6859/FLASHBACK: Things Go Bump In The Night

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FLASHBACK: Things Go Bump In The Night
Date of Scene: 09 July 2021
Location: Red Room Academy
Synopsis: Two young daughters of Russia, each on their respective path of horrors, meet in one particularly bleak place, the Red Room. There's death as one might expect, but it's never the main point. Who is Magik? What is Magik?
Cast of Characters: Yelena Belova, Illyana Rasputina

Yelena Belova has posed:
Everything Yelena remembers about her life is the Red Room, she couldn't have possibly been born there, but that's all there is. There's no before, and for the life of her she can never even envision an after. There's Red Room, and the ultimate goal, become a Black Widow. Just like the great Natalia Romanova.

The problem is that lesser students in the Red Room tend to die, because it is survival of the fittest. To that end, Yelena has decided that no one will ever best her, and she will succeed Natalia as the next Black Widow to graduate.

How does Yelena get so good? Cheating. Not through actual cheating, that is frowned upon and punishable, unless actual subterfuge is used. But cheating in the form of doing extra training, sneaking out of the dorms after hour for more exercise, more fighting, more weapons training, more everything. She had to be the best.

It's not that she was so good that none of the instructors had ever noticed, but her efforts were only making her better, and in turn pushed other cadets harder. So she was allowed to think she's getting away with sneaking about for extra training.

The 'dojo' such as it were, was a cold, empty space. At this time of night, it was also very dark, and in order to not draw attention to her sneaking about, Yelena took to training in the dark. Working through her katas, and punishing the training dummies.

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
Russia uses hardship as a carrot and secrecy as a goad to shape its children. Other nations favour coddling their young. Little ones in safe, swaddled cocoons can barely be allowed to bump into one another. Red ink mustn't be spilled on their documents lest it harm some impressionable forming mind. Other cultures beat uniformity into a synchronous goal through cram schools and endless parades where individuality is a sin, but again, these pressure cooker environments seem the norm and hardly involve actual brutality.

But the great northern nation truly forged by Peter the Great in its tottering modernity favoured the hardship and the rough treatment that only a sailor could get. Long hours, crap rations, and the certainty the environment and your buddies might actually kill you in your sleep goes a long way to shaping Russian youth.

Standard Russian education is a cakewalk next to the Red Room, where the catalyst to refine away those impurities for a higher goal serving the Rodina -- the Motherland -- might have a trail of bodies. All for the better, no? Willing and able candidates can be plucked from just about anywhere.

Sometimes they pluck the wrong candidates.

Usually those become apparent at the get-go or soon enough, when the mental flaws crack childish minds. When immature bodies can't stand up to the ghastly demands. When batteries of tests reveal a canker in the heart of the tree, something to be pruned out before they waste valuable resources. Among the many girls inculcated by the training regimen, one has a hidden quality that would make her dross to her superiors and trainers. It also makes her fantastically valuable to the right person. Right now, Svetlana is not important to anyone.

How Illyana Rasputina knows about this unassuming thirteen-year-old is unimportant. The answer's there on the tin. Ask Stalin or any Communist of the old guard about that family name, and they'll spit tacks or .22s.

One more teenager in a Red Room facility would normally have triggered guards, soldiers, watchers, handlers. All those people that young, learning Widows in the program know never to trust. Problem is, it requires conventional arrivals.

Instead of a winter-pale blonde standing there in the dark, moments after a light flickered too bright. The cold storage section used sometimes for server farms and others for inconvenient bodies to await removal might be alarming if it weren't so short-lived. Just a second or two, the weak bulb flickers. Then it goes out, and night prevails. Surely no distraction at all.

Of course, Natalia Romanova would notice it.

Maybe her heir does too.

Yelena Belova has posed:
Yelena is working hard, but at the same time, she's ever alert. That much has been ingrained to her in training, the first lesson is always jarring, none of the girls know to be alert and suddenly a classmate dies. It's usually the luck of the draw, but the death serves as quite a memorable highlight on the lesson's main message: always be alert, and you may survive.

