1963-12-21 - From Russia With Love
Summary: Captain Laynia Petrovna is the prominent USSR figure on the ACT-F task force, but secretly she's also a KGB contact. For the first time since her arrival in the United States, she makes contact for mutual updates with the Black Widow.
Related: None
Theme Song: "From Russia With Love" by Matt Monro - https://youtu.be/Lcdmq07u2T8
darkstar natasha 

The Botanical Gardens make for a lovely spot, one for being beautiful, second for being quite touristy. It makes perfect sense for Laynia to want to visit it, and there was nothing official about tourism, so she could go without any entourage whatsoever. For once she's not dressed in her Soviet uniform, but rather a very casual red turtleneck, can't help but make a subtle statement, and black capri pants. There's also a gold necklace around her neck, set with a pendant in the form of a golden star. No doubt Natasha could easily identify the Captain in this crowd.


After the better part of a year, Natasha has mastered the art of blending with the foreigners, looking today - as she often does when meeting in public - as if she's just stepped out of a Sears catalogue, with muted colors and a knit hat drawn low over sanguine hair to help draw her that much further into the midst of the masses.

Just another tourist - or local - or anyone, really - here to admire the beauty of nature.

"I'm new in town," she says following a quiet break from the herd, breath whispering over Laynia's right shoulder, "you wouldn't happen to know where I could find a room, would you?"


Laynia didn't quite expect to be the one to spot her mentor from the Red Room, though she still tried, but it's the whisper over her shoulder that she hears first. Her lips naturally curve into a smile, and as she slowly turns she whispers in turn, "Park Avenue makes a comfortable stay," Laynia answers, focusing quite heavily on managing to hide her accent. If this was a private meeting, she'd likely prefer opting to Russian, especially as chances are quite rare during her stay. But still, in public there's a certain behaviour to be expected. For Natasha she does her best to reign her accent, and does the best job she's had since arriving in New York. "So good to see you, I understand you have a pretty good job?"


Barely painted lips twisted in fleeting disdain are Natasha's first answer, followed by a brisk, dismissive wave.

"Desperate, half-competent scientists; men with god complexes; a frightened mouse huddling in the heart of it all, gnawing where she may," she rattles off before rolling her shoulders and - finally - offering a smile in turn. "It's a job."

Like so many things about Natasha, her accent seems to only exist when she wants it to— and right now, she sounds every bit the West coastal tourist her heavy winter wear might suggest. And speaking of the big, brown overcoat she's wearing over her floral sweater…

"I left something with a friend of ours some time ago, but someone might find this interesting, too," she says while reaching into an inner pocket to fetch a thin manila envelope. It consists of, primarily, notes: psych materials on various staff members and copied lab notes, to be exact. Both focus on the frustrations surrounding the Weapon X project's slowed attempts at producing effective processes for nullifying and artificially granting mutant powers.

"Merry Christmas," she tacks on as her eyes and voice grow briefly, parodically wide and bright to accommodate the false sentiment. "And you!" Whatever excitement lingers in her tone by now is sincere as she studies her former pupil. "Part of a big, international superhero team— and just in time, to boot, judging from the news lately. How have you been? How has it been?"


Laynia manages to stifle a chuckle at Natasha's description, as she adds, "some, high and mighty, sitting at a table, sometime fight like children at recess. Some places are better than others." She offers a reflection of her own experience.

Taking the manila envelope, Laynia doesn't spend time admiring it, as she simply places it in the purse she brought along, slung over her shoulder and kept pressed to her side by her arm. She will be quite pleased when she'll look at it over later on, and pass it to the right authority in the embassy.

"Of course, as someone new in town, I will be glad to offer any help you might need…the cheaper areas sometimes are infested in rodent, I can supply what is necessary to deal with vermin." Just a casual offer of support, now that she's stationed in an actual official position that allows much more freedom than any other Soviet had before her in the United States. "Merry Christmas to you as well," she grins, barely able to contain her desire to truly freely share everything with Natasha. Perhaps in a later time, at some random motel room that nobody would give a second thought to. "Yes, there is excitement. Also opportunity to meet the heroes of the west. Fancy the world, attacked by gods and aliens, we are truly living in a science fiction novel, aren't we?"


"There were Chinese war robots in Manhattan within a month or so of my arrival," Natasha ruefully recounts in reply. "Demons and vampires inside of three. Science fiction indeed— breathless, absurd science fiction."

She takes a few beats to fetch and light a cigarette; a second is offered while she inhales.

"I will be taking you up on that offer, I think— plenty of vermin indeed." After letting out a few thin wisps of smoke, she wonders, "Have you befriended any of them, yet?" with an arching brow. "Peeled the symbology back to see what drives them?"


Laynia shakes her head, "and yet people who live through such fantasies come to life, would still demonize others, absurd." The offer of a cigarette is greatly appreciated, as Laynia reaches to take it and put it between her lips. "You manage to find the good brand, it's a treat."

Reaching into her purse again, Laynia takes out a business card that only has a number on it, handing it to Natasha. "Call this number, leave a message for Laura, next time we can look at catalogues. I hear the new lines are quite fashionable. To die for, really."

She pauses for a moment when asked if she befriended any of the group yet, and after some thought, she notes, "there's potential with another woman, also a soldier, but for the people of Asgard. I like her, she doesn't lie and is direct. I think their people have good sense, there is potential. The others…I'm not sure. Some I wouldn't appoint were I given the choice."


The business card disappears up a sleeve as Natasha takes a match to Laynia's cigarette. "Can't wait to see my options," she murmurs with a fleeting grin.

"An Asgardian?"

The grin is definitely gone by the time she offers that response, accompanied by a quirked brow.

