got it all worked out.

Then, later, after a couple of pages:

BOOMERANG: Isn’t that normally for spraying in people’s faces? Do you ever forget?
HQUINN: Do I ever forget what? I mean, I forget lots of stuff. Just ask somebody. My manners. My own phone number. Why I ever cared about the big fricking hot shots sitting in that room like they’re gods while I get sent to the middle of no fricking where, through the mud and rain, on a night off. Just kidding. I never cared about you lousy mooks.
BOOMERANG: That your ex is a manipulative mastermind who tried to murder you repeatedly and that we had something good going. Dammit, Quinn.

Then, a couple of pages after that:

BOOMERANG: Huh. I bet that it’s it but we should probably open it to make sure we got the goods, right?
HQUINN: Yeah, probably. Maybe there’s gold in there. And there’ll be enough in there that we can split it and still have enough to run away and leave behind this life of crime.
WALL: Don’t count on it, convicts.
HQUINN: Or we could give unto Satan what is Satan’s.
WALL: Don’t you forget it.
BOOMERANG: Yea, the days of us doing one last score before disappearing into the sunset simultaneously never happened and are over.

A concerning set of passages. By the time the transcription and her meal is picked over between emails and other phone calls, she knows just how poorly it’s gone and she begins to gather her thoughts for the incoming arrival to Belle Reve.

Amanda Waller. Possibly one of the least favorite people James Barnes could receive a call from; but then again, it's that fact which tied him to her and her operation in the first place. If he disliked her, how much worse for the people under her command who might simply want nothing more than a second chance?

Of course, the more Bucky worked with the people she'd collected, the more dubious it became that any of them were feeling particularly earnest about their penitence. Still, a man's gotta try.

Now, Barnes isn't on every operation — he considers his main post the Avengers — and he didn't happen to be on this one. Perhaps that's why it wound up going poorly. The subject of the call tightens a muscle in his jaw, but he's similarly taciturn in his reply. "On the way."

A few short hours later, he's touching down in Louisiana, which wouldn't be his favorite place even if his purpose here was pleasant. He has too many memories of fighting through swamp and jungle, and none good. Belle Reve is a short trip from the airport, and Bucky spends the duration silent, other than the check-in at the end of his journey to alert Waller that he has arrived.

Silence works for a lot of the company that Barnes is unlucky enough to travel with. It’s eminently preferable to the incessant and grating chatter of Harley Quinn and everyone on the small, private plane has gotten more than enough time with her to know a blessing when they experience it.

Not that Barnes is like Quinn, or any of the other convicts. He’s one of theirs, and it means that it’s not an unfriendly silence. It’s a silence among people who value it. Who don’t get enough of it.

When the man arrives, he’ll be given a Jeep ride the short distance to the prison from the airstrip and the instruction to make his way through the depressing facility in short order, up to Waller’s office. Whenever he arrives, however he arrives, it will be while she’s going through another set of emails.

And she’ll stop for him, look to the door, and gesture him in.

The door will close behind him.

And she’ll slide over the transcript in question.

“They didn’t deliver everything that should have been there, and I think Quinn’s loyalty is sufficiently called into question. Possibly Mercer’s. I just spent a month getting that ungrateful shit Mercer sober again, and I’ve spent a fortune on that harlot clown, too. I’d rather not cut my losses if I don’t have to, but, if the operation’s been compromised, then…”

She shrugs and leans back in her chair, settling her folded hands over her belly, covered in a button down blouse of bright peach silk.

“I’m interested in your assessment.”

Bucky's gaze tracks down towards the transcript. He takes the chair opposite Waller in a gruff silence, picks up the sheaf, and reads through. It doesn't take him long at all, his eyes scanning line to line with remarkable efficiency. Most people think serum and think physical enhancement, and forget about the mental processing component.

His blue eyes flick up towards her as she begins to speak, long enough to indicate that he's listening, before he looks back down at the papers.

Eventually, he puts them back down. His assessment?

"My assessment is this kinda program only really works if the people involved have got at least some interest in the light at the end of the tunnel," he says.

A pause. "Alternatively… it works if you've got people who don't care about the redemption, but love being weapons."

Metal fingers drum once along the table surface, with a hollow steel sound. "Doesn't work too well when you got people who're neither. Quinn wants just one thing from what I can tell, and Mercer, he wants Quinn. The time they spend turning circles on the interpersonal drama is time not spent thinking about the job."

Amanda Waller heaves a deep and unhappy breath, her head canting several degrees to one side as she considers Barnes’s addition to the consideration. Her jaw clenches and unclenches several times in contemplation, before her stern frown somehow—impossibly—seems to grow even deeper.


