She was just finishing off the latest psychological report when there was a knock at the door of her private laboratory.
‘Come in,’ she called out absentmindedly, attention still focused on her task as the hinge creaked indicating someone’s entry.
‘Dr Roberts.’ A woman’s voice called her and her head to jerked up in recognition.
‘Dr Cho, this is a surprise. To what do I owe the pleasure?’
Dr Helen Cho, her unofficial mentor was there with a concerned expression on her face. Ever since her breakthrough in the genetics field, she had been promoted to head of the facility and with the influx of demands for her unique technology, she was a very busy woman. Even though they were friends, their work rarely intersected and the surprise was genuine.
‘I’m sorry to barge in on you like this but there is someone who requires your skill.’ She regarded Roberts with a look, alluding to more than her ability as a psychologist.‘As much as you prefer not to use them, I’m afraid that this case will require your unique abilities.'
These 'abilities' mentioned could only mean her capabilities for telekinesis and mental manipulation. Helen knew that while Eleina Roberts wouldn’t go so far as to call herself a telepath, she was, to a certain extent, able to modify and control thoughts, memories and upper brain functions. She had developed these mysterious trait when she was younger and though she struggled to keep them under control, both SHIELD and Hydra had sought to utilise her skills.
SHIELD found Roberts first and after being subjected to various testing, it was found that her aptitudes extended to enhanced durability and endurance as well as altering her body density. She was informed that she belonged to a new sub-species of homo sapiens, plainly known as mutants and there were others like me around the world, possessing abilities as unique and powerful as her own. And naturally, she became Director Fury’s top pick for the special task force he was assembling. Upon her refusal, Roberts was enrolled in basic and intermediate levels of training before assignment to the U-GIN Research Facility in Seoul where she concentrated her abilities towards research in clinical psychology.
‘Look I know you hate to use your abilities but I’m afraid our client will not take no for an answer,’ Helen explained, her expression emphasising the gravity of the situation.
Somewhat reluctantly, Roberts agreed.
‘Better do some research because it’ll be a long flight.’ Helen quipped, handing her a thick blank manila folder. ‘Plus, Eleina, it would do you some good to get out a bit.'
Eleina chuckled slightly. Helen was always trying to drag her along to events and conventions.
‘Where will I be going?’ she asked, not wanting to pursue that train of thought.
Helen’s eyes glimmered with mischief.
‘And you are sure about this, Your Highness?' A tall blonde man stood beside the young King of Wakanda on the facility’s private airstrip as they watched the jet’s landing. The doubt in his voice was reflected in his broad frame situated next to the slimmer figure of the king.
‘I am certain, Captain Rogers. And to be entirely honest, she is your friend’s best bet right now.'
James Buchanan ‘Bucky’ Barnes.
The name of the patient.
The name of the infamous Winter Soldier.
You’d have to be living under a rock to have missed the countless headlines regarding his return in the last couple years, integrated seamlessly with the collapse of SHIELD and the devastating event at the UN meeting in Vienna. Naturally, Eleina had been briefed on the secrecy of this mission and the dangers it would pose to the outside world as well as Wakanda if anyone learned his location or her purpose there for outside these borders the Winter Soldier was still a wanted menace.
While most of the world hated the deadly assassin, she couldn’t bring herself to share their sentiments.
The file provided a bare sketch of who Bucky Barnes was before his unwilling involvement with Hydra and from the few black and white photos it provided, she could tell that he had been an extremely vivid and charming young man. Subsequent documents described in varying lengths of detail the procedures and assignments completed by the Winter Soldier.
- Artificially Enhanced Physiology
- Superhuman strength
- Enhanced reflexes, speed, stamina, durability,
- Regenerative Healing Factor
- Cybernetic arm
- Skilled at almost all forms of hand-to-hand combat
- Proficiency with all types of firearms, bombs
- Master marksman and assassin
- Proficiency in knife combat
- Aviation, sailing, and vehicular skills
Thaw, wipe, point, kill, freeze, repeat.
That was the pattern for the last 70 years and by the time she reached the end of the file, her heart ached for the soul of James Barnes.
