The Crimson Garden
[Loc: Unnamed Safehouse somewhere in Minsk, Belarus, 04052017, 6:30 am MST, GMT-3]
<in the kitchen, Nat and Sonya are packing gear for the trip, while Yelena loses herself in a steaming cup of coffee, Alexi stands in the doorway, clearing his throat>
<the three women look at him in a mix of shock, annoyance and amusement>
Nat: <shakes her head> No. No. You’re not wearing that. We’re trying to keep a low profile, did you forget that?
Yelena: You look like a cosplayer from ComicCon Russia. How did you ever survive three years undercover?
Alexi: <turns, shoulders slumped, heads back upstairs to change, mumbling> What? I suit up. I thought we were going on mission.
<the women head out to the SUV waiting outside, Alexi joins them, now dressed in cold weather hiking gear, with a shotgun at his side>
Alexi: I am calling shotgun. <the women roll their eyes, entering the vehicle, allowing him the front passenger seat, he stows the gun carefully beside him, as Yelena starts the vehicle, Alexi turns on the radio, Renegade by Styx already in progress, Alexi loudly and energetically singing along> De jig is up, de news is out, dey finally found me! De renegade who had it made- <Yelena reaches over, changing the station>
Yelena: Driver picks the music, shotgun shuts his cakehole. <Alexi looks from Nat to Sonya to Yelena>
Alexi: We have cake? <the three women try not to laugh as James Taylor’s Shower the People begins to play on the radio>
Nat: <turns to Sonya beside her in the back seat, reminiscing> We used to live on the outskirts of Akron, a little township called Hinckley. Alexi used to practice our escape route to the airstrip once a month. He’d race down backroads, through the reservation and the wetlands testing out different routes, blasting that song like a challenge.
Alexi: Oh! I loved driving in the countryside! So relaxing and exhilarating!
Yelena: <smiles at the memory> It was like a rollercoaster.
Alexi: <grinning> You used to squeal with pure joy as I took those turns.
Sonya: And the police never pulled you over?
Alexi: <chuckling> Oh, no, no. It was a small town. I went bowling Thursday nights with the sheriff! Saturday mornings, Tom and I would race each other down Bellus Rd to the spillway to go fishing. He said it was the only time he got to put his truck through its paces. <musing> I wonder how he is doing. <stares out the window> He was a good friend.
<the car goes silent, the rest of the drive is quiet and peaceful as they wind their way through the countryside, the woods on either side growing thicker as they ascend into the mountainous forest, forcing them to abandon the vehicle and hike to the site>
Alexi: <walks with Nat, behind Yelena& Sonya, the shotgun in a holster on his back> Now that your mama isn’t around, there is something I wanted to talk to you about.
Yelena: <overheraing, throws up her hands in exasperation> Here we go. I was waiting for the rest of the crazy talk to begin.
Alexi: <ignoring her> When we get settled down, here, Ohio, wherever it may be. I want to marry your mama.
Nat: <shrugs as they walk> Ok. I’m sure Mason can forge you a marriage certificate along with your other documents.
Alexi: <stops, taking her arm> No, I mean I want to MARRY her. I want to give her a real, proper wedding. The church, the dress, the priest, the flowers, the reception, the dancing. <pauses> The vows. I want to stand before my Siberian Wildflower and pledge my love to her. She is hearty and beautiful, she has survived in a life that would have made most flowers wither. We lost so much time, she deserves this, Natasha.
Nat: <shocked by Alexi’s declaration> Wait, what?
Yelena: I told you it was craazy talk!
Nat: <trying to wrap her brain around the concept> Who are you going to invite? The guy who introduced the two of you? We killed him. All your prison buddies? I don’t think they’re going to get time off to come to an escaped convict’s wedding. The dozen or so foreign spy agencies you and mom worked against? Maybe we get Ninotchka and the rest of the Winter Widows for bridesmaids? No. It’s too dangerous.
Alexi: <his shoulders slump in disappointment> Now you’re just being mean. I want to give her proper wedding, but small one. Safe. No crazy guest list. Our girls, other Widows who have been freed. <tilts his head> Mebe you bring some of your Avenger friends. <straigtens his spine> It would be an honour if the greatest adversary of my past would stand as my best man as I begin a new future with your mama.