Leaning forward, chair creaking under her weight, the woman’s sepia hands—made softer by office life but that still remember all-too-well their fieldwork agent roots—collect up the papers and unlock a drawer to deposit the dossier back into a hanging folder and relock it.

“Clearly, guesses, trust, and loss of control are not options in this operation. I couldn’t really care less about whatever back alley sniffing and rutting they’re up to, but I need to know if they are trying to screw me and I need to know if Quinn’s speaking out of school.”

Her hands fold as she closes the distance between herself and the soldier across from her as she leans across the desk, her expression cold. Her double strand of pearls clicks quietly as she rolls her shoulders a little.

“So, it’s time to earn that salary and benefits package, Barnes. How do you propose we proceed?”

I need to know if they are trying to screw me and I need to know if Quinn’s speaking out of school.

"They will do both sooner or later, if you keep 'em on," is James' flat reply. "Just a matter of time. The things they give a shit about aren't anything you or I can offer or control. You might be able to control Mercer by holding Quinn over his head, but you can't control her the same way. What she wants is outta your scope. Right now."

A brief silence. "Beyond the ethical objections I have to forcing a man's cooperation that way, it's not the most secure means of control. Men get resentful, they feel a leash like that. Men like Mercer, they start to try to get out from under it in… erratic ways."

He glances back down at the file. "Safest thing in my opinion, clean them out and decommission them both. If that’s not an option, then you gotta use their drives to push them the way you want, like I said. But again…"

He shrugs. “That only lasts so long. In the end, a man’s basic nature will always win out.” He should know.

“Decommissioning is always an option,” Waller replies with an icy tone, something in it betraying that perhaps her meaning of the word is not his. “But I want to make sure that they haven’t done something with the prize first, and, if she’s talking… how far it’s gone.”

Letting the convicts loose was never her first choice, and maybe that’s got more than a little to do with why she has James Barnes sitting across the desk from her.

“I’ll have the boys bring in Quinn. Mercer, too. See how the conversation goes.”

She unlocks another drawer of the desk and out comes a small box. She puts her thick thumb against the scanner and unlocks that, only to extract a small tablet. She slides it across the desk, turning it to face him.

“Congratulations, Barnes. You’ve just gotten yourself promoted to XO of Task Force X. And this will tell you where your assets are. As long as the satellites can pick them up, there’s no hiding from you now.”

What happened to the previous XO—be it demotion or else—is not laid out for him as yet. Does it really matter?

"I think we're talking different kinds of decommissioning, ma'am," Bucky says mildly, which is his way of prodding into that concerning ambiguity there. That mild tone certainly isn't reflected in his eyes. "I'd certainly like to cover all of our bases before we get to anything particularly final."

He glances at the tablet, but doesn't immediately pick it up. "I've got their files. I'll do a review, we'll see what they say when they're brought in, and then we'll go from there. They won't tell you anything straight face to face, I'm sure, but that's what this is for." A tilt of his head at the tablet.

Unsaid, but implied: that is what the Winter Soldier is for. There are not many people who can match the Soldier in silently tracking and observing marks.

Her final remarks about his 'promotion' garner a blink from Bucky, though not much more. He doesn't bother asking about the previous XO. He's well enough familiar with how people like Amanda Waller operate. He involuntarily served people like her for most of his life. Perhaps it's that which has him sticking this particular assignment out now, even though it brings back bad memories; her captive soldiers, used for terrible ends with so little true choice in their service, remind him of how he once was.

Who'll look out for the few who do deserve some redemption, if they're left alone with Waller? Of course, whether Harley Quinn and Owen Mercer fit that description is another story…

"Understood," is all he winds up saying aloud. He'll take Task Force X. And then perhaps he'll figure out, along the way, if Task Force X is even a thing which he thinks should exist.

Waller nods once, curtly. “Talk to Evans,” the soldier who serves as her admin. “He’ll show you the corner of this shithole that you can call your office, and just let him know if and when you’re ready for a return flight to New York.”

A pause, and then, “Maybe after we bring them in and you can give them a once over.”

Since he seems to be inclined to express some reservation over the definition of decommission and all. It’s a disambiguation that she doesn’t answer, and Bucky Barnes will certainly know it as a government official playing her hand very close to the chest.

She’s not telling him everything. Not by a long shot.

Like how she is so very certain that the roughly dozen blinking lights on that map certainly correspond to a roughly dozen convicts pressed into service—some better than others, but none innocent.

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