|HYDRA: The Package|
|What: The newly-recovered Red Skull is introduced to two of HYDRA's finest assets. Unfortunately, he mistakenly believes they both belong to him.|
The Red Skull is back. And it's best if everyone who swears loyalty to him is fully aware of that fact.. there's been HYDRA activity in New York, unsurprisingly. When he arrives he's only just been formally greeted and started a tour of the complex when a vehicle arrives to some commotion. Schmidt is somewhat sheepishly told that a relic from the cold war HYDRA acquired some years ago has apparently run into the Black Widow and taken her for an ally. The thing is, there's reason to believe the Widow's goals really do align with HYDRA, or that she might be similarly programmed to the agent that found her, explaining his assumption-- and they've just arrived.
A man in a suit gets out of the front passanger side to report to his superiors, though he might not be expecting just how far up the chain the present company might be when he does.
"Nein! This is not going to work. I look like a poltroon!"
It's not exactly fashionable these days for a man to slap another man, but that is exactly what the man currently (and formerly) known as Red Skull does to the poor lackey who just finished helping him put on his suit. And the poor lackey takes it, not even making eye contact with the Red Skull, lest this be mistaken as a sign of defiance.
"When Herr Boss was alive, he would have never dressed me in such a disgusting fashion. The pant legs are too narrow. The tie is too narrow. The lapels... UGH! Don't even get me started on the lapels! I've had an extremely trying day, and this is MOST distressing!" He slaps the lackey again, for good measure.
But fortunately for the lackey, one of HYDRA's senior officers is also present to observe Red Skull being dressed. In fact, there are about twenty officers present, and a full compliment of security. They aren't here to watch him change, of course (some of them are), but he's being handled like a very valuable asset by all of HYDRA's top brass since his very recent return. A tour of the complex is occasion for bringing out all of the HYDRA muckity mucks, and they're all crowding around him as he's given a rundown of the base, but also as he's given a freshly-tailored wardrobe to replace the off-the-rack suit his sudden arrival made necessary.
After all, when he arrived he was wearing sackcloth...
But it's the senior officer who speaks up.
"I'm sorry the suit is not to your liking, Herr Skull, but fashion has changed greatly since the 40s. I'm sure the ladies will find you most fetching."
He's lying, because despite the excellent tailoring of the (exorbitantly) expensive black Italian suit, Red Skull still has a red skull for a head. It's kind of his thing.
"But... I'm afraid the suit will have to do at present. The Operative has arrived with The Package, and he insists that the gift he brings is truly a fitting offering to commemorate your return, Herr Skull."
Moments later, still unhappy with his modern suit, Red Skull is standing in front of the car, with his hands behind his back and an extremely long cigarette holder in his mouth. But despite his posturing, there's a look of recognition in Skull's eye. Something he can't quite place.
"Before you begin, Operative. I must insist that you give me a very honest answer. Do you think that this suit flatters my physique?"
"The black is too severe, although very business like. A dark red would look better." The one who speaks isn't the Operative, but the Package. Black Widow steps into view, eyeing Red Skull as a fashion designer would eye a model. There' no trace of hostility or even kneejerk recognition of SHIELDs most hated enemy. "The cut itself is rather flattering, wouldn't you agree, Uchitel?" The last word is accompanied by the spy looking over to her companion.
At the same time as the Black Widow exits, the Winter Soldier steps out on the passenger side and steps forward, seeming almost tuned out as he awaits further direction-- out on missions operatives sometimes have to improvise.. but here, in the bases of HYDRA, he's accustomed to doing little more than what he's told. He doesn't even glance at the person he's arrived with, at least until he startles slightly at her address. He looks over with a brief flash of something almost like worry, though like her, he doesn't seem the least concerned with the visage of the man before them. He frowns as he looks him up and down critically, then says, "It doesn't look easy to move in." and as if as an afterthought, "And the pants are too tight."
The Red Skull's suspicions are confirmed. "You see! Even these underlings know this suit is garbage!"
The suit actually would have cost about twenty grand, if it had not required flying in one of the world's most prestigious tailors on short notice. So it actually cost more than most of HYDRA's operatives make in a year, in total.
"I want a REAL suit of modern clothing. Like his. Or maybe hers. Yes! Have a suit like hers made for me immediately!" Although he's yelling at his operatives, he almost seems as if he's... kind of joking? But it's ultimately impossible to tell for sure, with a face like his.
"Now, you two. You and your sow will accompany me to the Commandant's Office, where we will not be disturbed. There you will regale me with tales of your exploits, and you will give me this Package. Then I will be so thoroughly entertained that I will not question why you failed to greet me with the customary salute." His tone is very friendly, but there is an icy threat blatantly expressed in his last sentence.
"Your sow will, of course, have to wait outside if she does not stop making eye contact with me. But I trust you will keep her under control, yes?"
He gestures toward the building, his mannerisms polite despite his language being... anything but. In fact, the sweep of his arm, and the flourish at the end of it, look almost subservient on his part. "After you, good sir."