It was explained that Hydra had implanted certain controls and trigger words within his mind and though there had been little detail enclosed about her role, given her abilities, she understood that her primary function was to remove them.
Before she could cogitate further on this, the Wakandan air hostess appeared, ‘Miss Roberts, we will be landing in 20 minutes.'
Snapping the folder closed, Eleina looked up at her pleasant smile ‘Yes of course, Thank you for your assistance.'
‘Will you be requiring anything else, madam?'
‘No thank you. I’ll be fine,’ she replied politely and when the woman was gone, she opened the manila folder again to find the photos rearranged: James Barnes, smiling brightly with his former best friend Steve Rogers while on the left the wild haired, formidable Winter Soldier glared up at her.
In that moment, Eleina swore to herself that she would do everything in her power to help restore this broken man to the young strapping soldier he once was.
Translations and more information in the end notes.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Immediately after stepping off the private jet, Eleina was greeted by none other than King T’Challa himself to her surprise.
‘Dr Roberts, wamkelekile. It is a pleasure to have you back, though this time I fear the reason for your arrival is much more grave,’ The king’s deep voice rumbled through the corridors as they proceeded through his expansive facility.
‘Enkosi Your Highness, it is a pleasure to be back in your wonderful country and I hope that my abilities can be as useful as on my last visit here.’ She answered adopting his formal tone, remembering the Wakandan sha had picked up a few years ago when she had accompanied Dr Cho when his father T’Chaka had suffered psychological injuries from a seizure, assisting in returning the late ruler to his former state. Thus it had not surprised her when the ‘client’ had turned out to be the newly crowned king.
They came to a set of double doors and T’Challa addressed her again, saying ‘I understand you must be tired from your journey but there is someone who is very anxious to meet you so you will shown to your quarters shortly after.'
She nodded swiftly and the doors opened to reveal a huge living room that looked out onto the lush rainforests of Wakanda. Light from the setting sun cast a warm glow over the room through gigantic floor-to-ceiling windows and silhouetted against these, was a tall fair-skinned man who, despite the beautiful scenery, wore a pensive expression.
‘Your Highness.’ The captain turned at their entry.
‘Captain, this is Dr Eleina Roberts.’ T’Challa announced, his Wakandan accent juxtaposing greatly with Captain Rogers' Brooklyn tone. ‘I believe she is the key to helping your friend.'
Steve Rogers politely nodded at her. ‘Ma’am.’
‘Captain.’ She replied in a likewise fashion.
The king seemed to approve. ‘I’m afraid I have another appointment but I shall leave the two of you to become further acquainted. Doctor, my attendants will show you to your rooms and you will find your luggage there as well.’
‘Thank you, Your Highness.’ Eleina replied as he left the room, leaving her alone with the great Captain America.
There was a pensive pause before he began. ‘Doctor I assume you read the file that was sent?'
‘I have, yes. And Captain please, its just Eleina.’ She insisted, gaining a look of appreciation. ‘
'Steve. Then you must understand how important this is. That he’s…..’ He faltered before continuing. ‘That whatever Hydra programming is removed.' It was painfully evident how much his friend meant to him and mentally she renewed the promise she'd made on the jet.
’T’Challa told me you have some special abilities?’ Steve regarded her with a long look.
‘Telekinesis, telepathy and density shifting,’ Eleina answered. ‘And if you want to count the extra endurance then that too. But everyone seems to have that these days,’ She continued, tried for some humour and was rewarded when the captain's mouth tugged upwards slightly.
‘So when do we start?’ she asked directly.
His sigh was deep and wearied and his head went down, almost as if he was feeling his 98 years all at once. ‘They took him out of cryo a couple weeks back after a year and his body is still adjusting. Does tomorrow work?'
After a moment’s thought, she answered him. ‘I’ll need all the medical files and information that T’Challa’s people have collected so if you can get them to me by tonight, I’ll see him tomorrow.'
‘Consider it done.'
