11016/Cutting Off the Heads

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Cutting Off the Heads
Date of Scene: 04 May 2022
Location: Interview Room: Triskelion
Synopsis: S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents engage in a tense interrogation of Armin Zola and 'Baron' Strucker. From Zola they dig out Peggy Carter's location.
Cast of Characters: Natasha Romanoff, Quiet, Dottie Underwood, James Barnes, Melinda May, Peggy Carter, Jane Foster

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
It's been some time after the raid. The Hydra prisoners have been sorted out. The base and it's seized contents currently under analysis. Now it's time to talk to some of the head honchos that Jemma and Jane were ever so amazing at corralling up. Strucker and Zemo are being yanked into one of the side interrogation rooms. Put in separate cells next to one another. A mirror lets the personnel out of the cells watch both rooms at once and with the push of a button could let the duo inside the cells hear one another.
    Natasha has currently set the cells so that noise can only go one way. From Zola's cell over to Strucker's. She wants to make sure that Strucker can hear Zola when he screams and breaks.

Quiet has posed:
Stefani, being new to this whole organization, stands near the back dressed in a sleevless black top, and black slacks. Her hair is back in a ponytail that sticks out the back of a also black ballcap. She's moving her eyes around at the others present while glancing down at a tablet computer against her right forearm. She's staring at the camera feeds and tapping in some notes as she watches the preceedings to the interrogations.

Dottie Underwood has posed:
Dottie stands just outside the cells, observing the two men. She's asked for this particular set up. It will save time in the long run. Since Strucker will witness Zola's interrogation, Dottie won't have to repeat herself. She won't have to prove her willingness to commit violence to the other man. Zola's treatment will be Strucker's proof.

James Barnes has posed:
Bucky's been having some difficulty controlling his temper. Being among top-level Hydra people, especially Strucker and Zola, _especially_ when Peggy's still abducted, is not doing great things for his composure. He stares daggers at Zola.

If looks could kill, Zola would be... well, to be fair, Bucky doesn't need looks. He's got a lot of weapons on him.

Melinda May has posed:
For once, May isn't leading the interrogation. Or, rather, she's not the *face* of the interrogation. The Commander is here for two reasons -- aside from the obvious need to get info on Peggy: To make sure there's someone with authority here to oversee and to make sure they don't actually cross the line and go all Guantanamo on the prisoners. They're SHIELD. They're not HYDRA. She already crossed the line with Viper. She needs to see that doesn't happen again. For her own sake, if no one else's.

Thus, while she's willing to let a charade play out, she's definitely got reservations about outright torture. Maybe, though... just *maybe* she can help pursuade the bastards cooperating is in their best interest. It will all depend on whether or not she can find some emotion other than 'anger' or 'hate' to pull off of the other agents.

Peggy Carter has posed:
One would think that being one of the premier genetic scientists in the world, and somehow cheating many decades of time, Arnim Zola would have given himself a better body. But no, he's still the short, slightly stocky, slightly balding man. He still has glasses, as long as SHIELD has allowed him to keep them. He's sitting a bit bent over in the chair, staring coldly at everyone in the room.

Well, everyone until James Barnes comes in. And then a strange, almost proud smile dances over his lips, "James Buchanan Barnes. One of my first... but still looking fine as ever. I take it you are feeling hale and hearty even after all these years? I did do good work on you, young man..." If he's going to die, he might as well get a few punches in along the way. His nervous, rat eyes flicker to the others in the room, "You have brought out the welcome committee, I see."

Jane Foster has posed:
Ever since her mad rush to attack a dumb-waiter, Jane has been thoroughly ensconced in scientific and "weird" ones. The ones that overlap S.H.I.E.L.D. and W.A.N.D. matters. Interrogations belong to the province of other agents where she provides academic consultations at best. She's dressed in the top and slacks ensemble of a stargazer dragged away from her ninth hour combing over satellite data to peer back into the earliest visible history of the universe. Her tablet faithfully transmitting details gives the occasional background fluctuating chart, but the glass refuses to react to her fingerprint against it.

Zola speaks 'science' with the best of them. They need someone bound to understand his flippant remarks, one can hope. Melinda has a deep emotional reserve to draw from in the astrophysicist, the clinical detachment and a stratum of irritation rooted on an oceanic depth of perseverance. Still, calm waters with the occasional upwelling spike of mild exasperation. She gives Zola a bland look.

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
Natasha Romanoff would go to speak along the comms <<We need at least one of them functional long enough after for us to -confirm- whatever information they give up. THe first round will probably have some level of double cross to it.>> They did, however, just need -one-. She would glance at the rest and then speak in quiet Russian to Dottie and James.
    "I know you both hate them more than most so don't try and one up one another that much.. At least, until we're done." Natasha's in control here. If need be she can play 'Good Stasi'. She's calm and rational from this. She does.. HOwever leave the 'ensuring cooperation' over to the others.