The attending HYDRA officers pale, even though the female spy doesn't seem to react much Red Skull's words, other than to look to her companion and say something in Russian, her tone neutral. '--I'm flattered he likes my uniform, but I wish he would stop comparing me to a breeding pig. I'm not fat.--'
"Sir..." An officer steps to Red Skull's side. "The woman is the Package, sir. She's the Black Widow, the best female agent to come from our Red Room program. And he is the Winter Soldier, best male agent to come from the Red Room. However..." The officer glances at the impassive woman, nervously. He drops his voice so the agents can "Until recently, we had assumes SHIELD had broken her conditioning, and she was loyal to them. It seems Winter Soldier somehow triggered her." It communicates in Russian.
Winter Soldier doesn't actually answer Skull, looking to whoever usually gives him instruction for confirmation instead. Probably not the most respectful response, but at least the standard one. Another official may whisper to Skull that the other operative is more of a weapon than agent, explaining his bad manners, and that he would likely be a waste of time to talk to. Though this is no sooner related then said 'weapon' steps closer to reply under his breath to the Widow in Russian, likely to the horror of any handlers that might know the language. He communicates in Russian.
--I don't know who this is, but we need to go with the flow, even if he's the one acting more like a pig here.--
"Ah. Yes. Of course. I knew this already, obviously..." So much does not compute right now. The idea that he could be presented with a woman as a gift makes perfect sense. But that the woman is an asset, an operative? It's almost mind-boggling. He files it away under things he'll have to learn to process later, and carries on.
His voice raises a few notes, and his tone becomes much angrier. "... but I will allow you to live, despite publicly correcting me. As a show of good faith. But mark my words, troglodyte, that it will be the last time I brook such insolence!"
Threats pour very liberally from Red Skull's mouth, but most of the senior officials don't seem all that worried. Skull is, after all, more of a curiosity than a legitimate threat, and he's being handled like an ancient relic himself, rather than being treated like the leader of HYDRA.
The times have greatly changed, and Skull has returned to find himself irrelevant. At least for now.
"Welcome, valued assets! I'm absolutely charmed to meet you both. You'll have to excuse my manners, but I've been away recently, and the entire world has gone mad without me. But rest assured, everything will be put right, everything and everyone will be put back in their proper place. I owe my fellow man nothing less."
Once again, he gestures toward the door, clearly expecting them to go inside before he does. Some of the senior officials begin to trickle inside, but Red Skull leans in to whisper into the ear of the man who informed him of Black Widow's recent behavior change. "Don't worry. I'll have a friendly chat with each of them separately. Then we'll see where their loyalties lie, and possibly what they had for breakfast."
Verbal abuse was par for the course in HYDRA, although having the The Founder give you a yelling was a bit intimidating. Black Widow nods once to whatever her counterpart says, with no discernible emotional response. She listens to Red Skull's words impassively, standing at attention, but not too stiff. Clearly, she was used to standing at attention for long stretches of time. When the skull-faced man invites them in, she turns to Winter Soldier, indicating that he he should go first with a simple, "Uchitel." The second officer replies to Red Skull. "I can give you a comprehensive report on both agents, if you wish sir." It communicates in Russian.
The handler Winter Soldier was looking to also whispers to him tersely, and he gives a brief nod. He doesn't respond to Widow one way or the other, but does step forward into the room the strange and expensively dressed man indicates while the officer waits to hear if the Red Skull will take the subtle hint for more information before heading off alone with what are easily the two most delicate agents in the base.
The Red Skull simply shakes his head to indicate a negative answer. There's nothing he'll be able to learn from a dossier that he won't be able to learn after a few hours with each of them. Dossiers lie, after all, but pain and fear are brutally honest.
Little does he know that the HYDRA muckity mucks have no interest in allowing to torture two of their most valuable assets. But for now, they allow him to proceed under the delusion.
"Tell me, do Russians still enjoy vodka, poverty, and ice hockey? I'd hate to think that things have changed that much while I was gone."
Black Widow follows the Winter Soldier, noticeably staying close to him. Red Skull might pick up some murmurs of his officers speculating on how Black Widow was returned to their control. For her part, the woman looks tp Red Skull at his question, and replies, "That much has not changed in many years, Sir."
Winter Soldier stands in whatever room they find themselves in, but rather than answering, his brow just furrows. He hasn't spoken a word in English since the fashion comment, come to that.
The officers left outside when the doors close sigh to one another, and likely discuss contingencies for whatever Skull might take it into his head to do.
"Excellent. Then my underlings will see to it that the two of you are provided with a bottle of something authentic, and a meal so exquisite that you will both want to murder the chef."
Apparently, Red Skull expressed appreciation for a well-prepared meal differently than most people do.
"But I must leave you both for now, I'm afraid. This suit is simply unacceptable, and I must remove it before someone manages to photograph me with one of those cellular telephones. Until later..."
He looks at both of them with an enormous smile on his face. But the expression behind his eyes can only be described as a cold glare. He lingers for a moment on both of them before leaving, but oddly enough it seems to be Winter Soldier that he evaluates most closely. But without any further warning, he pivots on one of his heels, and heads in the direction of his temporary quarters, flanked on both sides by a detail of security personnel.