Yelena: <smiles sadly> Natasha is right. We know how much you love her, Papa. We just want to keep you both safe.
Nat: <opens and closes her mouth trying to come up with an answer> I, ah, I’ll think about it and we can talk later. <points to the fence> We’re here.
[Loc: Abandoned Red Room training facility, Maryina Horka, Belarus, 8:00 am MST, GMT -3]
<reaching the breached wall, the group surveys the scene from the outside>
Yelena: <pops her gum, testing Sonya’s observation skills> What happened here? What do you see?
Sonya: Crude explosive, but fitting for the time period we estimate. One soldier just abandoned at the opening, no cleanup. Were they in a rush to evacuate? <steps through the hole in the wall> Obviously expendable. <she steps cautiously through the opening> Everything is covered in dust. One set of recent footprints. <turns to Yelena> I assume they’re from your previous visit.
Yelena: Never assume. You can use the known evidence to come up with possibilities, but always be open to the idea that there is something you are missing. That’s how you avoid being blindsided.
Sonya: <crouches down> Women’s size 8 bootprints with a starburst tread, spacing indicates likely height of about 160-165cm, weight about 75kg.
Yelena: <indignant> Hey! I am only 60kg, such-ka!
Sonya: <looks up, grinning, holds up an empty gum wrapper> And I’ve never seen anyone in the world besides you chew BubbaDubba. Sloppy.
Yelena: Ok, fine. Yes, those are my footprints. <rips the wrapper from her hand, stuffing it in her pocket> And I left that there on purpose to see if it would be found or disturbed by anyone else sneaking around here besides us. Still here, so we’re good.
Sonya: <continuing her analysis> Ok, we’ve got two more remains here. First looks like a prisoner by the rags on the skeleton. No other identifying marks though it looks like he and the other body here were using Thompsons. <moving to the second set of remains> American soldier. Uniform looks post WW2. The skull shows a precision headshot took him out. Too good to be from the Russian soldiers. Sniper. <looks up at the others in surprise> They had at least one Widow in the fight.
Alexi: Why would they even need these soldiers if they had a Widow?
Yelena: Camouflage. They didn’t want the Widow noticed.
Sonya: <searches the remains of the American, pulling a folded patch of leather from a pocket> Wallet here. <opens it, reading> Drivers Licence, Li, Michael. New York City address. <continues to rifle through it, finds a picture of a young lady next to a receipt for a wedding ring> Pretty girl. Guess he never got to give her the ring. <a card falls out, she holds it up for the others> SSR? Wonder what that was.
Nat: Strategic Scientific Reserve. During WW2 they were the Allies answer to HYDRA. After the war, Stalin created Leviathan to counter their science and espionage efforts. Eventually, they became SHIELD.
Alexi: So if SSR was here, they might have known it was a Red Room training ground after all.
Yelena: <impressed> Not necessarily, but it’s a smart thought. <Alexi beams at the compliment>
Sonya: I’m seeing shotgun shell casings here, where they made an exit standoff, an empty colt mag, and some empty Thompson stick mags. <stands, moving further into the scene, examining the remains of the Russian soldiers> Shoulder rank insignias say they were all infantry privates. These guys were bottom of the barrel cannon fodder. The five here <points around the space> here, here and these two here were all killed in the firefight. These four, <indicates a group of remains all facedown at the far end of the boiler-room near the doorway> were likely shot after. Punishment for failure to stop the Americans? Tying up loose ends? That I can’t tell you. But the Widow who sniped the American used the same Mosin-Nagat to headshot each one of them as they were running back into the building.
Nat: <to Yelena> Damn she’s good. <adressing Sonya> They had you training to specialize in forensics?
Sonya: <nods> How to assess a scene, how to stage a scene to look like something else, how to make a staged scene look faked, how to clean up and remove all traces. <eyes dart to the floor>
Nat: But that’s not what you wanted to do.
Sonya: <nods, eyes still cast downward> I enjoy the analysis. The killing, the cleanup, <her head shakes almost inpercieveably> I never took to the harshest parts of the training. I did what they made me because I didn’t have a choice, but I never liked it.
