2019-08-13 - The Red Shadow Rises


Following a lead, people descend on an … ex Russian spy. Or is she?

Log Info:

Storyteller: None
Date: Tue Aug 13 08:32:59 2019
Location: Queens

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Ursula Solokova is a film and theater critic of some small repute with a slightly cramped office in Queens. The people who know her name generally know her for her scathing pen when she's writing reviews. Few things seem to make her happy. That, the joke goes, is because she's Russian and therefore has ice in her veins.

Ursula Solokova is also a spy, or at least was. Word is she got out of the game ten years ago but the best never really RETIRE from the business. And she was one of the best. A master of webs and whispers. She tends to know a lot about a lot and she's the perfect person to come talk to about who might be using AIM superviruses.

She is ALSO a bit… spooky. That's how the Lady Sif found out about her. Someone whom the Asgardian Embassy had flagged as 'not from around these parts' and also 'good with information.' She's known to be passingly well disposed toward Asgard and thus might be an ideal person to ask about, well… who might be targeting Asgardians with AIM superviruses.

Laynia Petrovna may not know of Ursula by name. But the last spy cache she found had a note in the currency closet. It said 'whomever has been using these, please come to my office in Queens. Don't worry. You're not in trouble. Signed - U.'

And so she sits in her office. Her slightly cramped, slightly musty office full of old pre-soviet Russian art, typing at an antique type writer.

"… could have been better portrayed with feeling and emotion by a syphilitic gibbon than what passed for acting in this production…" Oh yes. She's in fine form today.

Word had dropped and Clint moved on it. You don't spend this much time in the business without building up a network, and in the past Ursula had played into it at various points. So when he'd gotten the heads up, the archer had grabbed his jacket and moved, but not before telling his office partner, "Hey Groucho, I'm headin' to Queens, gonna follow up on the Solokova thing. I want independent confirmation though, you get smell something fishy get me on the horn soon as you can."
"Right, Barton." Said Groucho, though a little bit tensely. It's only when the door closed behind Clint that the SHIELD agent scowled at his computer screen while typing, "My. Name. Is. Not. Groucho." Probably had something to do with the mustache though.
And some small bit of time later, Barton showed up. The SUV parking and from the driver's side Clint emerges. Tactical civvy, with jeans, heavy jacket, baseball hat, sunglasses. And a bag of popcorn. He moves towards the former Russian spy's office with an easy gait.

Laynia was not terribly thrilled to find a mysterious note, a /modern/ note, in one of her supposedly secure cold-war era caches. At least her ribs and arm are mostly better, and man, she will not be taking vicodin again any time soon, the side effects can be quite nasty, especially if you have a bad reaction to the powerful pain killer.

"Not in trouble?" She says to herself, then shrugs, the note put away in a pocket, and the rest of the supplies and cash packed for transport. She is definitely going to need to find gainful employment soon, however, not many caches remain. One she checked wasn't even there anymore, which is hardly surprising considering the age of the intel on them.

That next day finds Laynia in Queens, moving on foot from several blocks out where she had the Uber driver drop her. Eyes of cinnamon are peeled, and in addition to her jacket and black leather outfit, she's wearing a black hat, not a fedora, more like a 'mushmouth' hat, and black Ray Ban sunglasses. So not QUITE 'spy-chic', for this ex-spy chick.

"Why do you call him Groucho." Jemma asks, completely straight faced as she slides from the car. "He doesn't have a moustache." She'd been trying to catch Clint to give him some updates on the current state of affairs with the Reverbium research. Well, more the reverbium instability when he headed out of the office.

If she didn't know better, she'd think he was avoiding her, to be honest. But she'd tagged along. Clint might start to sympathise with Jeriah at some point in the near future.

The SHIELD scientist is wearing jeans, t-shirt and a light jacket - the jacket mostly to hide her cybernetic arm. Hiding the eye and the other implant is a little more difficult, but a cap with the brim pulled low helps … a little bit.

"This looks like her office, right there…" she points. Surprisingly, perhaps, Jemma hasn't asked a lot about Ursula on the way here.

Jemma glances at the other woman who's approaching the door - the hat and the raybans scream something, but this is New York and you know, New York is … strange.