Quiet has posed:
Stefani's eyes bounce from face to face, noting the arrival of the moody looking Bucky, followed by the moody looking Agent May. She reaches up to her hat's brim then, and adjusts it a little as she tries to wear a moody expression also.

Curious how she's doing, her eyes dart down to her tablet computer to see the camera facing back at her, and she just frowns as she sees that she was doing ducklips. That's not moody at all.

Stef takes a step to the side to give the others more room, but remains as her callsign suggests.

Dottie Underwood has posed:
Dottie enters Zola's cell, grinning her particular too bright grin. A quiet excitement exudes from her.

"Guten tag," she says, her teeth still brandished. "Shall we play?"

James Barnes has posed:
Bucky doesn't answer Zola. He just narrows his eye4s and lifts his arms, crossing them over his chest and watching the man. Natasha's warning gets a tilt of Bucky's head and and a look, before he turns his eyes back on Zola again. He reaches down to his hip and unclips his gun, just so it's easier to grab. Just in case.

Melinda May has posed:
"<<We need them *both* functional,>>" May says in response to Natasha's words -- away from the hearing of either Strucker or Zola. Her voice brooks no argument on that. "<<We're SHIELD. We're *supposed* to be better. Sometimes we're not. This doesn't need to be one of those times.>>" Oh, yeah. Wet Blanket is totally here. Set jaw, narrowed eyes and all.

Still, there are lines that can be walked. Carefully.

She looks more between Natasha and Dottie than anyone else. "<<You're both better than Guantanamo thugs. Prove it.>>"

Peggy Carter has posed:
While Barnes makes him nervous, he's dealt with the man before. Underwood is the one he's only really heard of. Beady eyes flicker up from the table and stare at her through those glasses as she asks if they will play. A cold smirk crosses his lips, looking from her to the others. "I expect you all to be witnesses. You can't all believe in breaking your precious Geneva conventions. Torture is outlawed across the civilized powers in the world, you know this. And I won't cooperate unless I'm promised my life. I know how this works." He repeats, staring hard at Stefanie now.

"Promise me. You do not look like a torturer. Keep me alive and unharmed. We can work together." He's not making that appeal to May, oblivious of her last words. He know her reputation.

Jane Foster has posed:
Jane doesn't need to take notes. Not really. Recording devices capture all the finer points for a bevy of analysts to review. She still keeps the tablet propped on her forearm for the occasional detail to capture in the S.H.I.E.L.D. standard software, encryption courtesy of her fellow Furiae. If only the dang thing would cooperate, ignoring every third or fourth keystroke. Russian presumably sails right over her head -- a complete lie given she's privy to every conversation spoken aloud in her vicinity, like it or not. Odin One-Eye is a right bastard, everyone.

She fixes a look at Zola. A calculated look angles a shade above his brow and there will largely remain except to consult her notes or briefing details that may or may not explore all the other times he has slipped the noose. "Is that so?" A quick nod to May or thereabouts agrees to something.

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
Strucker's cut off from saying anything, just hearing Zola start to plea. Natasha's smile is there and watching. She would speak quietly to May, "You might be.." But for the woman that had grown up in the desperation and starvation of the Eastern front.. Some exceptions could be made, perhaps. She would speak over, idly, to Zola. "Why should we make bargains? Nazi.. If you being brutalized in the same way you did so many, no one's going to lose sleep over it. You took his life away.." She would speak of Bucky. "And he doesn't even hate you as much as she does." Dottie.

What sort of a woman could hate Zola more than Bucky did? Food for thought from the redhead. If anyone is going to be intervening here to stop things from escalating, by presentation it's not going to be her.

A quick glance given over to Jane to ensure that the equipment was up and functioning before her attention is turned back to Zola. A low nod given to Quiet. As someone uninvolved.. Well.. An expert in reading body language was invaluable in an interrogation. Particularly off to the side..

Quiet has posed:
Stefani does move at a slow pacing perimeter around the others as they start the process. She eyes the speaking HYDRA agent before looking to the monitoring equipment again. She holds her tablet against her stomach now, her right hand gripping its corner as she taps gently upon the images scrolling across the screen.

A glance is given to May, before Stef regards Dottie. She's curious about just how far SHIELD is willing to push this kind of thing.

She's seen it all, after all, in her decades of doing this kind of work.

Dottie Underwood has posed:
Bending down to whisper in his ear, Dottie hisses in German, "They've insisted I keep you alive. That's all. I can hurt you in invisible ways. Torture is a part of war. Do you know how many times in my life I've been tortured? And what about your little experiments? Do those count? We have a brilliant scientists here. What do you say? Are you ready to be a test subject, Herr Zola?"