This alertness, makes Yelena take note of a ghostly visage, one moment there and one moment not. It would be easy to dismiss it as a result of being tired, a bit of active imagination, but Yelena knows that what was once there and soon isn't, can very well soon end her. She draws her pistol and approaches to investigate.

Why does a young girl get allowed a pistol? Why it's part of the training, ever vigilant, ever familiar with your weaponry, ever ready to kill. Oh, there are safety lectures too, but mostly to ensure the safety is properly disengaged when needed.

The language spoken, is obviously Russian, befitting the time and place, as she calls out, "if you tell Mother I am out of bed, she will know you were out of bed as well," smart to let a potential rival think a bit before she tries to gain an upper hand through good old fashioned tattle telling. Besides, 'Mother' isn't quite the nurturing caring woman most would expect as a result of the moniker, she just happens to be chief handler of the Widows and cadets, and the name is almost ironic considering how many of her precious little girls she had dispatched herself. Simply because anything less of perfection is an affront to Mother.

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
Nothing like a good club to the back of the head or a knife swinging at the exposed thigh or calf to end a bit of a workout. How many of those weapons do the girls themselves wield? There must be a tally somewhere. Deft hands turning on sparring partners or the intractable soldiers that teach small birds to become lethal harriers. Friendship is expensive in the Red Room. Another lesson; today an ally, tomorrow a corpse.

The cold room by its name is well-insulated. That usually means well soundproofed, but here in Russia, the money is better spent elsewhere. Or perhaps that's the great trick; expect it to be shoddy and maybe no one hears the gun go off. No grunts audible to a guard shivering in a midweight jacket, on his rounds with the particular tells and experience of someone raised to FSB or GRU standards.

Mother must trust these unwelcome men in her domain, for they answer wholly to an apparatus greater than any simple spy agency. The same faceless men break the girls over their knees as guide them back into their chambers or roll them on gurneys into waiting laboratories and sickrooms. Women are just as cruel, perhaps crueler, calling out the dance lessons, the targets, and the punishments for being out late and being so sloppy as to get caught.

When Yelena calls, her voice saturates the air in a chilly way. The guard slows but doesn't halt, training putting his back to the wall and listening for footsteps.

Aside from a Widow, the only ones to be found are memories of his own. Perils await little spiders not wise enough to cover up their progress, but the interloper is no spider but the golden-haired princess of those old stories.

She is by far too fair to be Marya Morevna, but just as cunning and quick, stepping into a cool doorway. The lock that stymies picks and sets off an alarm sequence when triggered (two injured, one dead because of that failure) would block Illyana from achieving the server room, but she has no need at all to get inside. Just put her back flat to it, surveying the cold, flat corridor separating one building from another.

<<Come out, come out, wherever you are>> goes the old refrain in English. But the Russian girl in a den of assassins doesn't smile. Svetlana is the target, clearly not outside here but in one of the adjacent bunkers with likely no windows worth worrying about. The guard stands between her and Yelena; the wall between her and those baby Widows yet surviving.

A distraction, then, is the simplest sort. A flick of her wrist severs a doorknob and sends it plummeting from three or four meters midair. Metal orb hitting the ground: a recipe for jumping back or springing forward, especially when it's abruptly /there/ as though lobbed by someone. Grenade? Let them waste seconds finding out as she shifts through the shadows, a mute teenaged target surely the easiest they've had in years to hunt.

Yelena Belova has posed:
The dance lessons indeed...some would mistake those to be the most benign of the lessons offered at the Red Room, but that would be wrong. The most vicious and brutal are the dance lessons, and a main role there is a sure sign one cadet has been placed above all others. More the focus of the different rivalries. But Yelena has been notrious for brutally ending rivalries in the open, defiant, vicious, and for whatever reason getting praise from 'Mother' for being a 'good girl' and taking care to clean up a 'mess'. Over time it made the other girls more wary about accosting Yelena.