Yelena: No more Red Room, no more killing. What do you do now? You have whole life waiting for you. Dream job. Tell me.
Sonya: <top of her head spits out> Indiana Jones. <everyone looks at her in confusion, embarrassed, Sonya elaborates> Not the whip & hat& Nazis. The archaeology. I want to become a forensic archaeologist. Analyse newly uncovered sites untouched by mankind for centuries and discover how people lived.
Alexi: <hand on her shoulder suportivly> You will do it. We will find way for you to live your dream.
Yelena: <smiling> You sure you don’t want the whip? Or the hat? It would look pretty cool.
Sonya: <relieved> I’ve never spoken to anyone about that. I never thought it was possible, so why bother. <grins at Yelena> I’ll only wear a hat if you design it. With pockets. <Yelena laughs>
<the group makes their way down the hall deeper into the building, coming across a row of cells, all locked and empty except for one at the end, the lock is shot through and the door open wide, Yelena steps inside looks around>
Yelena: Natty old books on science, rotted food on prison plates, scrap blankets, nothing interesting here. <she kicks a paper on the floor out of her way, Nat sees a flash of blue and a familiar image>
Nat: Wait! Give me that. <she unfolds a schematic, the Stark Industries logo prominent in one corner> Photonic Amplifier? Howard Stark? Could he have been the prisoner the SSR was rescuing? Are there any more schematics in there like this? <Yelena searches but comes up with nothing> Hmm, this place just got even more interesting. <she tucks the schematic in a pocket> Let’s see what other mysteries we can find.
<they take a stairwell leading up into the kitchen and laundry areas, the stairs continue upward and the party decides to split, Yelena and Sonya continuing up while Nat and Alexi explore the first floor>
Alexi: Is like laundry back in prison. What I would give sometimes for machines this big now though. Twelve girls is a lot of clothing to wash.
Nat: <smirks> You seem to be settling into the life though. <Alexi shrugs> No, I mean it. You did really good last night when the girls were fighting.
Alexi: <muses as they walk> They are my second chance to do good. When I was young, I was so wrapped up in the Party, in glory, in what I thought was being protector of the Motherland. I follow Dreykoff, I follow Putin, I follow KGB and Leviathan, I follow orders. Every time the little voice in my head says ‘this is no good’ I tell it to shut up. I tell myself that sending you and your sister back to the Red Room was good thing for you, make you strong. I tried not to think of the stories your mama would tell me about her time there. I did not want to understand. I wanted to go back to being Red Guardian, the mighty hero.
<they pass through the large kitchen, Alexi begins to check cupboards, Nat shakes her head>
Nat: You know anything you find in there is going to be older than you are.
Alexi: I’m not looking for food. I’m looking for secrets. <Nat looks at him, hands on hips> Think back to kitchen in Ohio. How many times did we ever eat cream of asparagus soup? Eh? That can was fake. Had backup coms and key to plane. Oh and the cereal cupboard? Every box sugar and bright colours and marshmallows, except one.
Nat: <catching on, making a face of disgust> Grapenuts. You made us eat a bowl of it once, to make sure we’d never touch the box again.
Alexi: <laughing> Exactly! All our papers were hidden inside there, We didn’t care if SHIELD found any of it afterwards, because by then we’d be back home in Russia. But we couldn’t have you girls or neighbours or the babysitter stumbling into our secrets.
Nat: But I knew about the mission. I knew everything was fake. Why hide things from me?
Alexi: Mama worried you might see the full orders of the mission. That the three of you were to be returned to the program after we completed the job. <looks at her with a serious tone> If you knew. If you knew before we left Ohio, that you and your sister would be sent back to the Red Room. What would you have done?
Nat: <stunned at the question> I, I don’t know. I mean, back then I was trained and programmed to distrust law enforcement and American agencies like SHIELD. I don’t think I could have trusted anyone enough to break our cover. I suppose I could have taken Yelena and run away. But that would have been complicated on a whole different level because Yelena had no clue. She’d have hated me for taking her from mama and papa.
Alexi: <still searching cabinets> Bah, nothing. A few SVT-40s tucked away, but otherwise, nichto.