James Barnes has posed:
Bucky doesn't even bother to argue the sentiment of Dottie hating Zola more than he does. It is, without a doubt, a different kind of hate. He tilts his head and observes Zola.

"If you don't tell us what we want to know, there is very little anyone here could do to stop Ms. Underwood or me from finding you. It doesn't matter where Romanoff and May want to stick you. No hole deep enough. No flying fortress high enough. No dimension out of the way enough. I'd find you."

Bucky looks at Dottie, then back at Zola. "And she would be my plus one."

It all gets a log scarier if one knows who Bucky spends most of his recreational time with. You know, that auburn-haired girl with the probability powers and the royally magnetic relatives.

Melinda May has posed:
May's frown deepens at Nat's words. The implication that May just might be the 'better' of all of them in the room doesn't sit well with her -- if only because she knows she's not remotely the best SHIELD has to offer in terms of morality.

She leans back against a wall, arms crossed over her chest, closing her eyes for a moment. Praying? No. She's not the type. She's 'listening' to the emotional state of each man -- Zola's sneering confidence, his unshakable belief that the 'good guys' will play by the rules and only bluff about the rest; Strucker's bold front and sharp insecurity buried beneath. There may be a way to make this go faster... without requiring broken bodies or blood in the process.

Silently, she pushes against Zola's uncertainty and fear with her Inhuman talent, shaking his confidence and heightening the faintest waver of doubt. But she only monitors Strucker for now... waiting to see how he reacts.

Peggy Carter has posed:
Of course, Zola has no way of knowing just how scary Bucky's contacts have gotten. He looks over to the old soldier, a cruel sort of smile crossing his lips. "You had a loud bark back in the war and nothing has changed. You did not bite me then, and you won't now." He dismisses the tall, built man, looking back over to the various women in the room, trying to really judge which is the most dangerous. Dottie is eyed warily. Jane with curiosity, May with distrust. The young Stefanie still seems to be the one he thinks might be the easiest soft heart. He leans instinctively closer to her, as if looking for protection.

May will get the sense from him that, of course, he is terrified. He is grasping for confidence in knowing he's escaped SHIELD before and they are more gentle, but there is still fear beneath the surface. May can easily push that deeper, something growing icy in him and the smile draining from his lips. He tries to shake it off, but it's hard, once the seed of doubt grows. He stares back over to Dottie, trying to keep the confidence that is waning, "I have been my own test subject many times. This is how you find brilliance. SHIELD's scientists may be less competent, but I have been through worse. Do what you will. The only way you will get your Chief back is an exchange. Us for her." The original demand had been Madam HYDRA for her. Apparently, he wants in on the ticket.

Jane Foster has posed:
Jane prods again at the screen of the tablet. Scanning over a list of headlines for several filtered database entries nets her nothing of particular interest. Those brief moments detract from her resuming looking over Zola's eyebrows again. The man's pithy words spat out in the first stages of bargaining and negotiation must be too unpleasant to make eye contact over. A man like him embodies what most college students learn from their Nietzsche and that little bit about staring into dark places.

Her head is turned slightly to Natasha. With ease, she watches the redheaded Russian. Back then to Zola. The emotional substrata is turning with an appalling clarity, smooth calm galvanized by some resolve and maybe in the hadal zone, something like regret. Mute as her partner is, that.

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
Natasha Romanoff would note idly and click her tongue along the comm <<we want them unsettled and off balance. We can't let them focus on oen thing psychologically. We hit them from a variety of directions. Scared, afraid. Then we have one of them break after the other and see how far desperation goes>> In an ideal world. Natasha might not have scruples the way May does but she doesn't want to push things that far. She has enough blood on her hands already. Not that Nazis bled as far as she was concerned.
    <<In an ideal world they go to the Hauge and come out of it on a noose>> That's far, far better for her. For thier victims. For justice. If Natasha believes in such a thing.
    She trusts the others. May is there as handler to make sure the group doesn't get too far. Quiet to make sure that what they're getting isn't a game. Jane to make sure they understand it. Bucky..
    Bucky hopefully to get some level of peace from watching scum unravel and scream.
    And Zola does what a Zola does. Lovely. She would twist her head over to May. they had Strucker on a 'shutter' where he could hear and see things, but not speak out at all. Whenever May wanted to change that.. She was there to keep the rest of them in line and from doing things that wouldn't make them Hydra in being.
    She had been trained by the best in terror.
    Then smile and look to Dottie.. "Go on. And remember her.. She's a professional. Not a sadist. She gets no enjoyment from it. She's not going to get overenthusiastic and caught up in it and go too far. She has patience."