Having asked around the Embassy to see if anyone knew of a Midgardian that might be able to help with the quest for the villain spreading the audible metal, Sif takes a taxi to the address given to her. Disembarking from the yellow vehicle, she looks around at the buildings then at the paper in her hand, trying to find symbols on the edifice faces that match the symbols on the paper.

It's her best bet.

If she's noticed Clint, she doesn't mention anything. Most likely, she hasn't.

The door opens before any of them manage to knock on it and there indeed is Ursula Solokova. Or as Sif may have heard her name just… Ursula. She's a fit woman with straight dark hair and slavic good looks. She's wearing slim pants and a black turtleneck at the moment and looks at the people just outside her door with mild amusement.

"I see all of my appointments have arrived at once." She's got an ever so slight Russian accent. "Figures. Hello Barton. Not dead yet I see."

That has been her on and off greeting to him for some time.

"Come in, all of you. Can I get you anything to drink? Vodka, perhaps?"

The inside of her office is… well, cramped. And a bit cluttered. Papers, tickets, schedules and such are stacked on her desk and in a couple places about the office. There is not QUITE enough room for everyone to sit. But at least enough room that they're not all standing RIGHT NEXT to one another.

The woman sits down at her desk and opens a drawer which does, yes, have vodka and shot glasses in it. She begins to pour. "So. Who wants to go first?"

"Had this old photo," Clint says as he munches on a piece of popcorn, then extends the bag towards Jemma in case she'd care to partake. His eyebrows lift slightly as his back is to Laynia near the door, signaling to Simmons that he notices her but is acting as if he doesn't.
"From way back when, Groucho caught candidly. Frowning." He gestures with the bag, "Looks /just/ like him." He nods with that and then tosses the mostly empty bag of popcorn into a can as he steps near it. Then he tilts his head to the side to observe Laynia once he knows he's clear of her line of sight.
Both eyebrows raise towards Jemma as if to say how interesting this may be. Then he moves to follow on towards the office.
Once they're near the door and then when it opens, Clint responds with a not entirely enthusiastic, "Ursula, dear, muah-muah." Simply saying the muahs without going in for the traditional Euro double kiss. "Not from lack of trying. Nothing for me." A quick glance at Jemma and a small shake of his head. Though now he looks at the other folks here more pointedly.

Laynia is for her own part even more non-plussed to see she's part of a gathering horde descending on the office, or so it seems all things considered. She studies the people present, and Jemma seems familiar, though she cannot place the woman precisely just at the moment. Maybe if the Canny Cannuck were present she'd be more able to! Clint and Sif she's not seen before, though she's seen some of Clint's handiwork, though that fact is unknown to her as well, truly, she's sitting on a heap of not-knowing that is a bit off-putting!

And then the door opens even before they get to it, and everyone is invited in. Well, okay…she can always portal out if things get too hairy, or so she hopes. She does make an effort to be the last one in, and will decline any Vodka with a wave of one hand.

She's also not said a word, not yet. Ooh, mysterious and spooky, with all ye really kooky, this is definitly and ooky sort of night.

This is going to be an interesting meeting, Jemma glances around. "Lady Sif?" she tries the Asgardians attention. The other woman looks familiar but it's going to take Jemma a moment - she was busy busting the Canny Canucks chops the last time she saw Laynia.

"Uh. Hello. I'm Jemma." She says to Ursula "And Barton has more lives than a cat, I'm sure. Nothing to drink for me, thank you." She saw Clints shake of the head.

With everyone else likely wanting to be near the door, Jemma finds herself a place further into the office. This will give her the opportunity to try and see the schedules and paperwork and use her eye to scan the room in I/R and X-Ray.

Sif is about to turn and ask a passerby for help when the door opens and the woman bids them all to enter. That part at least reminds her a bit of Queen Frigga. She would sometimes do uncanny things like that. And, knowing this woman seems to share even one small aspect of her bearing with the queen of Asgard, Sif offers Ursula a brief warrior's bow before entering the residence.

She looks over at Jemma when she says her name and offers the Midgardian scientist a smile hello. "Agent Simmons. Are you here about the illness as well?"

Once inside, Sif takes up a spot just inside the doorway, leaving any seating available for the others.