Nat: <shrugs> Worth a look. <thinks> But if the kitchen is empty, <pauses> this wasn’t an emergency evacuation. Abandoning this site was planned.
Alexi: Then where did they go?
Nat: At this point, your guess is as good as mine. <they exit the kitchen into a sparse dining hall, plain wooden tables with benches, ancient paint chipping and flaking from the walls, they discover the classrooms, just as Yelena had described> Damn. She’s right. That is freaky.
Alexi: <looking over her shoulder> Da. I suddenly feel like I’m here for a parent-teacher conference. Remember when I had to come in after you punched that boy?
Nat: <smirking> Chad Engleman. The biggest bully in school. He’d been harassing kids for weeks. I was trying to let it go, but he finally went too far. He stole Yelena’s new lunchbox and threw it out the bus window. Almost broke her arm in the process. I could have killed him. I already had the skills and training. But I pulled every punch because he wasn’t worth it.
Alexi: That whole family was assholes. His papa comes into the conference screaming at the principal. I ever tell you he wanted you thrown out of school for fighting?
Nat: Really? Shit. Now I’m extra glad I broke his nose.
Alexi: Ya. Principal calls busdriver in, she tells whole story. They tell father he has to replace lunchbox, and if boy causes any more trouble he get expelled.
Nat: I remember him keeping his distance from me the rest of the year. Word was he got sent to military school the next year.
Alexi: I was so proud of you. You stood up to him but only enough to get your message across. Your sister worries about us sending the girls to public school, but I think we’ll be ok.
Nat: <closes the classroom door, they continue down the hall to the main lobby> I really think you will be, dad.
<they cross the foyer to an unlabeled door, opening it to a large office, file cabinets line one wall, bookshelves along the opposing wall, in the centre is a plain, utilitarian metal desk, organized with precision, behind the desk on one side of the wall is a lifesize painting of a ballet dancer in a pose, a door beside it, Nat checks the door, finding a small water closet, Alexi rifles through the file cabinets>
Alexi: Bah, nothing interesting. Invoices for supplies, staff reports, student testing results. Wait! What is this? <a soft click is heard, and the painting swings slightly from the wall> A secret passage? Yay!
<Nat swings the painting on its hinges, opening the doorway further, revealing a darkened stairway, she shines her flashlight down, the light stopping at a bend in the stairs, she turns back half exiting the room, letting out a whistle that carries and echos through the tall ceilings of the building, a minute later a responding whistle is heard, as a pair of footsteps can be heard, Yelena and Sonya descending the grand staircase in the main hall>
Yelena: You found something?
Alexi: <claping excitedly> A secret passage!
Sonya: It’s the Red Room. I’d be disappointed if there wasn’t at least one.
Nat: We don’t know what we’re walking into, so better to stick together.
<she leads them back into the office and down the stairway, it opens to what looks like an armoury and workshop, common everyday items line a table; an umbrella, book, a brooch, a pair of sunglasses, Alexi picks up the umbrella and starts to open it, a grappling hook fires from the end, shooting across the room, almost hitting Yelena>
Yelena: Really!? <Alexi shrugs an apology> Ok, nobody touches anything until we know what all this junk is. <she turns to a deeper part of the room with a smaller desk than the one upstairs, wooden, worn, an old oil lantern, a book and a pen the only things upon it, beside the desk is another bookshelf, covered in dust like everything else> Just another bunch of boring old books here.
Sonya: <looks closer at the books on the shelf, dusting off the spines> Just dates, no titles. <she pulls one down from the very top shelf, blowing more dust from it, the spine creeks and cracks, the pages ancient and brittle, the ink so faded that it’s barely legible in the glow of the flashlight, she begins scanning the first page and gasps, pulls another carefully from the shelf, taking a quick peek, then checking a third, she looks up at the others> They’re journals. <picks up the first book again> Each one of these is from a Red Room headmistress. This is the very start of our history. Listen. <she begins to read excerpts aloud>
Madame B’s journal
May 23, 1764
My Lady Catherine has commanded me to create a secret garden hidden in Smolny Institute. Within this garden will grow only the strongest and most cunning blossoms, using their beauty to serve the Motherland. No man shall leave a footprint upon its grounds. When a blossom has tired, it shall be granted a place of honour within my Lady’s court. She shall have her choice of worthy breeding suitors with the Crown’s blessing but must pledge to send new growth to the garden upon a girlchild’s fifth spring. We are Catherine’s Guard, the Crimson Garden.