Yelena hasn't a clue she might have stumbled on something larger than a cursory attempt by another cadet to achieve evidence of breaking curfew, to get an upper hand in class position. So when there's no response to her logic, she goes very quiet herself, stealthing about with her weapon drawn. Her breath has become quiet controlled, one would have to listen very still and carefully to catch note of her approach.

It's the sound of the metal orb clinging against the ground, that has Yelena rushing for cover behind one of the firm supportive columns of the area, for a moment exposing her position in the sudden rush for saftey. She knows grenades, knows the damage they do, and the sound they make when thrown. This definitely seems like just that...but from behind her cover, she peeks, taking interest...

How would dare attack the Red Room? If she could catch the interloper, she might be in for quite a sum of extra credit!

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
Another cadet out for a glimpse at the outside world through a screen is implausible. One seeking their own scraps from the kitchen, a chance encounter to earn favours one of the many unnamed ways the Red Room accepts with a blind eye, more likely. Unfriendly comrades with white pudding smiles mince lightly through the night, listening at windows or scaling walls. Depending on the girl's motivations, she might want a sweet or another notch in her tally, someone else out of the way.

There could still be those rivals haunting the night, spectres unaware of what lurks in their pool in the great Volga basin. Worse things than memories of Tatars and the khanate's hordes still tiptoe on leather-shod boots.

The guard doesn't foolishly round the wall to put himself in open space. Training says seek higher ground, cover, a clear exit plan if one of his trainees has an idea or something worse might be at hand. His comms can sync up to a flotilla of defensive options; one word and the floodlights might come on, the many little corners of a warren filling up with trained soldiers and killers eager to stamp out the pest in their sight.

He doesn't swear, then, when the metal object hits the ground. Nor is there a waste of bullets giving away his position; he too flinches back like Yelena herself does. The expected impact against the wood-shod wall never happens. His back rests to the building, the piece drawn as an unconscious reflex. His breathing sears sharp enough that a quiet "Report" is almost expected.

Something is activated. Someone. The hornets' nest just took a kick and the denizens might be waking up. One little spider and a bigger stinger are sure to be moving, even seeing each other in the night as the guard leaves cover to cross and seek a better vantage point for the source. Said girl is already well on the move, approaching the larger building that hovers over the rest in a grim fantasy of brutalist architecture welded with the overt opulence in a bygone age, chipped away of its excesses and pieced back together by Mother and her superior officers to be a cradle for murderers aplenty.

No need to kick the door open. Illyana's target no longer has a handle to be a problem. It nudges open to a touch of her fingers, and she slips within, a phantom infiltrating what can only be assumed to be a dormitory or somewhere that leads to one. Having a bead on Svetlana is not the same as knowing exactly where she is among all those rooms, and what fun is it to just pluck trouble from the bush? A little walk will do. One rooted in stealth; no point in dropping the whole house on her head. Stairs lead up. As nice as a window entry would be, it's not in the cards for blonde mutant as a convenient point. And be in plain sight? Never.

//Along came a spider, and sat down beside her....//

Yelena Belova has posed:
Finally Yelena gets a better grasp of the situation, there is an intruder, and there is precisely one guard aware. That the intruder is after this or that, is no concern, the possible reward is the only thing infront of her eyes.

The poor guard doesn't see it coming when he's hit with a sleeping dart from a blow gun, Yelena cleverly deciding to take her competition out of the equation. If anyone is catching this intruder, it would be her, and Mother would be OH. SO. PLEASED.

Rushing past the door that collapsed, she does her best to track the movement of the intruder unaware she is a mutant.

Unlike Illyana, she has the edge of knowing most of the surrounding, which building is which, and her guess is that the intruder is after the dorms themselves, so that is where she goes.

She doesn't of course know of Svetlana, or any other girl being a target perse. But she does know how precious all the girls are, and how truly worried for their well being Mother is. After all, there wouldn't be so many armed guards to keep them safely in the Red Room, when they cannot be harmed by the outside world. Only the Red Room's instructors and fellow cadets.

<<I know you are there...you had best turn back...>> Yelena warns, of course, she doesn't mean it. She wants her reward from Mother, she wants a body she can show. Pistol still in hand.

