4511/Broken Mirrors: The Found

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Broken Mirrors: The Found
Date of Scene: 28 December 2020
Location: Service Station in Upstate New York
Synopsis: Natasha is contacted by 'Mother' and receives an invitation to come home.
Cast of Characters: Nadia Pym-van Dyne, Natasha Romanoff

Nadia Pym-van Dyne has posed:
It's late, really late, that time of night when even most night owls are sound asleep. Tonight, however, that does not include Natasha Romanoff, who lies awake and restless. According to the glowing face of a digital clock it's a little after 2am. The feeling is a strange one, akin to stir craziness, the need to just get outside, to get away from wherever she is, and be somewhere else.

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Generally speaking, Natasha's pretty good at... compartmentalizing. Of only thinking about what she needs to think about and filing everything else away. Helps her work. Helps her sleep at night. Helps her look at herself in the mirror.
    Tonight, it seems like that's not happening. She's been on edge ever since... since She found out Natasha was alive. Started triple checking to make sure she always had a gun nearby. Tried to take solace from being holed up in a castle full of gods and monsters. It's not as effective as you'd think.
    Natasha knows how she'd get her.
    Tonight she can't sleep. Tonight she gets up. Where? She's not thinking about it.

Nadia Pym-van Dyne has posed:
Natasha soon finds herself in the mansion's garage where all of the vehicles are stored. Perhaps a drive will help clear her head, at the very least it's a quick way to get far away.

It's strange, while on the surface it feels like a desire to be anywhere but here, her subconcious seems to have some destination in mind that she is 'wandering' towards.

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Natasha's measured, controlled, thoughtful demeanor seems absent at this moment. She wastes precious seconds looking over the cars stored in the garage as though she were seeing them for the first time. As if suddenly remembering which one is hers, she moves suddenly to step inside and start the ignition, staring into the rearview mirror for several seconds before she begins to drive; moving with almost reckless urgency to a destination she knows she has to reach.

Nadia Pym-van Dyne has posed:
The drive continues for some time. Down this street, up that one, merge onto the highway. The strength of the stir crazy urge fades little by little as Natasha gets further away from the mansion, further away from New York City, past Westchester county and into the region people in NYC generally start to call 'upstate'.

At some point an exit is taken and the car rolls into a deserted service station, nearly out of gas. The place seems deserted save for a single attendant sequestered away in a rundown minimart away from the pumps.

As the engine dies, the feeling that brought Natasha all the way out here into the middle of nowhere fades completely. Just in time for a knock on the glass. Standing just outside the vehicle appears to be a young Lyudmila Kudrin, before she reached the limits of chemically enhancement, before the cybernetics, no older than say Natasha herself.

"Natalia dear, don't you think it's time you came home?"

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Natasha doesn't come to her senses with a start. The transition from her mindset before, and her mindset now was not the sharp pulling of a plug, but a gentle slope. It took several precious seconds for her to question where she was.
    A service station.
    Why is she at a service station.
    Because she's low on gas.
    She's out of gas because she drove so long. She drove so long to get here. Why? Becayse she needed to come here.
    Why did she need to come here?
    As this chain attains more links in her mind, her heart begins to race with mounting alarm as she rapidly realizes that she can't explain her own actions, and has neatly stranded herself in an unfamiliar place.
    And then a familiar face knocks on her window.
    A lot of Natasha's nightmares more or less start this way. Deeply ingrained instincts kick in, though precious few can help or or make sense of this situation. Her face remains expressionless, not because of any great control, but because she was conditioned not to need control. Her face will only portray what she chooses to portray under duress, generally. Why? For a variety of reasons, not the least of which is to avoid giving away fear and anxiety in a situation exactly like this.
    In heartbeat, Natasha reaches into her glove box and pulls out a semi-automatic handgun. She points it at Lyudmila, pulls the trigger... and ears a hollow click for her trouble.
    Now she gets to question why she threw her ammunition clip out the window during the drive.
    As tense as she's ever been in her life, and feeling, oddly, almost embarrassed to have had that happen in front of THIS woman of all people, Natasha very slowly opens her car door and steps outside.
    Natasha stares at Lyudmila, her gaze intense... yet unwilling to look this woman directly in the eyes. <... Mother.>" She finally tersely speaks in Russian, her hands subtly shaking. <I have no home.>

Nadia Pym-van Dyne has posed:
<Careful now,> 'Lyudmila' admonishes Natasha as she tries to fire her gun, <Wouldn't want to draw any attention.> She gestures towards the minimart with its lone bored attendant in the distance before looking back to Natasha.