November 14, 1776
My Lady is constantly pleased with the blossoms in my garden. I’ve found the youngest ones easiest to cultivate. They have an open mind for the lessons of subtlety and subterfuge. Their bodies are fluid and lithe whether dancing or fighting. The young also absorb the languages of outsiders more easily than their elders. Soon we will be able to export our blossoms to foreign soils without fear of suspicion. My Lady has already reaped many benefits from the information smuggled from the Ottoman Empire and Novorossiya.
April 3, 1783
A gardener should not hold favourites amongst her blossoms. Yet I cannot help myself. Sedona was one of the first of the young ones to blossom in my garden, and one of the finest. Yesterday, my little Dona left the service of my Lady, joining in union with one of my Lady’s most favoured Admirals. My Lady had already given her blessing upon Sedona, yet before the announcement, my little Dona came to ask for my blessing as well. As much as it broke my heart to let her go, I showed her no signs, wishing her happiness, prosperity, and many daughters. She vowed that every one of them would return to train with her beloved Madam Bogdanova.
November 18 1796
Last night, my Great Lady, Catherine expired. I am inconsolable. Her son Paul is to assume the throne, but he will never rule my garden. I may not survive to see another Lady ascend to her brilliance, but I shall tend my blossoms in secret until I join my Lady in Heaven. We will serve the best interests of the Motherland despite Paul, may his rule be short and soon forgotten. My only solace is the return of my little Dona. Not so little anymore, with blossoms of her own, she joins my side in tending the garden.
Madame Sedona’s journal
March 6 1801
Madam B passed into the arms of the Lord early morning, but not before knowing that she outlived the reign of Paul, and Our Lady’s wishes that her grandson Alexander take the throne have come to pass through our work here in the garden. WE poured the wine, WE whispered in the ears of Bennigsen and Yashvil, WE put the sword in Zubov’s hand before they confronted Paul. WE sent the Empress Consort Elizabeth to Alexander’s side, keeping him entertained and distracted as his father drew his last breath. But Alexander shall never know of our aid. Only Elizabeth has any inkling of our existence, and so it shall remain. We reveal ourselves only to the women behind the throne, welcoming them into the secrecy of the Crimson Garden. Perhaps one day through our breeding lines, one of our own will even wear the Crown.
Madame Feodora’s Journal
December 3 1894
I have been called to return to the Garden. No longer as a student, but as the gardener. We have a newly crowned Lady in Alexandra and I have great hopes for the future of the Motherland.
February 17 1906
I do not trust this holy healer Rasputin. My lady swears by his power, but I find his presence unsettling. I have spoken to Anna, her dearest confidant, to no avail. I am told to tend to my garden and worry not about Rasputin.
The newest blossoms are thriving under our tutelage. One pair especially. Rebecca and Winnefred are twins and matched in every aspect of skill and study. Winnefred seems to be the leader, with Rebecca shyly following her every step like a puppy. I see great things in their future.
July 23, 1910
My Lady has done the unthinkable! She is so enthralled by the charlatan Rasputin that she has broken the oath of the Great Lady Catherine. She has introduced a snake into our sacred garden. I am ordered to consult with Rasputin on all matters. He wishes to meet with my blossoms and judge their skills in service to the crown. I have heard the rumours. I know what that svo-lach’ is after. So will my blossoms. Their training will ward off any unwanted advances from this so-called holy man.
July 17, 1914
My garden is in disarray and discord, just as I feared. My blossoms are divided. Rasputin has sown his dark seeds in their bodies as well as their minds. They speak of a rapture that overwhelms them when they listen to his voice. There are some blossoms that seem immune to his spells. They mention a ring he spins on his finger as he weaves his spell and a wave of nausea that overtakes them, drawing their focus away from his words. The twins seem to be least affected by his manipulations. However even they are divided in their reactions. Winnefred reacts with visible fear and dread, emotions I’ve never seen in her in even the most challenging training exercises. Rebecca hides her revulsion well, but not well enough. If she thought she could succeed, his head would leave his body before he knew she was there. I have counselled her against action at this time. Chionya has already failed in her attempt. I will not lose Rebecca as well.