Dottie Underwood has posed:
"You have not been through me," Dottie says, softly. She walks around behind Zola and places her hands on his upper arms, touching him very gently.

Quiet has posed:
Stefani regards the others as she stands off to Zola's left now. She holds that tablet close as she glances down to it, and continues to tap in some notes based on that which she is observing. When she looks up, she sees a glance from the HYDRA agent toward her. She gives him a quick, sweet, smile.

Is she playing in to whatever he thinks of her, or is she oblivious to it all?

Who knows!

Either way, as things start to get a little deeper, a little more dramatic, Stefani lowers down to sit on the edge of a chair behind her knees, keeping her back straight as she listens intently.

James Barnes has posed:
When Zola looks less than impressed, Bucky just levels his eyes at him and smiles like he has a secret.

Because he does, and now Zola knows he does, too; and Bucky's not telling.

Melinda May has posed:
They won't be exchanging Madame Hydra for Peggy. May's already seen to that -- releasing the woman back out into the wild, a tracker buried deep in her spine. She doesn't figure it'll be long before they can swoop in to pick her up... Again.

The Cavalry suppresses the urge to laugh darkly at Nat's insistence Dottie isn't a sadist, and doesn't enjoy her work. It's one of the biggest lies she's heard in a while. She's successful, though, at maintaining her pokerface, eyes still closed, talent still pushing against all of Zola's weaknesses and fears. Each time she catches a shiver of emotion, she tugs at it, building it, turning bravado inside out and stoking that terror lurking underneath the surface. Be afraid, little man. Be very afraid.

Peggy Carter has posed:
The fear is getting worse. No one is trying to make a deal with him yet. He wants a deal, and no one is making a deal. The look in Bucky's eyes, that secret smile, puts him more on edge. He quietly scowls in the man's direction and then, suddenly, there is that touch from behind. He doesn't jump out of his seat, but he does slightly jerk, hair raising on his skin at Dottie's gentle caress. He is not as settled as he appears to be.

"I have...given you the options. Either a prisoner exchange, or I want full amnesty. No death penalty. We can go back to the old Paperclip terms. SHIELD always wants better scientists. You want her... that's how you get her." He tries to keep confidence behind his voice. He's being honest with those words, at least. Those are the things that would make him speak right now. But his fear is only growing, growing in a way he's never felt before, and he can't keep control of it for reasons he doesn't understand. Which, of course, makes him more afraid.

Jane Foster has posed:
"Where is that... ah." Jane reaches for a small collection of papers stuck haphazardly together. In the corner is a small twist of metal. She slides it free and puts her tablet safely in her bag, the one hanging from her shoulder. For a brief time, the scientist looks to the quietest of them. Stefanie might be asked until she changes her mind, a last second adjustment, one that sets her on a course directly into Zola's line of sight.



She holds out the paperclip at his eye-level. Her fingers pinch the lower half so the bend and the slightly crooked end cannot possibly be missed glinting in the light. Dottie has her hands on him. Bucky takes up a lot more psychic space than he lets on. She is simply another scientist just like him. The one who sprinted past him to jump up an elevator shaft and fall right back down, when Jemma shot him. "Do you recognize this, Herr Doktor?" The imperceptible imperfection in the craftsmanship is small, visible. She waits for his response. Quite some time will she wait until he gives any inkling.

"Talk. Or you get this and one-hundred fifty years. Maybe two hundred." A beat. "Think about it."

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
That's the way it goes. Then Natasha goes to press a button over. This sets up a 'dual' link where the hood is flicked on and the 'view' between Strucker and Zola is cut off, as is the sound. Another small button push 'insulates' the group's talk going towards Zola away from Strucker's ability to tell what's going on or what sorts of terms the desperate little slug is going for.

"It looks like the little squealer's looking to save himself." SHe would muse. "Honor, thieves.. So is your loyalty just as strong? We already have one willing to work with us. That makes you surplus to requirements." Strucker's last awareness being Zola selling out. Zola no doubt thinking that since he's making a deal and the sudden cut-off of Strucker means that they're quite happy to dispose of the other snake. It's a game.

Quick look given to May for confirmation.. Then to Jane. Very sure that the scientist could offer something uniquely terrifying here for the old abomination.

    And Jane never, ever fails to disappoint. Zola's going like a stuck pig. Now to see how far Strucker would go.

Quiet has posed:
Stefani just stares at Zola from her seat, watching, listening and glancing here and there toward her computer tablet. She does look up at the actions that Jane is taking though, before she glances then toward May, and Bucky. When she looks back toward Zola she exhales a light sigh, even shaking her head just a little before she taps something in to her tablet again.

The quiet Stefani reaches her left hand up to adjust her black cap atop her head by its bill, before she looks back up now toward Nat. She stands again now, moving around behind the prisoner, staying several steps back though.