'Lyudmila' then steps back, seemingly to allow Natasha to exit the vehicle. Up close there is something uncanny about her, though it is difficult to place, a little too perfect perhaps, and young, and why would she even be all the way out here? <Oh, but you do. Only one really. Well anymore.> She makes a motion like she's checking a watch. <You probably shouldn't go back to where you were hiding. Your friends are going to have a lot of questions for you right about now. After what you did. But you are always welcome to come home, you were always one of the strongest. At home, you'll be safe.>

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Natasha struggles to move. Struggles to speak. This has nothing to do with training or official conditioning. It's simply a lesson learned in childhood that is not easily forgotten.
    You do not interrupt Mother.
    You do not talk back to Mother.
    You do not raise your voice to Mother.
    Taking a slow, uneven breath, Natasha speaks, her voice as emotionless as her face. Another shield, yet she still manages to sound very subtly childish when she says <... I don't want to.> Natasha's right hand flexes as if preparing to reach for a gun that isn't there. Almost as if she's imagining it. Like a source of courage. <You don't... you don't->Natasha stops suddenly, her heart skipping a beat as Mother's wording registers properly in her mind.
    <... What *I* did?>

Nadia Pym-van Dyne has posed:
'Lyudmila' smiles at her, <Yes, what you did. You might want to check your alerts from SHIELD. Really, you were very helpful. It is doubtful we could have taken those girls back if not for you. Though I imagine your former friends are going to be quite upset about it.> Despite her matronly demeanor there is some extra emphasis on the word 'former'. <You can always come home though dear, where you belong.>

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Natasha's blood runs cold, and she reaches for her phone so quickly you'd think she was following Lyudmila's command. The growing list of alerts sends her confused thoughts racing, practically hearing sirens in her head until she hears Lyudmila speak of the other girls, her gaze snapping back to the older - yet unnaturally young - woman.
    <What have you done?> She whispers, her mounting alarm and fury masked by a dull monotone, the blank look on her face lending an unnatural eerie contrast to the panther-like movements of her body as she suddenly marches forward, growing faster with every step. <If you've touch a single hair on their heads-> she begins to threaten as her hands lunge out for Lyudmilla's throat... and pass straight through her, as though she were simple air.
    Of course. Of course she wouldn't expose herself like this. It explains her youthful appearance. It would almost be a relief to learn that Mother hadn't regained her vitality on top of everything else if this weren't... so... frustrating.

Nadia Pym-van Dyne has posed:
'Lyudmila' stands there calm and composed, watching and waiting as Natasha checks her phone for alerts. While she maintains her matronly air about her, she almost seems to be savoring Natasha's reactions. Monotone though she may be, her body language says more than enough. It is hard to mistake an attempt to choke the life out of someone after all. Though 'Lyudmila' keeps her composure even as the hands pass through her. <Temper temper Natalia. You always were so very angry, at everyone and everything. What have I done? Only taken back my daughters, with your help. Your invaluable help.>

She places her hands on her hips as she continues to regard Natasha, now with a touch of admonishment. <Did you really think anything that happened in that Siberian bunker was truly beyond my calculations? The Red Room will continue, one way or another. /I/ would never dream of harming those girls... what they do to each other...> she shrugs, <Though perhaps if you came home, they wouldn't be needed? Think about it.>

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Natasha pulls her hands back and lets them fall to her side, trembling as she begins to breathe heavily, as if that's now the only inadequette vent for the feelings that just drove her to try to murder someone. Her hair now tousled, Natasha stares at Lyudmila through the erratic veil of her bangs, gritting her teeth as she asks, <You'd let them go?> She asks, her incredulity masked by her expressionless voice. <... Where are you?>

Nadia Pym-van Dyne has posed:
'Lyudmila' chuckles for a moment, <Natalia, think about it logically. What is worth more to me, one of my finest children ever, who remains extremely capable, or going through all of the trouble of raising a new one?>

When Natasha asks where Lyudmila is, the Russian woman just shakes her head. <Natalia, you of all people should know it doesn't work like that. If you want to come home, just come to the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, someone will find you and take you where you need to go. Though if you don't want to be caught you should probably hurry, I imagine they are already looking for you.>

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Natasha stares silently at Lyudmila for a long moment. Logic. Of course. But logic can lead to all kinds of little conclusions when you're a spy. When you're making monsters. Natasha's own class started out larger than it ended. One by one, pretty little girls stopped appearing for training. The servings at mealtime got bigger. Questions were not permitted. One can assume the Red Room didn't need them anymore.
    It's possible that they were all released to good homes. It's possible they all became happy wives and mothers; Got modest jobs and lived modest lives until they were old and grey. But logically...
    Natasha simply replies, very coldly, with an ambiguity of intention born from an eerie lack of emotion: <... I will find you.>

Nadia Pym-van Dyne has posed:
'Lyudmila' just smiles her motherly smile at Natasha, <That's a good girl, Natalia. I look forward to it.> Unflappable to the end, it's almost like she didn't detect the threat hidden in Natasha's words, but of course she did, she had a hand in raising Natasha after all. Which of course begs the question, what is she really up to?

But just like that, she is gone and Natasha finds herself alone at the rest stop save for the flickering of neon lights that only half work and the lone distant presence of the attendant in the minimart, who still doesn't seem to have noticed anything amiss.

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    And just like that, Natasha's alone. Really... properly alone. Again.
    It's not like she hasn't set up contingencies for this.
    Natasha takes a moment to straight her hair as she reaches back into the cab of her car to retrieve her empty pistol. She checks the fuel level again. Almost empty.
    She holds the gun behind her back as she approaches the minimart, steps inside, and walks up to the counter. There's a smile on her face. Kind, warm, and approachable. Immaculately, lovably human.
    She grabs the attendant by the collar, hauls him halfway over the counter, and puts the barrel of the gun under his chin. "I need all the money in the register." She says simply. "And your car keys."
    It's a long way to Moscow.