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
An intruder could be anyone. A real threat? A penetration effort by security forces testing the Red Room, one of their own co-opted on a different mission altogther are just as likely. Here, no truth is the only truth.

The guard drops to the ground with his commlink still active, the report incomplete except for that soft groan and the patter of boots on the ground. His body lies prostrate; likely not dead. GRU gets angry about their personnel treated so cheaply and while the Red Room has an endless supply of fodder, they do not enjoy recruitment of adults quite so much. Guards often have opinions. There may be an antidote on hand and medical assistance on the way while the various security details activate different technological barriers and impediments.

The reward is the only thing.

Svetlana is another doe-eyed beauty like they seem to cultivate; sharp cheekbones, soft eyes, hard bodies and cruel hands a side benefit of the look. To turn them all into lean little dancers along the model exemplified by the Russian prima ballerinas in Moscow and St. Petersburg, now the top models traipsing around Nice and Montenegro, is no mean feat. Therein lies the danger; Illyana looks just like those girls with two key differences. Not quite so young as the youngest, and definitely not quite so sweet. Hers is a seraphic appearance with ancient eyes, the dead giveaway if anyone meets it.

Stairs, an escape. Up -- ah, perfect. How many girls have braved trying to slide through the ducts and the old dead-ends between floors? Is it true they left one up there to be buried alive, hearing the rush of footsteps and chatter when class let out? Ghost stories. Except among the ghosts is an outsider, and the light sleepers trained not to talk when unconscious might be there to get the Rasputina girl first if Yelena doesn't hurry.

Something stirs. In a word, the angelic blonde rounds another pillar and waits in a miasma of nightfall. Sin envelops them all here. She can taste it. A darker part smiles at it.

Up. Up the stairs, into that narrow slot that probably used to have a dumbwaiter for the servants to dump aristocratic clothing down to the subbasement laundry. A body could fit in there. Might be a good place to hide. _Where_ is she?

Another object drops down the hall. Clink! A coin rolls lazily toward Yelena.

Yelena Belova has posed:
As Yelena sets her chase after Illyana, she lingers at every possible solution to her prey's whereabouts. A laundry duct, behind a column, sneaking under this bed or that. Perhaps even in a closet....

Yelena makes a slow progress, sharp blue eyes shifting to and fro, scanning what little is illuminated from the moon through windows here and there. Searching for clues, seeking to find an intuition when suddenly....

A coin rolls at her feet, and she looks directly upwards at its estimated path, gun already pointing in that direction. <<Who are you? What do you want? Do you even know where you are...? There are so many ways for you to die here, you will not kill us, you will not end us, are you an American spy?>>

There's something to be told of the propoganda the girls grow up with at the Red Room, the world is very black and white. The good, Mother Russia, which they protect with their lives, doing any manner of untoward things. The bad, the Americans, who cause all evils in the world. The rest fall somewhere on the spectrum, but for the most part, if they're not Russian, they are proabbly bad guys.

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
A closet makes an excellent hiding spot but terrible when it comes to escaping. No way out, one way in. Inconvenient in a nest dripping with death.

Illyana's not using a bed as cover, though a contraband magazine and an extra knife come to Yelena's sight from an unoccupied furnishing once occupied by one of her sisters. No longer, alas. Is that a pair of boots in the distance, making the shadows of an ill-lit room seem bright?

The coin rolls and comes to a halt. An old kopek worn by time and many clutching hands shows the hallmarks of being one of the new set produced by the central bank of Russia, and not a Soviet effigy from years gone by. Trust a Russian to be so tight-fisted they wear the edges off, though. Nothing odd about it. Just a chit, barely enough to place a call with if there was a pay phone within range. One not bugged by the Red Room, anyway.

What would its dear spiders call about, anyway? Hello, Mama, I'm doing great... No.

Mother Russia needs her heroines, her defenders, the daughters of the Motherland willing to rise up and fight for her. All the world beyond her forested borders cannot be trusted. Where the boundaries blur beyond steppe and rich farmland, poisonous indolence and untrustworthy schemes of the outside world seep in. To be strong is to stand apart, against these tides.