Dottie Underwood has posed:
"There are two of you, and only one of her," Dottie tells him. "Are you worth so little, Herr Invaluable Scientist?" Her fingertips start to dig into his pressure points in his biceps.

"Hurts, doesn't it?" she asks. "How will you be able to sign your non-existent agreement once your arms go numb?"

James Barnes has posed:
"He'll have to use his tongue," Bucky says to Dottie, glancing over at her, then turning to look at Zola again.

"Of course, he if stalls much further, even that might be challenging."

Melinda May has posed:
Strucker's uncertainty and rising desperation intrude on May's awareness as the focus shifts away from Zola. She opens her eyes and focuses on the weasly scientist when he insists on Operation Paperclip. "Oh," she says dryly, "that particular operation has been shuttered. For good, actually. Right about the time Nathan Mallick died." Is she suggesting that SHIELD actually had 'Denver Maelstrom' the former SecDef assassinated? She gives him one last emotional nudge before she wraps empathic strings around Strucker's awareness and tugs.

Peggy Carter has posed:
The scientist can feel his own heart in his throat. Zola's pulse has climbed a good 20 beats a minute over the course of this questioning, and no one has even laid a finger on him other than the most gentle of touches. He tries to control his breath, dragging air in through his nose and letting it out through his mouth. His eyes catch sight of Jane's paperclip, a cold grimace crossing his features. "I will not die in prison for you lot. You have to do better than that." He sneers coldly at her. He still thinks he has the power here.

On the other side, in the opposite cells, Strucker is a touch more angry. He paces his cell like a trapped animal, cursing beneath his breath as they pipe in to talk to him. "I know what you are doing, SHIELD. You will not play us against each other. He's not giving up so easy, he's toying with you. But he is right on one thing. They will do an exchange. Her for us. Is she worth it to you? That is what YOU have to figure out. Is her life worth it, or mine? Because you can take mine, but you will never have her's again." He hisses, anger and frustration most of his emotions now. He does NOT trust Zola to keep him safe or not give up their secrets. He thinks Zola is the weak link, that's clear in his emotions.

Then things are starting to hurt in the other cell. That pressure point in Zola's bicep is easily found and he squirms in his seat under Dottie's touch. He snaps nervous looks between Barnes and Underwood. Those are the two he thinks are likely unhinged. They might actually hurt him. "I told you! I told you what you need to do... An exchange. We will do an exchange! But I can't set it up if you damage me that badly." He's on the edge of terrified now.

Jane Foster has posed:
"Only you talk of death and pain," Jane says mildly. The paperclip remains at arm's length for him to behold. No further clarifications are forthcoming for all she's perfectly capable of providing them.

Her arm doesn't even shake. Hardly a twinge passes through her shoulders. Let him do the math and consider whatever she might talk about. Reading between the lines to find a truth. "Afraid of a paperclip, Herr Doktor?" A simple twist of metal. Whatever could she do with that? What could Dottie do? Let his creativity bleed to the worst, clever corners where his foulest plans nest.

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
Now Natasha goes to maneuver along as well, setting up the flip back and forth so the group can 'shift' as need be to taunt one and another. "Well.. Then we can always give him some incentive. You're the one not needed here if you're going to just put on such a brave face. And I'm one for all those ironic punishments and appropriate ones. Slowly torturing you does nothing. Killing you quickly does nothing. Putting you on trial is a spectacle. Hydra might care to exchange Zola. He's the brain. You.. You're just one of a thousand little freaky little nazis. You don't matter at all. They have plenty more where you come from. I mean.. Cut off one head, two more grow? It doesn't matter htat you're going to be the one cut off. Chop chop." She would tap at her side.

"I'm thinking of something. Cave, deep dark. Couple of kilometers deep in the crust. Nice little hole, sealed tight. You're in a set of restraints and an IV drip. Cut off from the world by concrete. We leave a robot down there with you that keeps the IV setup and ensures you're in your litlte restraint chair relatively healthy. And it has a lot, lot of diapers and tranquilizers. So you, Strucker.. You're just deep in a hole. It's dark. There's no sound. You can't move. There's nothing with you but the robot that ensure you're kept healthy and changes your pampers so you don't get a rash. You'll live a very long life. We eensure the robot has enough drugs and equipment and batteries to last a couple of centuries and make no record of where you were left. We're getting everything we need from Zola and he works when given incentive. Since you're the brave one and we already have what we need.. Well.. You're the one we give the ironic punishment to. May's nice.. But this won't check off any of those Geneva Convention boxes. Buried deep in a hole in the ground and forgotten seems quite appropriate for how you go out."

