5032/Broken Mirrors: The Hunt

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Broken Mirrors: The Hunt
Date of Scene: 20 February 2021
Location: Moscow, Russia
Synopsis: Yelena is sent after Natalia to dispatch her, but there's a reason Natalia Romanova is the most celebrated Red Room graduate, and it shows when she comes out of the encoutner alive. But is leaving Yelena alive a mistake?
Cast of Characters: Yelena Belova, Natasha Romanoff
Tinyplot: House of Broken Mirrors

Yelena Belova has posed:
The last few days has been wild even by Red Room standards for Yelena Belova. She has been doing rather well since officially becoming the Black Widow, official heir to the deceased Natalia Romanova. She withstood all tests, came up on top, and delivered on each assignment with pristine execution. But then came something she wasn't sure was a test or not, a simple rendezvous and deliver assignment, turned into Natalia coming back from the dead.

There was some elation within Yelena, as she was sure some miracle took place and that she'll get to serve side by side with her idol.

Upon arriving at the 'clinc', it became apparent that was not the case. There were no answers given, and if anything she was signaled it's best not to worry about it. Now, a short time after, she's gotten the one message she never expected to get: 'Mission: Critical. Objective: seek & destroy. Target: Natalia Romanova.'

Yelena stared at the screen in shock. For a while she didn't even get moving, before bracing herself, and getting in full Black Widow gear before immediately going to the 'Clinc' to study the scene and get a 'scent'. Sure, Romanova was a top notch agent, a Black Widow, but so was Belova and the hunt was on.

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Leads are usually hard to come by when the scene of the crime is completely on fire, but the Red Room have their means. The make and model of all the workers vehicles - may they rest in peace - are known to them, and they're all accounted for, in varying stages of disrepair.
    There was, however, a carjacking reported in the vicnity. The car in question was found abandoned on a lonely road, on which could be found another civilian walking alone, speaking of how they were ripped out of their vehicle and abandoned. That stolen car was being driven by a deeply confused person speaking of the person who stole her vehicle, but gave them the keys for the thief's car.
    It goes on like that. The process itself isn't unusual for a pressured spy on the run. What's unusual - sloppy, even - is that these witnesses were alive to talk about it at all, greatly speeding up the investigation.
    Regardless, the last vehicle in the chain is parked crookedly beside an abandoned old warehouse; in which hides either another carjacking victim, or the deadliest assassin Russia ever produced.

Yelena Belova has posed:
Equipped with her Nayk-7 'spider' goggles, Yelena is afforded a better readout than most would expect out of a burning scene. The study is a quick one, this is no murder investigation, just a surmising for series of events, and it looks like someone didn't accurately anticipate the capability of a Black Widow. Unexpected escape, chaos, mayhem, and death. Yelena cannot help but smile. Despite her assignment, she always enjoyed to revel in Natalia's greatness. Fools. Good thing the direct rely to all Law Enforcement agencies makes it easier to get the carjacking report, which makes for the next scene, tire marks tracked by the goggles should help get on the right track. Right to the end of the road, leading to the next vehicle, clever, never keep the same ride for long.

It's a cat and mouse game, but little by little Yelena closes the gap on her motorcycle. Living points of contacts are an oddity, and very much unlike Red Room protocol. Just what has happened to Natalia since her reported death in 2016?

Reaching the warehouse, Yelena walks the perimeter first, before determining that the top would make a perfect sniper's nest, and one Widow Line to the top, she looks for a roof access, goggles set to thermal as she looks for a body heat signature that might point her in potentially Romanova's location.

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Apart from the vehicle, there's no outward sign of Romanova's presence. With Red Room training being what it is, it wouldn't be a stretch for there to be nothing here to find but a corpse, but... there were no tire tracks leaving the scene that you could make out; dim though the light may be. From the upper catwalks of the old facility, you can piles of, for lack of a better word, garbage. Stacks of old crates, construction equipment in various stages of falling apart. There's a lot of ground to cover, and thermal vision isn't giving you much more than wild rodents at first.
    Finally, obscured by the rusty husk of an old vehicle, you see hints of a shape that may well be human...
    ... but with the sudden roar of an engine, the vehicle comes aliva, producing its own distracting bright source of heat and filling the room with chaotic noise as the engine seems to choke and gasp and pop with the effort of running.
    More pressingly, Yelena might now notice a pair of cables running from the engine... and up to the far end of the extremely conducive metal catwalk Yelena is standing on, which now begins to spark with a fast, spreading electric current.