But if one of your own turns...

A slow, crooning song emanates from her lips, just a short bit of verse. Illyana sings -- it /will/ stand out. Give her away. Such is the point, perhaps, from a quiet dark corner.

<<No otec tvoj staryj voin,
Zakalen v boju:
Spi, maljutka, bud? spokoen,

Svetlana slowly stirs, a blanket shrugging off her shoulder. Do her sisters? Do they share rooms, or is it one or two each?

Yelena Belova has posed:
The rooming of course is a matter of position across the ladder of excellence, most share a great hall of beds, select few gets roommates of similar perfection, but the utmost, the 'head girl' as it were, might be afforded a room of her own. For all to bask, for all to be jealous of, and for all to know where their main target is. Surviving that much jealousy and hate is a sure sign of a potential for graduation.

Yelena is captivated by the coin, and the singing, she picks it up and starts to advance towards the singing. <<Nobody breaks into a place to sing...who are you? What do you want...?>> Curiosity the only thing keeping her from simply pulling the trigger. Autopsies are a way to discern identity after all. Sadly, not conducive to learning much more than that. Perhaps method of execution. If one took fancy in that.

<<I am Yelena Belova, I rank top of the class, I'm sure I could make Black Widow if I kill an intruder. So why tempt me...?>>

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
Svetlana in all her coltish thirteen-year-old glory sits upon the bed, the sheet off her shoulder, a shiv drawn from under her pillow because no girl sleeps alone. She has no reason for trusting this audience or her roommates, such as they are.

Especially when preparing to slide forth from that bed to the cajoling song, the voice unknown. Yelena's is little better.

All the girls know the reputation /that/ one has. Maybe they like their heads intact, their throats smooth, their limbs unbruised.

But two little spiders sat down beside her, and Illyana might be considering her escape options. They might be targetting her happily now. Her Russian is pure, but not at all from anywhere in the western oblasts. No, hers derives from the wild reaches where the Trans-Siberian Railway loses all sight of civilisation and the dots on a map are little more than waypoints where tenuous central authority dares to make a mark on the ancient landscape.

She has to know the dangers and she does, not rushing. <<Yelena. The name of an emperor's mother,>> she says with casual recognition. The sharpness of the words defy the sweetness of the voice. She slips a look sidelong to the blonde creeping her way, the other one, less skilled, less authoritative. Altogether they might make 45 years cumulatively, give or take. Fifty is pushing it. Her fingertips curl around her bicep, arms crossed. Hardly a gesture of danger.

<<Something ended up misplaced.>> No explanation here for putting things back where they belong. It's cheating, really, to go into that much depth. <<Shoot the ceiling.>> The words have a forthright flatness to them. She doesn't tease and she sure as hell doesn't smile.

<<Say you were too slow. No punishment that way.>> A swipe of a blade ends up nicking the bedsheets and the creeping target trying to plant her blade splits dark pants, but not the boot climbing damn high underneath. Illyana steps back, still in the dark, as someone dares to steal Yelena's din-- prize. Maybe! A throw isn't particularly worthy but Svetlana tries. <<You can say it was Magik.>>

Yelena Belova has posed:
<<I've no relation to no Emperors,>> Yelena remarks at Illyana's note, perhpas missing something, funny how names work with some in the Red Room, Natalia herself being a Romanova. Were these names even real, or assigned? Who could ever truly know.

<<What is it that was misplaced...why are you here?>> Yelena presses on, highly unnerved by the fact Illyana made it here, doesn't seem familiar as a fellow Red Room cadet, and worst of all...her eyes still look as though she could do quite well here, if it ever came to pass. She feels less comfortable acting on an order of a total stranger.

<<Who is Magik!? What is going on!?>> Yelena demands, approaching the two with her pistol drawn. Svetlana fails to surprise Illyana, and of the two, at least Svetlana belongs in the Red Room. So Yelena chooses the fellow cadet, firing a couple of shots at Illyana.