"Nine lives? Barton? Surely he's used up five or six of them now." Drinks are offered to those who will accept them and Ursula takes a drink for herself. She downs it and seems to take a deep breath, then gives Laynia a look and a smile.

"Dear you've been all over the news with that little stunt against KGBeast. I don't think you need to be so concerned about hiding. To be honest you could have hardly done better. People will assume 'superhero' and that will prevent them from assuming other things. You're clearly in a bit of a bind though or you wouldn't be… scavenging the way you are." Oh so delicate the way she puts it but mentioning KGBeast may get Clint and Jemma at least to recognize her.

"Ah, the illness. Is that what this is about. You've come to old Ursula to see if she knows what evil might lurk in the hearts of men? Well the Shadow knows. And so do I."

Old Ursula? She can't be more than early 40's if that. Maybe late 30's. Except… well… Sif might know better. Old Ursula indeed.

At least she's not singing about poor unfortunate souls.

"You get more lives when you pick up the giant mushroom." Clint says as he settles into the seat and he shoots a look towards Jemma. Perhaps she's seen it before but it's definitely rare. Rare to see Clint annoyed, letting something get to him. Something about Ursula assuredly and more than likely something about the past.
But he's a good agent. Keeps it to himself, just crosses a leg over his knee and settles back in his chair as if he didn't have a care in the world.
The only sortie he makes against her is when he says, "I know you're sort of performing for the new people, but let me know when you get to the intel."

Laynia is definitely making note - Lady Sif, Jemma — ah, AGENT Simmons, and Barton, probably another agent. Welcome to Spook Central…plus a woman who's bearing and manner are curious, and who has a palpable presence about her, a strong one at that. Yes, definitely good to have a portal destination in mind - this seems convivial enough, the woman, their hostess even has Vodka. Were she not recovering still from the meds reaction, that would have definitely hit the spot, looks like a good bottle too.

A snort of amusement - mostly at herself, and then Laynia moves to the desk, passing mister Barton on his left to take one of the shots, and downing it with good form and obvious approval after Ursula outs her. "Is difficult, Miss Ursula, to make one's way after being out of circulation…a, well, a very long time." Perhaps emboldened, or perhaps just needing another drink, she'll look to the mysterious woman behind the desk for permission, before pouring a second drink and settling fairly primly into a seat by the desk. Her hat is removed, and the shades set inside the thing as it rested on her lap.

Clint's vexation is interesting, there's history here, though what she cannot be certain. "Laynia Petrovna." She introduces herself, might as well, right? Oh, and for the record - she IS a superhero! Just…you know…between gigs.

No doubt Jemma and Clint will recognize her voice, now that the KGBeast was mentioned, yes, definitely the same woman albeit less dark-glowy at the moment.

"Jemma, please, Lady Sif." Jemma corrects the Asgardian with a smile, casting a look to Clint when KGBeast is mentioned. Oh! Right! That's where she knows Laynia from "I believe, Ms Petrova, we owe you some thanks…" The name is filed away so Jemma can do some research of her own.

"Mushrooms? Alice Wonderland? I thought that made you grow taller…" It's hard to tell if the woman shield agent is joking.

Jemma notices Clints look and cants her head ever so slightly. Barton is irrasciable but annoyed isn't something she see's often.

"Yes, the illness, Lady Sif. Ursula. Reverbium, really and AIM. Is that what's bought you this way as well?"

Sif accepts the tiny glass and tosses the contents back as if it were water. Though, maybe this was one of those instances where she should have consumed it more slowly? She's not sure, and it's too late now. As the others settle in and discuss odd randomness such as overlarge mushrooms (didn't one Midgardian marketseller name those port-e-bellos?), she offers up the first question for Ursula.

"I was directed to speak with you regarding a Midgardian illness that appears to be targeting Aesir or those with Aesir blood." She nods to Jemma as she speaks. "We at the embassy are hoping that your wisdom can help guide us on how to discover the villain perpetrating this evil so that we may stop him?"

"Didn't Mario get all those before you? You very much strike me as a Luigi type." Ursula sasses the archer back, nodding as Sif directs a question at her, though she heard Jemma's as well. It's interesting that the Aesir think that Ursula of all people can answer this question.