Yelena Belova has posed:
Yelena has done due diligence to assure Natalia has not fled the scene by another vehicle, and lack of tire marks prove as much. It was a safe bet to assume this was the place to encounter her target. Her choice to go via roof, spares her any potential traps along ground floor, along with a chance to get outright sniped. But as she studies the scene with the help of thermal optics, she sees little until eventually she gets the proper angle to get a lead.

The first spark of jump start cable used suggests a potential getaway in the making, but before she can reach to shoot at the car, she takes note of just where the cables seem to connect to...and the moment the spark set, she leaps off the cawalk, shooting a line to the one across from it, as she swings Spider-Man style towards the car used to trigger the trap.

"Clever, big sister, but you didn't expect it to work, did you...? I'm not 9 years old anymore..."

She hopes going down by the vehicle doesn't leave her open for a sniper shot from somewhere up to, for all she knows, maybe Natasha did rig it to be operated remotely.

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Indeed, the car seems to have been activated remotely, but given the hodgepodge nature of the rewiring... not THAT remotely. The Black Widow appears to be working on a budget right this second. Regardless, if Natasha was there a moment ago, she's not there now.
    But she hasn't gone far. As the engine coughs and sputters its last, you hear her voice, echoing all around the warehouse; difficult to place even in relative silence. "They're starting you early, these days." she remarks in response, speaking in Russian. In contrast to the engaged, passionate persona she affected at the ballet, her voice is now cold and dry; enough so that it may be difficult to read the grim humor in her words. "But I suppose the market for killers has only grown. One day you'll be nostalgic for the days when this world still made sense to you."

Yelena Belova has posed:
"That's your fault, you were not supposed to die," Yelena shoots back, trying her best to mask how much hearing that insult from her childhood hero burns. "Speaking of which, how are you alive?" She asks while sliding against the dying car to use it as cover, while anxiously scanning the surrounding, trying to ascertain she's not in the crosshairs at the moment.

"And why was the welcoming party a tranq dart?" She presses on, of course the language of choice is Russian, nothing like Russian between Red Room sisters. Smirking at the suggestion of nostalgia in her future, she quips, "I'm rather at a loss on what happened at the Clinc, you're the model Black Widow, all want to become you, Natalia, so why does it come to this...?" Seeing how Yelena's hand is ever hovering by her pistol, she doesn't have any illusions that Natalia wants to make friends right now. Then again, it's only fair, Natalia doesn't know the objective Yelena was sent under.

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    But for the sound of their voices, the spacious yet crowded area is eerily silent, lending an echo to the two assassins words. "I chose to live." is her short reply, though a moment later she affects some familiar wistfulness as she did in the theater, "A handsome Prince mended my wing, you could say, and showed me another kingdom." Her voice returns to normal as she utters, "One where monsters who torture children are the people we *stop*.
    A cat skitters across Yelena's path with a sharp hiss and the rapid little clatter of claws on concrete. Coincidence, or distraction? Hard to say with this target.
    Asked about her cold welcome, Natasha replies, "That's simple enough. I am a traitor. And, it seems... they wanted my blood. A lot of my blood, in fact. T'd ask you why, but... I'd be shocked if they've told you."
    Faint movement in the darkness, a flash of red heat darting past the opening of an alleyway of junk. "So many questions." Natasha muses aloud. "Did I hurt you so, White Swan? Or have you already began to wonder...?"

Yelena Belova has posed:
"How does one chooses to live after being killed by Hawkeye?" Yelena immediately presses, vexed by Natalia's reply, which she considers condescending. After all...what does that suppose to mean? That Yelena chooses to die? Nonsense!

The echo rendering location by voice futile, Yelena comes out of cover of the car, rushing to take a different one by defunct machinery, putting her back to the large machine while turning to sweep the catwalks up high. "Who is the prince in the story...?" She asks, entertaining the notion, before freezing into silence at the very rude descriptor of the Red Room. "...it's done for Mother Russia, Natalia, you know that better than anyone! We sacrifice to protect the many!" Of course, just as Natasha likely is, there's little doubt Yelena carried her own emotional scaring from the many harrowing experiences the children of the Red Room experience as they progress through the training. The cat passing by earns a pistol aimed right at its head, but there's no shoot forthcoming, a shot would immediately give away her new position if Natalia hadn't already noticed. "HOW!?" Yelena now screams, nevermind, that gave away precise location undoubtedly, "HOW ARE YOU A TRAITOR!? YOU DIED. Died while engaging the Hawkeye..." Yelena is seething, as lived reality clashes with truth.