‘Listen,’ she told Steve, placing her hand on his forearm. ‘I don’t need to read your mind to know how important this is to you. So I’ll have you know that I’ll do everything in my power to make sure your friend comes back to you.'
He set his blue eyes on her. ‘Thank you…. Eleina.' ‘
Don’t thank me yet Captain.’ She flashed him a half smile.
At this point, a new voice spoke. ‘Khumbula, I am to escort you to your quarters.’ A Wakandan attendant was waiting beside the doorway.
‘Until tomorrow then,’ Eleina nodded at Steve.
T’Challa’s facility was truly state-of-the-art and Eleina couldn’t help but admire the king’s generosity to Steve and his friend despite their status as world class criminals. She was informed by her Wakandan guide that along with several other guests (which she assumed to be Steve's fellow Avengers), her quarters were situated on the west side of the building, as he showed her to the spacious set of rooms that would be her home for the next few months.
‘What was your name, ngumlindi?’ She asked, employing the little Wakandan that she knew after he had shown her how to use the AI system.
‘Akande, khumbula,’ He answered after a pause, visibly brightening. ‘Though no one usually asks that.'
‘Well thank you Akande,’ She smiled.
The attendant shyly returned the gesture accompanied with a small bow. ‘It is no trouble, khumbula. I can arrange for your dinner to be brought to your suite unless you would rather dine with the others?'
Ordinarily, Eleina would have agreed but it had been a long flight and she was desperately in need of warm shower before going over the files Steve had promised to deliver.
‘I think I shall dine alone tonight, Akande,’ She replied. and was left with another bow.
As promised, there was a thin file under her door following the evening meal.
From the contents, Eleina was informed that following the events in Siberia, James Barnes had chosen to undergo cryogenic freezing for the safety of himself and others until a solution was found to remove the Hydra’s indoctrination or at least until hostility from the outside world had subsided. Meanwhile T’Challa’s doctors had been hard at work for the last year finding a solution but to little avail.
Brain scans run during the cryogenic stages have revealed some extent of the injuries sustained by the patient's brain but provides no insight towards reversing this process. To understand the full impact on his brain, the patient was removed from cryogenic freezing and after the appropriate recovery period of 2-3 days, mRI results demonstrate that the majority of damage is centred in the prefrontal cortex, specifically targeting the connection between the long and short term memory. However testing attempts to determine the root location of the foreign indoctrination and subsequent techniques to reverse these commands have been futile.
The folder was filled with other reports of similar attempts but none seemed to have worked. A small part of Eleina was relieved as there was no mention of any damage to the amygdala or hippocampus -the areas in the brain governing and regulating the transference of memories from short term to long term as well as the processing and recording of emotional and social reactions. However it was the failure to locate the target area of the Hydra’s brainwashing that had her worried and something inside told her that this was where her special abilities would come in. Feeling overwhelmed, she decided put down the file and glanced at the clock.
Dinner had been brought to her suite over 4 hours ago and a gnawing feeling began to grow in her stomach and soon enough Eleina found herself creeping through the deserted corridors, racking her brain, trying to locate the kitchenette area that Akande had shown her on his tour of the facility. After about 5 minutes and a few wrong turns, she found her goal and immediately helped herself to a glass of milk from the fridge.
Before she could bring it to her lips however, a voice pierced through her brain.
So you’ve finally decided to show yourself hmm?
Aaaaand that was chapter 2. Hope you liked it.
Translations for the Wakandan spoken in this chapter are found below. I did some research and though there is an actual Wakandan language in the comics, the actors in the movie spoke Xhosa, another African dialect in place of that so I just followed the canon. I used Google Translate so naturally there might be some errors.
Wamkelekile - Welcome
Enkosi - Thank you
Khumbula - Miss (used as Madam/Ma'am in this context)
Ngumlindi - Attendant
Also there is actual scientific background about what happened to Bucky's brain after all the Hydra brainwashing and I tried to be scientifically accurate as possible by using my 1st year psychology knowledge and this post by paratrooper-sam on Tumblr
All the science stuff is described in plain English and an excellent read if you want a greater explanation of the biological and psychological elements to it.