"Laynia. Darkstar, I believe. Privyet." She nods. "It is difficult to get back into circulation but if you're trying you can repay the caches you've drained by assisting in this matter with dear, impatient Barton. As for the intel…"

The woman sighs. "Yes, I do know something of who is making of the weapon. It's is an old name that has recently resurfaced but they're just one part of a larger scheme. The name you're looking for is 'The Red Shadows'."

Clint and Laynia both know the name though under very different circumstances. They were a team of powerful but uncontrollable and allegedly disposable people supposedly used in high risk missions by the KGB. They were still active when Laynia went dormant but Clint knows that they disbanded in the early 90's. Or at least, no one could ever find any proof that they HADN'T disbanded which is not quite the same thing. If they're still around and active then they'd be dangerous, unsupervised and very likely criminal.

"They've been engaged to weaken the Asgardian presence on earth and make sure the blame falls on someone convenient, like the local anti-mutant agitators. They're quite good and quite ruthless. A match made in hell for the likes of AIM."

Of course engaged by whom? That's a good question.

To his credit, Clint gives her a brief exhalation of what would be a laugh if he gave it more oomph. He shakes his head but for once says nothing back to her, instead folding his arms and remaining there as he looks across the way. He'll watch Ursula speak to the others and listen quietly.
Then there's the mention of The Red Shadows and he frowns, leaning forward slightly and putting both feet on the floor. A glance is given over toward Jemma as if to see if she recognizes the name. Perhaps not seeing it he says to her, "Enhanced group of operatives, decades ago. Split up about the same time as Soundgarden."
With that nugget of wisdom deployed, Clint frowns and looks towards Ursula, "You got any evidence this is Red Shadows? Maybe not just Red Shadow? Or maybe someone reallocating some assets?" But of course she knows what she's talking about.
She wouldn't be Ursula if she didn't.

A shake of her head at Jemma's offer of thanks. "Nyet, Agent Simmons, is not necessary, Captain Rogers and Lieutentant Barnes were kind enough to come calling already, most considerate gentlemen." They didn't even try to arrest her, or anything. "As I told them — innocent lives were at stake, I could not in clear conscience stand idly by." Wryly. "Perhaps I should bill SHIELD for the lost clothing? Stray rockets are so tedious,da?" It is very obvious she's not even faintly serious about this, however.

She's not really sure of what Reverbium is, though she's heard of Advanced Idea Mechanics. The illness first Jemma and then Lady sif describes does pique her interest though! Especially considering the odd terms Sif uses, 'Aesir'? 'Midgard'? Ah well, she does like the woman's pluck, however, especially with downing the shot in proper fashion. Vodka is not sipped like port, it is DRUNK!

A nod to Ursals. "Da, Darkstar…the one and only." She looks thoughtful about the need to repay the caches, and nods. "If they feel I could be of use, I would be willing. I have some small utility, I should think." The Asgardian presence on Earth? That's already a bit weird, but then she goes very still as the Red Shadows are mentioned.

"Bozhe moi, they are very dangerous - disposable agents, utterly beyond control.Is very bad news if they have gone mercenary." She observes.

Definitely history between 'impatient Barton' and Ursula. And he does have good questions! Not like Laynia knows of Ursula, though it is clear she is a trove of intel.

Jemma will totally quiz Clint later about Ursula. Then again, maybe she won't. Clints rumoured to have a number of … liaisons … in his background and sometimes things are just better off left. But that's where Jemma's money lays. Old flames.

"Red Shawdows. I've not… oh. For the USSR? or Russia or ?" She prompts. The name certainly indicating that. "Like Genosha or not as bad?" Powered Operatives were bad, Genosha's were worst.

"Why target the Asgardians though? Is there another Pantheon in play? Or did I miss something?"

For Laynia, Jemma offers a faint smile "If you're interested, drop by The Triskellian and maybe we can organise some agreement." She offers. If Steve and Bucky have already spoken to the woman, Jemma will follow up there. Maybe they've already offered a contractors position.

Sif looks from one person to the next, several of the term they bandy about clearly beyond her comprehension. Yes, she understands the words themselves, but not in this context. Red shadows? Perhaps on a realm with a red sun… Sound garden? Odd.