"Still you insult me with the White Swan?" Yelena decideds to gain high ground again, shooting a line to grapple herself up a new catwalk for a better vantage. "I get hurt a lot, I deal with pain, my problem is being asked to lead you into a trap...that should warrant explanations, but then...traitor you say? What did you DO, Romanova?"

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Natasha doesn't need to talk, strictly speaking. And converting an ideallistic young Black Widow on the spot is a fool's errand. But alone in hostile territory, trapped in a cage with a tiger, Natasha can use any psychological advantage she can muster before the inevitable happens.
    Plus, she so rarely gets to voice what's in her heart.
    "A sacrifice is a choice we make. We were never offered a choice. Were we not 'the many'? Who was out to protect *us?* Who decided *we* had to be strong?!" For a moment, Natasha's voice is full of quivering fury, before she stops. She's not the one who needs to be off balance right now. She collects herself, and speaks again.
    "All for Mother Russia, though, right? Should I tell you? It would break your heart to learn." Natasha lets several pregnant seconds pass, moving slowly and crouching low as she cranes her head to look up at Yelena from around a corner. "I've lived so long, now. My generation is old and gray. And all that time, I served the Motherland. But one day I awoke to new faces. New rulers, with a new agenda. Some of the friends we'd defended were now our enemies, to be killed. Some of those enemies were from the old regime. But we ask no questions. We carry on..."
    "... but then it happened again... and again... sometimes it was the old masters, come back, and our enemies were the new masters. And as I killed and killed and killed, I realized what I was fighting for."
    Natasha's voice is sharp, and harsh. "Nothing." She lets the echo of that word fade before she speaks again. "Mother Russia doesn't exist. Countries, the lines on the map; they're a joke. There is no country that needs us, White Swan. Only men. Men who care for nothing but their own power and wealth. Men who need weapons to secure it."
    "... Yelena." for just that one word, Natasha sounds almost desperate, "... there's a whole other group of girls. They're training your replacement right now. Disappearing, one by one. I'll destroy the Red Room to free them. I'll burn Russia to the ground to stop this happening again. And if that means killing you, too..."
    With a sudden loud impact, a Widows Line embeds itself in the wall centimeters from Yelena's head - possibly where her head had just been. "... then I'll bury you beside them!"
    All at once, Natalia Romanova appears, seeming to fly towards the catwalk, propelled upward by the reeling Widows line with a grimace on her face, and a boot aimed upwards towards Yelena's head; a flurry of vibrant red hair and muted black fabric; the Black Widow, dressed as the Red Room had always presented her.

Yelena Belova has posed:
"Yes...we all make that sacrifice," Yelena reminds Natasha angrily, "as did you!" But then Natasha brings up a point that Yelena really has no answer to, the sacrifice isn't done by choice for any of the Red Room cadets, all of the girl kinda-sorta wind there, without real action on their part. Most at an age where they are far too young to even make choices.

"I..." Yelena is a bit stunned by the thought that they are part of the many, being the few protecting the many, protecting Mother Russia, is so drilled into Red Room cadets, it never even occured to her as a possibility, "we do it because we can!" She finally shoots back, angry that Natasha is introducing any doubt to what she was taught.

"...I don't understand," Yelena quips, she has no idea just how much older than her Natasha truly is, she always thought of her as a senior of maybe 10 years at best, clearly the best Black Widow ever produced by the Red Room, a hero of Russia, and a fine instructor, everything to aspire towards. But Natasha is talking of old and gray generation? Seeing new rulers and agendas? What...was she from Soviet times? It didn't make sense.

"What do you mean nothing...? Russia is a greater country for your deeds! Your heroics! I wanted to be like you so I can be a hero too, so I can serve Russia!" Yelena by now is screaming at Natasha, her holy relics being marred, Natasha herself apparently having become a traitor, it's a terrible thing when you learn that your childhood hero is not who you thought she was.

That line about men, is a destructive one, true, there are some women higher ups in the Red Room, such as dear 'mother' Lyudmila, but it is always the men pulling the strings. Always the men who most affect things, such as her cherished mentor Starkovsky who paid a steep price. But to say there are no countries? What are the Americans if not an enemy? The USA is real sure as Russia is...isn't it?

But as Natasha talks of burning Russia to the ground, of destroying the Red Room, it snaps Yelena out of her momentary doubt, and brings to the surface the burning zeal drilled into her through years of Red Room tortu...training. "If you want to kill me, I will have to kill you first, sister!" Yelena snaps, and while she's ready to fight, Natasha may have just given herself enough of an edge by getting Yelena so emotionally rattled. A rarity for a Black Widow.