August 5, 1914
War has broken out with the upstart Germans. My Lady is losing favour with the people due to her ties to Germany. Would that they knew she hates her cousin Wilhelm II more than most Russians do. Rasputin helps none of this, whispering in her ear at every turn. Nicholas is oblivious to it all. Now with the distraction of war, his throne seems ever closer to Rasputin’s oily grasp.
September 9 1915
Nicholas has gone to the front lines, leaving my Lady and by extension her dark wizard to rule as Regent. They change ministers on a whim. I see them appointed and dismissed so rapidly at times, I’ve forgotten half their names. It is chaos. How it distresses me to say this, but I fear the end of the Empire if left in my Lady’s hands so long as she is guided by Rasputin. Even the garden has become corrupted. Has it withered beyond redemption? No. So long as there is breath in my chest, the garden shall serve the Motherland. Rasputin must be stopped.
There was an accident during training yesterday. Rebecca and Kaya were sparing. Rebecca executed a spinning kick that connected too hard with the side of Kaya’s head. The girl is in the infirmary, but has not woken since. The doctor fears she will not survive the night. Rebecca swears through her tears that it was an accident. I do not want to doubt her, but some of the other girls have told me that Kaya had been teasing Rebecca a few days earlier, calling her weak. If Kaya does not waken, this will be the first death in the garden in all of my memory.
June 7 1916
Winnefred is gone. Something happened between her and Rasputin. She would not speak of it but would take a blind man to not see the way he looks at the twins. She sobbed in my arms, begging me to forgive her for leaving. I stroked her head and consoled her, reminding her that our blossoms have taken root in many different soils. Perhaps she will thrive in another climate. ‘Madam Fe, the other side of the world would not be far enough, but it will have to do.’
Rebecca is beside herself, she feels Winnefred has abandoned her. She has grown colder and more prone to anger as she ages. Her rage now divided between both Rasputin and her sister. I do not know how long I can keep her under control.
December 31 1916
Rasputin is dead, but he would not go quietly. Yusupov was so incompetent it took multiple tries. But the deed is done. I saw Rebecca smiling today for the first time in months. Still, his stench lingers over the country like a miasma. There is unrest in the streets and most of it is pointed at my Lady and the throne. With even the garden in disarray, I know not what I can do.
Winnefred has sent word. She settled in New York City quickly. To my shock, not only has she wed but is already expecting a child. Rebecca took no joy in her sister’s news.
Madame Rebecca’s Journal
March 17 1917
The ides of March blow a cold wind. Madame Fe died foolishly defending a crumbling monarchy that had cast her aside long ago. She saw the changes in the wind but clung to the old ways. I kept my true feelings to myself until it was time to strike. I let them think that Rasputin was the only enemy of the Motherland that I cared about. The throne grew fat and lazy. They are as much an enemy as Germany, as Rasputin was, as the traitors in the garden who still supported the throne were before I dispatched them. Now that the old growth has been culled, I will bring a new era to the garden.
Speaking of traitors, my sister bore her rotten fruit a week ago. They tell me the boy child has the look of his father rather than the man, she duped into vows. Curse them all. The Motherland shall have her revenge upon my sister one day.
January 30 1924
Lenin is dead, and Joseph Stalin takes his place. We serve the state as ever. With the monarchy destroyed, the garden has suffered a drought of new blood these past few years. Next week I journey to Moscow to petition Stalin with a solution. The Great War left many orphans. No one will miss them. While their breeding may be poor, we will weed out the weak. One of those weaknesses is motherhood. My girls will not be distracted by mewling infants at their teat when there is an assignment to complete. I have talked to the doctors on a way to ensure none of my girls will be seeded by a man. There will be no retiring to wed and bear children. They will serve until they can serve no longer. They will be Widows with no husband.