Quiet has posed:
Stefani ends up on Natasha's right side then as she speaks to the other prisoner. She listens closely before tapping tapping tapping on her tablet. She then shows it to Natasha where she typed out. <"Tell him the robot will look like a circus clown too.">

The tablet is tilted back toward herself then a moment later, and she shows a light smile before looking toward the man being threatened with Hole Living, and she just dips her chin, and glares at him.

Dottie Underwood has posed:
Dottie increases the pressure Zola's arms. It's agonizing, she knows. She and the other girls used to practice on each other when they were children. Eventually they learned not to scream.

"Tell us what we want to know, and maybe, just maybe, I'll stop while you can still feel your fingertips. While you can still hold a pen." Her voice is bright, bubbly even.

James Barnes has posed:
Bucky pushes off the wall and walks towards Zola, taking the half dozen steps that separate them and stopping right in front of the doctor, while Dottie stays behind him. He leans down and looks Zola in the eyes.

"What do you think is gonna run out first? Your tolerance, or our patience?"

Melinda May has posed:
As Nat lays the imagery out for Strucker, thick and visceral, May resists the urge to grimace in distaste. What really gets her is the fact HYDRA almost always falls for such things. Sure, many of them, like Zola, cling to the idea that SHIELD tries to play the White Hats and won't stomp all over human rights. But all of them are venal and cruel enough to imagine consigning others to such a fate... thus making it easy to believe such a fate could be laid on them. It's enough to turn her stomach.

She pushes off the wall and walks over to Dottie and Zola. "Enough," she tells the Russian woman, irritation and impatience in her eyes. "Let me." She glances toward where Nat holds Strucker briefly, deciding to let him stew in his own imagination.

Instead, she takes Dottie's place behind Zola. Instead of putting a death grip on him, however, she merely lays her hands on his shoulders and leans down so that her lips are by his ear -- the ear Strucker can't see. "Here's the problem, little man," she tells him. Her voice is pitched as a low whisper -- low enough it's probable even SHIELD's audio recorders might not clearly capture it. "Peggy Carter? The Chief? The woman you're so confident we'll never see again? She's the one who managed to shutdown Paperclip. She shutdown Arturo. She shutdown Vogel and Huttz and List and Mallick. And she'd die happy, if she knew we traded her to keep it from ever happening again. So, that's not a bargaining chip for you. Yeah, SHIELD is bound by treaties. But the thing is... I'm actually the *nicest* person in this room, right now." She lets that sink in, using the touch of her fingers to heighten her ability to control his emotions. To up his fear. To up his desperation. To up his need to save himself. "I'm the only one who's been advocating respecting the Geneva conventions in your case. Even the kid wants to see you drawn and quartered. The *only* hope you have, right now, in this moment, is that you give us the information we want before Strucker does. Because, really... who do *you* think he's going to choose to save?"

She closes her eyes again, feeling the texture of his emotional signature and his desperate, heightened state. It's unsettling, feeling all those foreign emotions and subsuming them within herself with all the rage she carries without letting that spill over. "Make your choice. Because while I'm good... but I can't stop them all if they decide you're expendable. They've all got very personal axes to grind with you and are very, very happy to grind them into your skull, even if that means SHIELD buries them alive as a result. Two Black Widows and the Winter Soldier. I don't like my odds. Do you?"

Peggy Carter has posed:
The pain in Zola's voice is clear. He's fallen into a low but consistent whine of agony in the back of his throat. He squirms more, trying to pull away from Underwood, and he can't manage. He's too restrained, her touch is too strong. "Stop that I can't THINK!" He snaps at her, cold sweat beading down his forehead. He's not a man used to true pain.

And then Bucky is there. Right *there*. His breath comes fast as he stares up into the face of a man he experimented on for far too long, more sweat down his features. "C-can't...talk if I'm...dead or dying... Give me a plea. P-probation... Light sentence... Give me a *deal*..." He's begging now. He WANTS to talk, but he needs something to push him over the edge and he's terrified he's not going to get it. He's so close. He stares over Bucky's shoulder at Jane's paperclip, pulse ticking up another few too fast beats.

Strucker keeps up the pacing, cold anger in his steps as he realizes just how close they are to losing everything. Natasha's words get a growl from him because, in the main, he knows she's being accurate. The old man would push them over this. He spins around, slamming his hand into the wall as he tries to scream through the dividers: "TELL THEM NOTHING!" But it's unlikely he can be heard. He curses loudly, then looks up to the ceiling. "The old man doesn't know, we moved where she's gone. I'm the one you need to work with." He's grasping at straws.

Then there is May. Zola was on the edge with Bucky and Dottie already, but May coming up behind him simply adds to the nightmare. And it's not necessarily her emotional manipulation that pushes him over the edge, but the realization that she is right. Peggy Carter would happily die if it meant HYDRA never coming into power again. Maybe they didn't have any bargaining chips at all. His voice is very small, completely breathless, as he begs, "Give me a deal...any deal... I'll talk." He needs to feel he got one single milimeter out of the bargain, and he's going to sing like a bird. Or probably any bit more pain, or a strike from Bucky. He's right on the edge. He just needs pushed over.