Yelena just evades the hook of the widow's line getting embedded into the wall. But she knows full well what's coming, and thanks to the hook, she has a trajectory, she prepares by extending a garrote out of her gauntlet, and as Natasha comes flying at her, she spins around while trying to wrap the garrote around Natasha's incoming leg, rolling into the catwalk to try and through Natasha off balance by pulling down on the tied leg, assuming she succeeds in her maneuver.

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Natasha's efforts seem to have been successful in the short term, but she is sorely disappointed if she thought that was going to earn her a victory on the very first move against a Black Widow.

    Natasha's boot collides with the metal wall hard enough to dent it, as garrotte wire wraps around her leg. Natasha falls, landing on her foot, but finds her outstretched leg pulled backwards and downwards.

    Natasha lands awkwardly with one knee brought painfully into the catwalk grating, while her other boot stays planted. She kicks off with that leg and rolls *towards* Yelena, looking to either take her legs out from under her, or pressure her to back off.

Yelena Belova has posed:
Yelena would love to hold the commanding grasp she has on Natasha's trapped leg through the garrote wire, but unfortunately, Natasha is the OG Black Widow, she knows at this point she needs to take the initiative before the fight is decided for her. With Natasha rolling towards Yelena with her free leg to try and bring her down to her level, Yelena has to make a choice.

If she's going to be brought down, it's going to be on her terms, so she lets go of the wire keeping one of Natasha's legs trapped, and instead bring herself down before Natasha can connect, trying to land a knee to Natasha's shoulder area. This isn't going to be a cake walk for either of them. At least not talking and focusing on the fight is helping Yelena refocus after Natasha managed the rare fit of rattling her with words.

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    In fairness, most people would have been killed by the grapple before Natasha had even finished talking. If Natalia Romanova was ever easy to handle, she wouldn't have lived through puberty.

    With her leg freed, Natasha adds another half rotation to her roll, and narrowly avoids Yelena's knee. Landing on her back, Natasha reaches for the grating under her head, hooks her fingers through the holes, pushes her lower body upward with one leg, and lashes out with the other, swinging it upward towards Yelena.

    In the same movement, Natasha twists her body, her legs 'helicoptering outward for one rotation as she basically balances entirely on her hands, before pushing off of the grate and landing on her feet.

    Expression tense, eyes blazing, Natasha coldly offers her response to being called a 'hero'. "I've met Heroes, Belova. They're not like us."

Yelena Belova has posed:
Yelena did not expect the released leg to give Natasha quite that much edge, most would still be disoriented, but perhaps that's why Black Widow, Natalia Romanova is such a legendary figure in the Red Room. Yelena winds up not only missing her mark in Natasha's shoulder, but winding up in a more vulnerable position, down on her knees. She brings her arms up in time to block Natasha's first kick as she flips herself back upright, but the second gets a solid connection with Yelena's chin, knocking her backwards on her back.

This new position being far too vulnerable, Yelena is quick to shoot a Widow's bite at Natasha. A hit might just give her a win, but even if Natasha evades, it will at least buy Yelena enough time to kick flip back on her feet. "Oh yes...? Who are those heroes who are so much better enough? Captain America wearing flag as uniform? That man?"

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Natasha pitches backwards, narrowly avoiding the Widow's Bite, which singes the end of some of her hair as it passes over her. Her body is nearly horizontal before she plants one hand on the ground and forcibly shoves herself back into an upright position.

    "You'd be surprised." She says with, oddly, a hint of wistfulness about her. "I've met powerful people. Literal Gods who could treat our world as a playground for their own whims. People who'd who'd be foolish NOT to." Natasha glares. "And they'd be confused if I asked them to lie."

    Natasha lashes out, punching sharply, avoiding exposing her sides to Yelena, occasionally lashing out with a boot to drive her backwards as she speaks. "People who couldn't stop being sincere to save their own lives. People who could do anything they wanted, and they put themselves in danger to help the weak just because they *can*. Gullible simpletons. Egomaniacs, outcasts, fools, and junkies." Natasha smirks a little. "Heroes."

    During a brief pause in her efforts, Natasha says "I'd be ashamed of myself, if people like us weren't still necessary." before she twists around 360 degrees and lashes one leg out in a backspin kick that, whether it touches Yelena or not, plants the sole of her boot into the railing mid swing, halting her spin, and then kicks off of it to sweep towards Yelena again from the opposite direction.

Yelena Belova has posed:
Just observing how Natasha shifts from almost dropping herself to avoid the widow's bite, into pushing herself back upright with just a single hand, has Yelena hearing in the back of her mind those voices that accompanied her throughout her training: 'Romanova did it faster', 'Romanova got a higher score', 'Romanova completed with fewer terminations', and so on and so forth. But watching her in person, in an actual serious combat, Yelena had to admit it was just breathtaking to behold. Unfortunately, she wasn't her to admire, but to fight.