Unfortunately, with Illyana's positioning, and the powers that Yelena hasn't an inkling about...it may well be that Yelena will find she's just shot Svetlana instead.

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
Isn't it ironic that Russia clung so hard to the imperial mantle, positioning itself as the Third Rome, the inheritor of Byzantium, long after Constantinople took a new name and Greece waned under Ottoman shadows? Even in the dark, sterile grey of a Soviet-era bunker, the desire to capture empire and glory never left. It doesn't now. Those mandarins and wonks that call themselves by a new name, be it Duma or Politburo or royal court, eagerly steer the course of a hundred million lives recklessly. All of them are victims, right back to those named for Constantine's mother. Both of them.

Yelena, Illyana. Two variations on the same coin.

Another blonde, wide-eyed and precocious, enters a world controlled by attaches and tutors, killing blows hidden between the pages. Open a book for a new outlook on life and a new method of death, isn't that how it goes?

<<What.>> A minor correction. Who is Magik, /what/ is magic? Same word, same tone. The only correction to come as Svetlana creeps forward again, crouched low, in that smart, defensive stance. A good one, really, to lunge with all the strength in her dancer's legs.

Unfortunately Illyana's training room was not quite so different from dingy gymnasia and dark fields. She knows where the bodies are buried too, many at her own hand. Yelena lifts the pistol maybe a bit more. Could be a squeeze of the muscles in anticipation, and the shadows bend that little bit more to drink her up.

Bullets fly through thin air, hitting the wall and skittering through plaster in puffs of cloud. A good cluster would be the pride of any Olympic team, surely. It may well be Yelena has to explain the blood of her fellow cadet, though the dive spares Svetlana from immediately bleeding out. Those are still new wounds. Fresh blood leaks into a puddle. Betrayed eyes glare hard at Yelena for a few seconds. Mark them.

Yelena Belova has posed:
<<What...?>> Yelena doesn't seem to follow, but she does get a taste of the odd, when suddnely her gun seems to shift ever so slightly. Impossible she would make the mistake, shot unbalanced, mishandle her breathing. Perfection was ingrained in her, and yet her shots somehow miss Ilyanna, and strike the lunging Svetlana. Possibly grazed shots and not killing ones, but who truly knows, the look from Svetlana stings deep, however.

<<Sveta...>> Yelena gasps, <<I was trying to protect you...why did you move...?>> Was it Svetlana's sudden lunge that made Yelena miss, or was it...

<<Are you the Magik...?>> Yelena asked the other side of her namesake, two blondes affected with a touch of greatness, or tragedy, depends on one's own skewed point of view. <<Did you do this...?>> It's only an after thought that makes her wonder aloud, <<an agent of Baba Yaga?>> Magic would be one way to explain how she missed when she rarely ever does. Starkovsky iron rod made sure Yelena learns through pain how to perfect her technique and steady her aim.

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
The mistake is made. They happen, after all. A bullet grazing the target, the ammunition milled improperly, some tiny variation that inconveniently knocks the perfect into the outer ring of the bullseye. Marksmanship is one half talent, one half luck, but trainers never say that. Svetlana's new perforations bloom at her shoulder instead of her torso, another lodged in the wall after travelling through her thigh.

Her hurting face is pale, sweating, but a beating or two taught at the hands of the greats reduces them to minor concerns. Her palms come down to try and quell the blood leaking from her leg. It's avoided the great blood vessels there, but muscles burn with new holes punched through them. <<Why? I /had/ her!>>

Even now the count matters more than hurt. If she had a gun, she might unload a magazine fully into wall, Yelena, that stupid Oksana with the brown hair and airs about being something special. Instead, she spits out a shivery hiss. <<You think this was me?>> Disbelief scours her pained tone. <<That your story for Moth-->>

The blood gathering under her once pretty, now stained gown ripples. It's a quick thing, too fast for the angry and pained trainee to respond appropriately to. Her hand reaches for the stained tiles. Svetlana falls through hardly a time to yelp a protest, and there is no sign of her from the stygian inkspot shadows that collapse on themselves.