"How can we locate these Red Shadows? Innocent Midgardians are suffering due to their actions against Aesir. This cannot be allowed to continue."

"Definitely the Red Shadows, Barton…" Ursula says. "And I do have some proof but not exactly the kind you can take back to your agency with you."

She brings up a hand and there is what can only be described as writhing shadows in it. She makes a 'tossing' motion and it expands into an area of darkness the size of a wall mirror in front of her desk. In it's swirling depths images appear. People setting traps, setting up the virus in places that it has already hit. Watching from afar. Even paying off thugs to be patsys and gunmen. Yeah. That's them.

But what the hell has she done? If it looks like magic that might… be right. And for just a moment there is something MORE about her. But it's quickly gone again.

And she winks at Laynia and Clint.

"Satisfied with my intel, I hope?"

What is she?

"I do have a name there as well, Jemma, but only a name. The name behind the curtain is 'Sindr.'"

Clint scowls and lifts his hands to the sides of his heads as if about to knead his temples, "Son of a," But he then pushes them through his hair, taking off his baseball cap and then putting it back in place. With eyes widened by what could only perhaps be considered anticipatory exhaustion he looks over at Jemma and nods. "Alright, then this is actionable, we should operate from here like these are our guys."
He looks away and is already most likely thinking of the steps that need taking, his eyes distancing in thought. "What else can you give us, Ursula?" No quips or rejoinders, just a request for info.

"Da, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Agent Simmons. They were very difficult to control, operatives meant to be deployed by KGB. Project was still active when last I heard, but as I have mentioned I am not current." By a good fourty years not current. Laynia downs her second shot of Vodka, and then sets the glass aside. "Is good vodka." She compliments. Sadly she knows very little about any pantheons, so she simply hold her peace. The invite to just swing by the Triskelion does come as a surprise, and Laynia finds herself smiling back. "I should like that, I think. I was shot trying to defect, after all. I suppose we could say the paperwork just got delayed."

Sif's question is a very good one indeed. "The Red Shadows I knew of were highly trained operatives, they were most adept at staying hidden, staying off the radar, it will be no easy task to find them." She grimaces. "I do not know much of these Aesir you speak of, but I can say this - innocents must be protected, if we can."

She is silenced by Ursula's display of eldritch power over shadows, her senses seek any signs of the Darkforce, and to her relief find none. She watches the images, and then nods slowly. "Da, is actionable." She agrees with Clint's assessment. She looks between Clint, Jemma and Sif. "If you will have me, I offer my aid. I cannot conjure images but I have some skill at spycraft and my mutant powers and training to offer."

Jemma frowns, letting Clint answer Ursula. These are related to the Asgardians but are they all there is? Or is this is just one group who's taking advantage of the research? AIM has been known to work for multiple masters.

"It's a strong lead and at least one avenue that we've given. Shutting that down will hurt A.I.M for sure." She agrees. This isn't something to sniff at.

She's watching Ursula carefully, switching her to I/R to look at the woman. Not that she expects to see much - it's mostly interest and Jemma learning to use the rest of the tools she now has access to."

"Jemma, please …" That's to Laynia. "And drop by, we'll get the ball rolling. Might take a while but in the meantime, I'm sure I can arrange you stipend." Money. The world turns on it, doesn't it?

At the name Sindr, Sif straightens further and looks … very displeased. With a frown, she turns toward the door, ready to leave ahead of the others.


What do the denizens of Muspelheim want with Midgard that they'd sabotage Aesir to get it?

"I should think that it would be actionable, yes." Ursula says. "I can tell you what their next target is, if you like. They intend to go after Asgardian's attending a Nordic history exhibit next week at the Natural History Museum. The crowd is expected to be large and a number of Asgardians and descendants are expected to attend. This is expected to cause a public shock and outcry. From there they can initiate false flag operations to shift the blame to an appropriate fall guy."

Knowledgable, yes. "Now, I do believe that should be enough to get you started. If you'll all pardon me, I have someone's career to end. Take the vodka if you like Laynia. I can always get more. As for the rest of you…"

She smirks.

"I'll be watching."

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