Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "Against His Own Shield"

This is the second freebie for the April 5, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] moongoddessgirl. It also fills the "Obstructive Bureaucrat" square in my 4-1-16 card for the Archetypal Characters Bingo card.


"Against His Own Shield"


The more Steve found out about
SHIELD, the less he liked it.

He found out that it had absorbed
the Strategic Scientific Reserve,
which he could remember as
the somewhat shady source
of Project: Rebirth.

Regrettably its scientific reputation
had fallen right into the latrine,
Steve discovered as he read
Dr. Foster's scathing critique.

He knew that there were problems --
he'd found the Phase II weapons
during the Chitauri incident, after all --
and it bothered him to see just
how deep the cracks went.

A lot of lies, a lot of murder.
Cloaks and daggers and
all that standard spy stuff.
Torture. Slavery.

It turned his stomach.

Everyone expected him to toe the line,
because he was Captain America,
but the thing was, everyone had
forgotten how many rules he'd
had to break to get there.

Steve liked rules, he really did,
but only if they were good rules,
fair rules. The Nazis had been
pretty big on rules too, only they
didn't care about the good part.

So he'd learned to be careful
about which rules he obeyed,
because not doing that led to
"just following orders."

Somehow it still surprised people
when he spoke out against
the things going wrong.

Honestly, it's like nobody even knew him.

You'd think they would have read
the books. There were enough of those.

Agent Coulson just smiled when
Steve stormed out of an office or
blew his stack over something
unearthed in the paperwork.

He
had read the books, all right.
Agent Coulson always did his homework.

It was Agent Veeble who finally
put the last straw on the camel's back.

Steve had been digging into
the history of the Winter Soldier,
and not taking "That's classified"
for an answer anymore.

So when Agent Veeble refused
to release the paper-only copies
of certain things that had happened
to the Winter Soldier in SHIELD custody,
it was Captain America who leaned
over the desk and said clearly,

"Son, if you don't open that file cabinet,
I will open it myself, and there won't
be much cabinet left when I'm done."

"You can't do that," Agent Veeble whimpered.
"This is SHIELD property. You don't
have the proper clearance."

Captain America unlimbered his shield
and bounced it against the metal floor
with a deep, resonant bong. "This is
my clearance," he said. "Or did you
forget where the name came from?"

The bitterness of the contradiction
struck him all over again, how badly
the agency had turned out despite
the hope that Peggy Carter and
Howard Stark poured into it.

This was not what he sacrificed himself for.

That was when Assistant Director Hill
came in and assessed the situation.
"What's going on in here?" she asked.

"Oh, thank God you're here, ma'am!"
exclaimed Agent Veeble. "He's trying
to get into the secure files about
the Winter Soldier. Make him stop."

"I'm not here to make him stop,"
said Assistant Director Hill. "I'm
here to make sure that he doesn't
drop you down one of the engines."
Her fingers tapped at the keyboard,
and then she unlocked the cabinet.
"Or deliver a speech that melts
what little brain you have."

"I wouldn't drop him down an engine,"
said Captain America. "Those things
are fragile and really hard to fix."

Assistant Director Hill did not laugh,
but one corner of her mouth twitched.
"Good luck with the files," she said.

Even a cursory glance was enough
to tell Captain America that SHIELD
was even more of a wreck than he'd
thought, and that it was going to take
a lot of time to go through the mess
and figure out how to clean it up.

So he hefted one drawer under
his left arm and another under
his right arm. He might as well
go back to Avengers Tower where
he could do the research in comfort ...
and more safety than here.

"What's with Captain America using
his spear against his own shield?"
Agent May asked in a dry tone.

"It's not 'my' SHIELD,"
Captain America said,
"but it will be."

* * *

Notes:

The idiom 自相矛盾 (zì xiāng máo dùn), which literally means to use one’s spear against one’s shield, evolved from this story.
-- Chinese Idioms

Maria Hill: What does S.H.I.E.L.D. stand for, Agent Ward?
Grant Ward: Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division.
Hill: And what does that mean to you?
Ward: It means someone really wanted our initials to spell out "shield."
-- Agents of SHIELD

The above conversation, while flippant, is in fact true based on another conversation in canon.

The Strategic Scientific Reserve was a forerunner of SHIELD, the two agencies spanning Captain America: The First Avenger and Captain America: The Winter Soldier among others.

"Just following orders" has appeared both as an entertainment trope and as the Nuremberg defense in history.

Captain America is famous for his hard-hitting speeches. Here's one about how America is nothing but what people make of it, one on tolerance vs. discrimination, and one about standing up for what's right.

Agent May has a dry wit.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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