"But lies sometimes serve the purpose, a single lie and do the service of a single bullet, you learned the same lessons, Natalia," Yelena still takes offense at the teaching of the Red Room being so ill spoken of.

The added conversation element, particularly with Natasha pressing the very same buttons, has Yelena withdrawing along the catwalk, blocking just as fast as Natasha dishes, but being forced backwards little by little nonehteless. One arm block, leg block, and everytime she losses a step back in retreat, the conversation distracting her enough from pursuiting the next opening.

"We. Are. Necessary." Yelena hisses, as she keeps blocking expertly, eventually ducking underneath that backspun kick, and when the leg rests on the railing, she goes down hard with chopping strike, meaning to break Natasha's leg, only to be struck with the other, getting her head knocked into the railing, and as she falls down towards the catwalk, she attempts to at least ensnare Natasha's leg which was resting on the railing into her grasp. If she misses that with her fall, it seems like Natasha's attempts to spew propoganda at her won't matter for long. It so sickens her that Mother was right...Romanova was faster, stronger, better...

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    "GGNN!" Natasha grunts sharply as she's dragged downwards with Yelena's weight on her leg, pulled under the railing, which she barely manages to grab with both hands, stopping them both from falling. Gritting her teeth against the strain, Natasha releases the railing with one hand, and aims it up towards the roof, firing a Widow Line from her gauntlet which embeds in the metal.

    That done, Natasha lets go of the railing completely and allows herself to swing forward, putting Yelena in safe dropping distance at the bottom of the arch, before she detaches the wire and hits the ground boots first, turning her momentum into a forward roll to minimize the damage the fall could cause, and to gain her some distance among the junk and wreckage on the ground level.

    "We're monsters, is what we are." She retorts breathlessly as she whips around and fires a crackling Widows Bite at Yelena.

Yelena Belova has posed:
If you dare, you are more likely to win, and so Yelena proceeds to latch on tightly to the leg she grasped and tries to roll off the railing to bring Natasha down with her. However, Natasha was already expecting as much, and she's pretty much had her Widow Line fired already, leaving Yelena dangling from her leg as she goes for a swing. Getting pretty close to losing control of this altercation, if she hasn't already, Yelena reaches for her thigh holstered pistol, but before she can get a killing shot on Natasha, the line is cut and they both plummet. At this point Yelena has to choose, stay with the aim for the kill shot and likely cripple herself on a bad fall, or make sure she's perfectly fine to keep fighting and look for another chance. She decides to not take a hit when faced with the likes of Natalia, she holsters her pistol and fires a line to slow her fall, detaching it a moment after it connects.

Turns out mother was right, Romanova is faster, when Yelena turns to face where she heard Natalia hit the ground with her roll, it's just in time to get hit with a widow's bite. She's accustomed to taking down targets with it, knocking out target with it, and came within inches of hitting Natasha with one earlier. Now, she wound up being targetted by the main weapon in a Black Widow's arsenal, and while she may be more formidable than most who get hit by it, that only means she'll survive, and perhaps gain conciousness faster, assuming Natalia doesn't eliminate her when she's out. Because she doesn't manage much but jolt about and collapse on her side, knocked out by the charge of the bite. She didn't even get to answer Natalia's quip.

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Natasha's eyes stay coldly fixed on Yelena as Natasha approaches her prone form. Quickly, methodically, she takes Yelena's gauntlets - newer models than when she left, divergent from how Shield has been maintaining Natasha's - and takes Yelena's pistol for her own. She's going to need as much equipment as she can get away with at this rate.

    But it'll be easier without a Black Widow on her tail.

    Natasha briefly checks the clip on the pistol, before reinserting it, and pointing the gun at Yelena's head.

    Long seconds pass, the silence so oppressive that a mouse dare not squeak. Finally, with a sigh, Natasha holsters the pistol on her thigh. "... And I've gone soft." Watching Yelena now, she sees so much of the obssession that drove her when she was young, the strength of which helped break her heart when she learned it was all for nothing. In a worst case scenario, she's setting up her own murder by sparing Yelena; and the deaths of many others, for generations. Best case scenario, she's setting Yelena up for a lot of pain, on the otherside of which provides room for more potential.

    Natasha Romanoff is not an optimist.

    But she's been hanging around a lot of them for awhile.

    "You danced well, little Swan." Natasha says softly in her native language, before she turns around and walks away. Quietly, she adds, "I hope you find your wings."