Jane Foster has posed:
The astrophysicist puts the paperclip down where it remains visible to Zola. A table if they have one will do perfectly well for keeping the innocent fastener in place. "You like to rob years from people, I hear. We can grace you with them instead." Jane has no smile for him. The shove is not hers to give. "A hundred years as a start, what do you say? A century with only that bit of metal and your thoughts for company, Herr Doktor. No escape but the quiet contemplation of all that you've done. Knowing that, by the request of S.H.I.E.L.D., no one is coming."

She leans forward ever so slightly, so that May's hold on him is greater, but she can stare the man right in the eyes and accept the weight of what she is saying. Her burden. "You do know what the Nobel Committee awarded me for, Herr Doktor. A man of your calibre? I wouldn't doubt you read all the journals and judge us all inferior. Now is your chance to judge for yourself. Let's put that research of mine to the test, the experiment to transport a target through a non-linear quantum arc event via manipulations of the Lorentzian manifold. Theoretically, the device should manage two hundred fifty kilos just fine. The terminal point is around Dorado. How slim do you believe Herr Strucker to be?"

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
Natasha Romanoff would look over at Quiet and just smile over and look ta Stefanie with approvla. "And a big, bright smile on the robot. Like a clown. Staring at you as you rot. Always smiling and laughing at you to keep your spirits up. Peppy." She would just smile over at Strucker cheerfully and putting a very un-Natasha like look of glee on her face.

"Between you or Zola.. Well, Zola's giving us a great deal. Give us what.." Now she goes quiet, a quick flick of attention given voer to May to provide some guidance or take over on it with the freakshow.

They hopefully have what they need from Zola. If they can get more things from Strucker.. A happily taken bonus. At the very least proof that Hydra's leadership was just as pathetic as the Nazis that had formed it's original ranks and what these scum were. That they were just little cowards and useless bits of meat. Which..

Reassured her in a way that little else did. That wasn't pain, that wasn't revenge.. Just seeing them for the worms they were. It gave her a sense of tranquility that was ever so rare.

Quiet has posed:
Stefani remains beside the Black Widow's shoulder as they both look on to Strucker. But with May's movement toward Zola, Stef calmly steps back toward that section of this interrogation.

She just quietly walks toward the senior Agent, as she does her thing. Some of it is quite audible to Stefani who remains behind the Prisoner, a light smile showing on her lips as she observes while looking at her tablet to see Zola's face reacting to the interaction.

Dottie Underwood has posed:
That Dottie moves for May speaks volumes about the Cavelry's control. Of herself, of the room, of the proto-widow. The sensation of feeling in Zola's arms is a different kind of pain. Dottie steps back to watch the man squirm. She glances to the other room, where Strucker waits. And smiles.

James Barnes has posed:
"I'll give you one deal." Bucky stands up straight and pulls off the glove covering his metal arm. "I'm going to go say hi to the Baron," he tells Zola. "If you talk before I have to do something everyone here really doesn't want to see, I won't come back and do the same to you."

And then Bucky turns his sights on Strucker.

Melinda May has posed:
May wants to roar. Wants to demand of each squid just what the hell makes him think he deserves a deal, will get a deal, is even *worth* a deal. She wants to haul off and crack each of them across the jaw and snap their necks and leave them for the others to cut up and bury, give in to the rage she hasn't been able to release since that fateful December night with Vostokoff. Instead, she engages in what is perhaps one of the most dispicable actions of her long and storied career. She forces these men to *feel* what she decides they *should* feel.

Manipulating Viper, allowing Dottie to beat her senseless and then setting her free was bad. But this? This is the empath equivalent to a telepath forcing someone to think they way they want them to think. The only reason it's not classified as torture or coercion under any treaty or penal code is because no one -- other than empaths and telepaths, perhaps -- has actually clued into just what it really means.

But May knows. May knows and she's angry enough she just doesn't give a damn. Her best friend is missing. Her *pregnant* best friend is missing. And there was evidence in that lab that suggested Peggy's unborn child was possibly at greater risk than its mother. May is psychologically incapable of accepting harm to a child -- even though she's had to inflict the worst kind, herself. Indeed... *because* she's had to do so.

She circles around to the front of Zola's chair, crouches down in front of him, and cups his face in her hands. "Here's *my* deal," she tells him as Bucky's pronouncement crashes down like an avalanche of stone. "You talk. I make it stop."

