Russia – One Week after the Red Room Incident
The drive through the Russian countryside outside of Saint Petersburg was rather pleasant for Nadya, the feisty warden of Gulag 38B. It could’ve been a lot roomier, having to share a tight space with French Interpol agent, Jean Pierre Napoleon, in his Interpol car – “Le Maximum.” The only comfortable one was Boris, Nadya’s right-hand rodent, recently promoted from his position as Head of Security at Gulag 38B. Boris hardly took up any space at all.
“I cannot believe we’re going to see the Red Guardian!” Nadya beamed on the ride-through. “I have been a fan of his since I was a little girl!”
“Don’t forget why we are here, Nadya,” Jean Pierre warned her.
“Yes, yes, I have not forgotten,” Nadya bemoaned. “The copycats.” With a heavy sigh, she added, “Why could this not have been under better circumstances? I didn’t even bring my autograph book!”
“Ya mean yer prison ledger, boss?” Boris said in his thick Brooklyn accent.
“No, that is my other autograph book,” Nadya clarified.
Jean Pierre rolled his eyes in annoyance. He was thankful to have seen the homestead of Melina Vostokoff close ahead of them. Thanks to his Interpol connections, Jean Pierre was able to uncover Vostokoff’s exact location. She remained under the radar for many years and kept herself well-guarded for decades – and for good reason.
It appeared that her guard was still up even then, as Le Maximum was fired upon the moment Jean Pierre pulled into the homestead. Nadya, Boris, and Jean Pierre saw Melina a short distance away, armed with a sniper rifle. “Take your clown car and drive away from here!” she demanded them.
Nadya was the first to step out of Le Maximum, with her hands held up high. “Don’t shoot!” she exclaimed. “We are not here to arrest you!”
“Then what are you here for?” Melina asked, her rifle aimed for Nadya’s head.
“We are here to talk about Constantine.”
“Constantine?!” a burly voice bellowed with rage.
Nadya almost couldn’t believe it when she saw him – the Red Guardian! He stepped out from Melina’s homestead with a young blonde who Nadya figured to be Yelena Belova. He had gotten a lot fatter and hairier over the years but, sure enough, it was him. “It’s really you!” Nadya squealed.
“Compose yourself, Nadya,” Jean Pierre ordered as he and Boris clambered out of Le Maximum, taking the utmost caution as Melina still had them in her sights. Addressing her and the Red Guardian (a.k.a. Alexei Shostakov), he said, “Yes, we are here to discuss a matter involving the notorious ‘Number One’ criminal himself.”
A hearty laugh busted out from Alexei. “Is that what he still calls himself? How can you be ‘Number One Criminal’ when there are thousands of them in the world? That frog is nothing more than a joke!” He turned to Yelena and Melina and asked, “Have I mentioned how he beat me once in arm-wrestling?”
“Only about a hundred times,” Yelena groaned.
“It was back in the Gulag, winter of ’96,” Alexei began – Yelena mouthing every word. “He walked right up to me with his beady eyes, his arrogant smirk, and that disgusting mole! He tells me, ‘You are not so tough, Red Guardian. I can beat you by barely touching you.’ And I say, ‘Ha! Let me see you try, frog!’ The second we grapple, he tells me that he has warts. And so I panic. What man wants to deal with warts?! Before I know it, Constantine has my hand pinned in one swoop!”
“You do know frogs cannot give you warts,” Melina told him. “That is a myth.”
Alexei frowned. “A what?”
“A myth,” Melina repeated.
Suddenly (and randomly), a woman appeared from one corner of the homestead and said, “Yeth?” No one knew who she was or where she came from, but it prompted their discussion to be taken inside for privacy.
Nadya, Jean Pierre, and Boris filled Melina, Alexei, and Yelena in on Constantine’s latest escape from Gulag 38B. “He was last spotted at the Red Room crash site, presumably stealing information on the Widow program,” Nadya informed.
“That’s impossible,” Yelena denied. “Natasha deleted all of it.”
“Unfortunately, that is not the case,” Nadya said. “Before he was recaptured, and while impersonating Kermit the Frog for several weeks, Constantine held secret meetings with General Dreykov. They made exchanges for information.”
“Information like the keys to a failsafe in the system, allowing Constantine to recover the deleted information on the Widows,” Jean Pierre elucidated.
“And with that information, he has now created Black Widow copycats,” Nadya stated. “One was spotted in Moscow just yesterday.”
This was a lot for Melina, Alexei, and Yelena to process.
They believed the nightmare of the Red Room and the Widow program to have been buried beneath the remains. And now it had all resurfaced because of one dangerous frog with a mole.
The windows of the homestead exploded in shards as a hail of bullets riddled through, urging everyone to take cover. It wasn’t that long ago when the homestead was infiltrated by Red Room agents, led by Taskmaster. As such, Melina made sure her humble abode was more than fortified for a follow-up attack, upping her arsenal with more weapons collected from the Red Room incident.
She, Alexei, and Yelena returned fire while Nadya, Jean Pierre, and Boris all cowered. “What are you doing?!” Nadya particularly asked Boris. “You’re supposed to be my bodyguard!”
“I ain’t got ’nuff body tuh guard ya with!” Boris griped.
After a brief moment, the gunfire ceased and all was quiet. And then a familiar redhead donned in a black skintight suit crashed through one of the windows that hadn’t yet shattered. As she landed, she crouched in that signature pose Yelena knew all too well. It was Natasha’s pose – hair flip and all.
But it wasn’t Natasha.
Although the hair, suit, and body frame were all identical, the face was a stark difference. Makes kicking her ass that much easier, Yelena thought as she engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the Black Widow copycat. As they fought, Yelena experienced a sense of déjà vu – she had only recently grappled with the real Natasha in Budapest. This copycat had all her moves. The only notable difference in this fight was that the copycat was trying to kill her.
It would have ended in the copycat’s favor if Melina had not done what she did next. “Yelena!” she called, tossing her a vial of Red Dust, a synthetic gas used to free victims of mind control. It worked on the copycat, who seized in doing any further harm to Yelena and anyone else.
“Where am I?” the dazed woman uttered. Her accent was British. She saw a lock of her red hair and reacted in shock, “Why’s my hair red? I’m a brunette!”
“Do you know who you are?” Jean Pierre asked her.
“Of course! My name is—”
Before the woman could finish identifying herself, she received one bullet to her skull and thudded to the floor, dead. The shot came from outside. Everyone looked out to see the shooter to be yet another copycat, subsequently escaping on a motorcycle.
“How many are there?” Yelena asked Nadya.
The Gulag warden shrugged and answered, “Too many.”