"Besides the blonde muscleman? In the joint US-USSR task force? Strange; I feel as though the papers may have buried that lede." The redhead's eyes narrow. Laynia - more than almost about anyone else on Earth - may recognize the churning of terrible clockwork behind them. "Just how many aliens are part of the alliance, exactly? Hm." A fresh puff of smoke escapes her lips, and then with a gesture of the burning cigarette, she suggests, "Stay close to her, for sure— there's a lot to learn there, I'd bet." The cigarette goes back between her teeth, and then she reaches into her coat again, retrieving the pack— and dropping it into Laynia's purse without comment.

"If she values honesty and directness, she should be very easy to handle," she muses instead.


Laynia takes a few puffs on the cigarette as the match catches on and her cigarette is lit, "thank you my friend," she says of the cigarette. "I was surprised myself, I thought it was a US-USSR task force only…there was also Queen of Wakanda, but she could not play the politics game well enough. She is out of the picture."

Laynia understands when she notes Natasha's expression, that sort of curve ball lights some doubt over the task force itself. Who could assure that the aliens or gods or whatever they call themselves don't have some pull on some strings. "There are DNA tests to ascertain the number is zero, but as I find there is one, I will try to force a sharing of data…there could be more."

"Agreed, honesty and directness are admirable traits," Laynia concurs with a warm smile. "I think we can build rapport over shared military experience. Though…I think hers might be more like movie, with sword and shield."


An almost mischievous, "are there, now," comes in reply to the mention of tests. "Cutting edge science in the service of a— " A soft, small chuckle cuts her observation short and she shakes her head. "The one would almost be excusable, if not for the assassination: he's part of their nobility, right? The blonde? I've been doing a little reading since Loki outed them. But two should raise some doubts; how many of the people they're looking to for protection are the thing they need protecting against? Was the task force incompetent, or complicit?"

By now, she is beaming, but it doesn't last much longer than her hypothetical narrative, her features settling back into their neutrally observant norm in short order as she recomposes.

"Already, you bear such a promising harvest," she murmurs while clapping Laynia on the shoulder. "Hm."

Smoke and breath trail from her lips as she thoughtfully studies her mutant comrade.

"You ought to go on an adventure with her, I think. Dirtier the better; bonus if something is disemboweled in the process."


"That, is a very good question my friend, I wonder…did they want Soviet presence to look more inclusive and trust-worthy. Or perhaps, they really are as clueless as one would think…" Laynia lets that thought linger without answer. It's clear that her opinion of the Capitalists is not a flattering one. At least it would be clear to Natasha. She's been very amicable with her fellow ACT-F task force members after all. She does nods at the question regarding the blonde, he is certainly one of their nobility.

"The interesting twist comes about this Loki, but today is not a good day to discuss it." Her gaze shifts to the orchids on display, "I think white is very beautiful color, purity and funeral, innocence and death. Almost fitting for every occasion, mmm?" She figures it's be best to speak more in depth in a less public setting. For now, they made contact, shared a little, and later on she'll review the manila folder and prepare a safe house for a proper meeting.

She does nods her head as Natasha claps her on the shoulder, indeed appreciative of the short progress she made so far. Having direction is a good thing to establish at the onset. She lets out a swirl of smoke from her own cigarette, as she takes a moment to think. "I will see about teaming with her on any non individual efforts that come about…I think I could use a new foreign friend."


"Well, we still have to go over those catalogues," Natasha says of the Loki-twist with a firm nod. Following a puff, she adds, "White, huh?" with a curiously arched brow. There is a knowing quality to her eyes, but she doesn't press further; best to wait 'til a better day.

After another puff, she continues, "As far as our 'friends' go, well. They have someone to point at if - when - their deception is unveiled, don't they? Someone must have spared a thought for that outcome; the cluelessness couldn't run too deeply. It's too obvious of a trap for them to spring on themselves, otherwise."

With that said, she pulls a card from her coat pocket and offers it over: 'NATALIE RUSHMAN / INDEPENDENT JOURNALIST,' it says, followed by a phone number.

"Leave a vapid message after the tone," she instructs. "If you need to. Or would like to. A little more convenient than a standard drop, in case you find yourself sorely wanting a friend from home in the future."


"That we do…I so love looking at the new catalogues every season," Laynia nearly squees like an excited fashion focused woman. It's to be expected after all, isn't that all women are into according to society at large? Fashion, jewels and guys. "Good point…it is either an unintended trap, or pure folly."

Just as Natasha stowed away Laynia's card surreptitiously into a pocket, so too, does Laynia with Natasha's card. "I will, and thanks for the offer, it's never a good idea to be too lonely." She laughs as she turns her head and moves towards another display, "it's funny, but in the end, with madmen and fools, this little US-USSR endeavor could be a success, no?" Of course, some may have different success qualifiers than others. But all do as they can to further their respective ends.


"For someone, «yes»," Natasha replies with a rueful little smile and a spike of Russian. "Almost certainly."

The last drag of her cigarette is drawn in, savored, and slowly released as her hand disappears once more. Extra cards, four or five in all.

"For your teammates," she then says, gesturing them towards Laynia. "You spoke to a reporter who wanted to know about your experience as the only prominent Russian member of the joint US-Soviet taskforce, and now she wants to interview some of your colleagues about /their/ experiences. The more aberrant they are, the better - the theme is the inherent loneliness of being an exception in a crowd of exceptional beings. Would prefer not to meet any psychics, obviously— ah!"

After a beat of straight-backed revelation, she adds, "Which reminds me, of course: I could use anything you've got on their abilities. Give it time for more observation, if you need it; I'm not likely to be on their collective radar any time soon, after all. Useful information just the same, though; nearly slipped my mind."

Her lips twist into a broad, if brief smile.

"It's good to see you again. I'm glad you're taking to your post well."


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