The next emotions poor Zola will feel is all of the regret, the fear, the self-loathing, and deep, heart-rending pain May has carried around since Bahrain. Since the Framework. All of it. *She* sublimated all of that into rage. He is not permitted to. He is only allowed to feel the pain of it and the need to do anything to make amends. Anything to be better. To make it stop.

Everything May's rage has hidden for *decades*. That's what Zola feels now.

Peggy Carter has posed:
The scientific threats by Jane aren't as physically painful as what May is doing to him, but there's another whimper in the back of Zola's throat. Whatever was threatened did genuinely scare him to his core and his spine is straightening just a bit more. The fact that Dottie *moves aside* for May is the cherry on top. He's terrified. A single tear cuts loose to join the cold sweat down his face and his eyes track Barnes out of the room like an abused animal. He doesn't even have any smart remark to yell after the man. He's scared silent.

In the next room, Strucker is trying not to sweat. But he's angry and fairly certain he's run out of time. He hisses a curse beneath his breath, muttering those who would listen. "It's not just the Chief that you want. I know more about HYDRA than that rat-scientist ever will. You offer me a nice deal and I can give you some dream intelligence in return. Just..." And then there is Bucky, "...Don't let that mad dog *touch me*." He's grasping at straws. Still trying to keep himself in the position of power, especially over Bucky, but he has the sense he's losing. His pride is the only thing keeping him from breaking now. And the fact the's not been in any actual physical pain yet.

Zola's eyes track back to May as the woman stalks around the front of his chair, now that Bucky has left the room. He's staring hard, waiting for that last inch which might leave him some dignity. He doesn't get it. What he gets is a crashing, choking wave of emotions that he's never expected to feel in his life. It's dizzying. He doesn't even have words for a few moments, but then it comes, in a wave of ragged, too-human sounding sobs for a man as diabolical as HYDRA's head scientist. "Stop, stop, stop it, please, stop it...she's in the old Canadian Bunker. T-the one stolen from the Weapon-X project. Still had medical equipment and labs there... It's highly fortified. She's there, I swear, just please make it STOP!" He cries out, crumpling over in his chair.

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
Natasha Romanoff would just slowly, slowly smile, "Ohh, /Herr/ Baron." She would roll it off her lips in a raw taunt, "We've gotten what we need from Zola. You need to give us *quite* a bit to top that. Because the Winter Soldier has waited a long time to be alone with you in a cell with no one watching and no one minding. So make what you tell us very, very good." Natasha has her own sadistic and psychotic streak sometimes. She's not had the pain or hte trauma the others have had.

She didn't have all of her life locked away like Bucky did. So she's mor ethan happy to simply leave Bucky alone in the cell with his old friend.

Then the *rage* rolling off May nearly has her doubletake, only expert cotrol not making her openly stare at what's going on. A quick look given to Quiet of 'check on her please'. She's never *felt* something so personal from May.

Quiet has posed:
Staefani is right there when Bucky reveals the metal arm. It makes her eyebrows raise up some beneath the brim of her black cap. But, she just glances at the man that he's giving the stink eye to now, and shaking her head for his sake.

May's continued efforts are observed then, and Stefani slowly tilts her head as the seemingly effective methods get the desired result.

Tap tap tap. Stefani leaves three smiley emojis at this time stamp on her tablet, as she saves that admission.

She looks up then toward Nat, offering a nod as she moves to oblige.

Dottie Underwood has posed:
It's not the rage that makes Dottie's head snap away from the Baron, it's the remorse -- May's remorse. Dottie is familiar with remorse, how to instill it in others. But it's not something she's ever felt before. Not herself. It's a strange sensation. She doesn't think she likes it much. But maybe this time after they're done here, Dottie owes May drinks.

Melinda May has posed:
Zola breaks. May's expression, as she watches, is unimpassioned. The emotions he feels are all hers... but she doesn't have to express them. He can. Still... there's a strange relief in that. It's not quite the full catharsis she may ultimately need, but it does strangely relieve the pressure she has felt for so long.

He begs her to stop, tells her exactly where to find her friend... and begs her to stop. Satisfied he cannot lie, she does. The emotions recede -- from him, from Strucker... from everyone. They retreat back into whatever bottle of Haig May keeps buried in her soul to contain them.

She looks at Nat, expression exceptionally calm, considering the display Zola made. "I think we have what we need." She looks at the broken little man in the chair before her, and then to Strucker. "Lock them back up. We can deal with the formal arrangements later."

She glances briefly to Dottie then, as well, meeting her eyes only fleetingly. Oddly enough, the proto-Widow probably understands better than any of the others what just happened. Finally, she turns on her heel, pausing only as Staefani intercepts her. "I'll be in ops," she tells them, "prepping the strike."

Because they'll be wheels up within hours, if she has her way. It's time to bring Peggy home.