Will she be remembered for the widening eyes and open mouth? Possibly. Illyana doesn't do unsolved mysteries, and maybe there is a place for consolation when otherwise undeserved. A stepping disk flashes sidelong, replacing the other for a moment. <<Problem handled. You get another chance. Don't waste it.>>

Yelena Belova has posed:
<<Who is she...?>> Yelena demands, one thing a Red Room cadet absolutely hates is lacking intel. Those are always the worst test, when you have to guess what is it instructors are looking for, and just who is a safe kill, and who happens to have connections. Is that other blonde even Red Room at all? Doubtful, and yet...

<<You think I would lie to Mother...?>> Yelena gasps at the audacity of such a suggestion. Mother always knew when someone was lying to her, it's unclear how, but she had eyes in the back of her head. Well, more truthfully, she had eyes everywhere. Just not her own, but she got all the reports. It was very frightening for younger cadets to learn just how much Mother knows about everything that transpires in the Red Room. Even the most meaningless of things.

<<I will not tell lies, but I will say I stop blonde intruder...>> Yelena offers, sighing as she realizes Svetlana had likely come to the worst kind of end. Meaningless, outside of a given test, pointless. But then comes the flash of light, the parting words, <<who are you? What was that about...?>>

Yelena doesn't truly expects an answer, but she is concerned about that supernatural element. She grew up on stories of Baba Yaga, and this felt borrowed from one of those tales.

<<Sveta...I will tell them you helped chase away the intruder,>> Yelena offers an empty token of dignity to the dying classmate. But true to Red Room education, no tears in her eyes, no fear in her eyes, and no regrets. What happened, happened, the dead are dead, the living move on.

Illyana Rasputina has posed:
The final test of loyalty is often shooting someone for no reason at all. Some rando stranger pulled into the line of fire, no question about their origins or source. Maybe they have links, maybe they don't. A reason need not be given. Is Yelena the kind to follow the order and fire into the hooded victim, or the frightened face? Svetlana might have some tenacity for it, but her story abruptly stretches sideways into another chapter, ripped from the very book of Russian nightmare Yelena lives.

Mother knows everything. Mother's authority is absolute, her trust in her chosen girls a taut and certain braid in an uncertain world. Anything else less than black and white distorts the complete beauty of the well-oiled machine.

The disruptions of gunfire have the other little spiderlings waking and reacting. They have only seconds together, the assassin-in-waiting and the young queen. Diametrically oppositional forces bring them face to face, only for a moment, long enough for eyes to meet and words to come together. Who is Illyana, really? She doesn't often have a glib answer and not likely for this either. Dark and light eyes from across the room are already turning to the commotion.

A bitter smirk shows. <<I guard the fork in the road. Not too late for you, either.>>

Boots tramp. Gunshots aren't quiet. The door at the far end of the chamber creaks open and it's too late for more, and Illyana snaps the portal shut, falling into that demon-haunted realm she rules in abeyance of hope. Sveta won't even get a grave, just a number, an erased set of records stored somewhere, surely.

Yelena Belova has posed:
That the other cadets would stir and wake from a gun shot is a given. Yelena had no doubt it's only a matter of time, before others join the scene. Guards, handlers, and no doubt there would be debriefings and another tete-a-tete with Mother over the entire incident. The worst part is no body to show of an intruder, but then, Mother probably knows about this Magik, whatever she or it is. Maybe she'll understand.

Holstering her pistol before others storm the area, she listens intently to Illyana's words, <<fork in road...?>> She wonders, <<not too late...? What are you talking about?>> It's not that she hasn't a clue, something about her entire life feels off, but in the frevor and enthusiasm of youth, it's hard to tell. At the moment, she's a true hero for Mother Russia, and may one day even ascend to become a true Black Widow. One could only hope...

As others storm the area to find a dead cadet, she explains, <<intruder...some kind of teleportation device, Sveta identify as Magik. We took care of her, but...Sveta didn't make it.>>

For now it's no longer a concern, but come and go in a flash of light, Magik might prove to be someone to keep an eye for.