Winnefred knows I still keep watch on her but cares not. Her third girl child was born ten days ago. I pity her daughters, their birthright denied them. I dream one day of taking them back in the name of the garden and the Motherland.
November 14 1932
The latest famine culls the weak from our nation. We in the garden suffer none of it. My girls are hearty stock despite cuts in bread rations. A new batch of orphans arrived last week, I see promise in two of them. Anya and Dorotheya. They have a hunger for more than bread. Not all are worth it, however. After a series of attempted runaways, I’ve ordered the instructors to handcuff the girls to their beds at lights out. The first girls have undergone the doctor’s surgery to prevent pregnancy. I wanted him to start with the youngest, but he refused, saying such a procedure on girls so young would be fatal. Instead, we started with the eldest. Those ready to graduate and take their place. All of the nine suffered sickness after, fever and bleeding, three fell to their infections. Acceptable losses.
August 5 1937
Dorotheya and Anya faced each other in training today. I wanted to see how far they would go for victory. Dorotheya gave no hesitation when given the order. Anya’s bed will be filed next week. We have little time to waste, as our women are in high demand to aid the NKVD in executing Order 00447.
February 1 1945
My sister’s boychild was found frozen in the Danube below the Austrian Alps. He should be dead but he is as stubborn as his father. I have sent word to Stalin’s new secret science cabal within the NKVD, Leviathan. He is to be taken to them for study. They will discover the secret of how he could survive such a fall. The Americans will declare him missing and presumed dead. Oh to see the look on my sister’s face! The Motherland shall have its pound of flesh. While I detest the thought of Rasputin’s spawn in my halls, he shall serve us in her place.
May 2 1946
Fennhoff’s plan is risky. If it succeeds, not only will he have his revenge for the Battle of Finnow, but together we will strike a massive blow to the SSR, to Howard Stark, and to the heart of capitalist America. If it fails, none of us will be safe from Stalin’s wrath.
I have brokered an arrangement with the Baron of Sokovia, Heinrich Zemo. In exchange for access to the science knowledge of Leviathan and the loan of my Widows when needed to maintain his power, he will provide a new training facility for my girls. I have begun the process of moving the girls and staff to our new Red Room.
Sonya: <looks up from the last journal, dissapointed> That’s the final entry.
Yelena: <looks to Nat> Sokovia. Well, I guess we’ve reached a dead end, thanks to your friends.
Nat: What? I didn’t tell them to create a crazy murderbot.
Yelena: <considers> They do seem to get into a lot of trouble when you’re not around to mother them.
Alexi: <looks at his watch> We’ve been exploring all day, we should probably head back to the safehouse.
Sonya: Wait. I want to take as much of this back as possible. Help me bag these journals. Be careful though, the older ones are very fragile.
Nat: Do me a favor? When you go through them, let me know if you find anything more about the last headmistress and her sister. Especially the son.
Alexi: <looks at Nat with suspicion> You know something about this family.
Nat: I have an idea, but I want to know more.
<like magic, Yelena produces a tightly folded dufflebag from one of her many pockets, they pack the books with care, making their way back up the stairs and retracing their steps out of the building, returning to the car and heading home>
Notes From Peg’s Desk
Whew! That took longer than I expected it to. I did a lot (A Whole Freakin Lot) of research on Russian history for those journal entries. Plus, characters kept adding and revealing things even I didn’t know. Alexi used to bowl with the local sheriff back in Ohio? Huh. Ok. Sonya was just supposed to tag along because I wanted Melina out of the way when Alexi brought up the idea of a wedding. She gave herself a spotlight with her whole ‘CSI: Belaruse’ thing. But that turned out well IMO. The journals were fun to write despite constantly tabbing back and forth to check dates, names& facts on Wikipedia. For the record, the entire origin story of the RR is pure headcannon with no basis in either MCU or comics lore, as is the idea that Bucky Barnes mother was a RR graduate who was raped by Rasputin. As you can guess by the teaser at the end, we’ll be going back to Wakanda to check up on our White Wolf and the rest of our friends still hiding out there. Hopefully, our next episode will take less research time, though I’m always open to the characters adding extra details. (even if it means an episode that was expected to be about 3.5k words almost doubles in size, lol)
Until next time, Enjoy!