The Truth Shall Set You Free - Part II

July 20, 2016:

Part II of Black Widow and X-Man trying to restore the real Winter Soldier, but apparently Hydra added their own layer of mind scrambling on top of the KGB's original mind scrambling. Is there even a Winter Soldier to restore anymore? Or has he been wiped from existence?

Dark Basement Room

This is a dark spartan room, little in the way of furniture and decoration. It's actually hard enough to see anything, aside for the dim light in its center, with a chair set underneath the light source. There's a table further into the room, by an outer wall, but it's hard to make anything on it. The basement floor is unfinished, and otherwise doesn't seem like a usual hang up. What is of note is that there's no piece of technology anywhere in sight.


NPCs: None.



Mood Music: Mind Games by John Lennon

Fade In…

"<Of course you do, I can understand English too,>" Natasha hasn't quite fully gotten the idea that Nate may have just truly dug through every possible layer to reach at a certain truth that Black Widow herself never knew about the Winter Soldier. But even as she struggles to get around Winter Soldier's attempts to resist getting hit with the syringe, Nate tells her how a sedative would dampen any ability on his part to use telepathy. She gives up and moves back, only to get the very same shock that Nate does when he links their minds together.

Regardless of how Nate comes out of it, whether he was prepared or not, the Black Widow seems to have a similar response to Winter Soldier's and so his telepathic shockwave winds up amplified. The Winter Soldier and the Black Widow seem to both get knocked out at the same time. It takes sometime to recover, unless Nate managed to avoid being taken down too, and had something up his sleeve.

When she does come to, Black Widow is not a happy camper, "it didn't work, Nate," she snaps, sounding as if she's ready to punch someone just for the sake of hurting someone. Anyone.

When Natasha wakes up Nate is already awake, and looking through the window of the cabin. "Oh really?" He steps aside. Through the window there is not a nice forest during the warm New York Summer, what she can see is the frozen landscape of the Russian steppe, in winter. "That was a psychic trap, Widow. You are lucky to be alive, and we are… in his memories? Or maybe in yours. Looks familiar?" He glances back 'outside'.

If these are indeed Winter Soldier's memories, then nothing is linear. Nothing is chronological. There may be sections of memory that are momentarily intact, but there is rarely enough to form anything solid and certainly nothing yet that could piece together any form of a personality or historical memory. Decades are jumped moment to moment and even something that seems like it should last, just doesn't.

What starts as a strangely familiar scenery that makes no since to Natasha, soon changes into an unstable flux of images and scenes, as Winter Soldier's broken mind proves harder to settle. "Nate…is this even safe?" She asks, clearly out of her element in this telepathic arena.

Nate steps out of the building. It feels very cold, but it is just a mind thing and he can handle. "I have no idea. I had never seen a non-psychic do something like he did. But we walked into his home ground, so I guess…" he considers. "It is not exactly safe. He can try to kill us and if he is strong willed enough to impose his will on us, we would die in the physical world. That said, well, I should be far stronger than him in a mental plane."

He turns to Natasha, "I could also try to pull us out, but if I go with raw brute force that could cause mental damage on your… friend." He was almost tempted to say her 'ex' but the situation doesn't lean to jokes, and he doesn't know the Widow well enough."

"I think I'm starting to not like psychics, what is this psychic trap? Is it like a tripwire?" She muses, following closely to Nate, cold not bothering her much either, but then it's one of her specialties, heavy snow covered sniping. "He spoke English, he asked why I was talking 'that' language to him, like he wasn't comfortable with Russian…can you find the meaning of that nonsense, Nate? More importantly…can you make sure he's not a drone, so we can actually talk to him, and not his Hydra masters?"

"Yeah, like a tripwire," which Nate failed to see. But then again, not something he expected in a normal human mind. On the other hand the mind of the Winter Soldier is hardly normal. Memories are all jumbled and some feel like implants. He stops trying to make sense and focuses in Natasha. "I don't know this guy. So I wouldn't know his normal self from his 'drone' self. But you do, so if you can find him here, I could try to make sure he has control over his mind and body." Weeeeell, maybe. It sounds like the kind of thing Xavier would attempt.

There's a brief change of scenery, just for an instant. Instead of being in a cold, barren location somewhere in Russia, it seems to be an Army Yard. Male soldiers in 74 year old uniforms are about doing calisthenics.

It then switches back to the cold, snow-laden vista.

While Black Widow says nothing, Nate already seems to know on his own what she would have said. A tripwire that he tripped. She's not happy. Even with zero expertise in the realm of telepathy. "Well, if you want to know something to focus on…how about the Red Room, I'll give you an image," and Black Widow pretty much thinks a visual at Nate: a large room, plenty of open space, USSR and KGB sigils and emblems decorate the walls. Red is a very strong motiff, but the center, is pretty much dojo. A cold steel version but a dojo nevertheless, the two combatants appear to be fighting, though it's more educational sparring than a fight to the death. The Winter Soldier is clearly one of the combatants, that arm with the emblazoned Soviet Red Star cannot be mistaken.

But even as Natasha tries to give Nate something to lock on and work with, everything changes wrong. She immediately shakes her head, "this isn't him…has to be Hydra implant. He was never regular issue military. Only option is if he was undercover…"

"Could be, if he was undercover in the forties," comments Nate. "Maybe it was just something from a movie," he says, sounding dubious. "But he didn't look ninety years old to me." He shuts up to concentrate in Natasha's memories, seeking matching ones among the crazy jumble that is the Winter Soldier's mind.

Red Room. Training practice. Year… wait, how old is the Widow. He knows better than ask, but this is not Russia, this is the USSR, which has been gone 25 years. "He didn't look fifty either," he adds more quietly.

The memories flicker in and out, but there is a matching segment of memory. Maybe it's one of the longer segments as the training involved wasn't just physical. It morphs, however, into blood-covered images. Red. Everything is Red. Visually and spiritually.

"I'm not asking you to worry about how he looks, we just need to find him…that was a glimpse." She smirks when redness takes over everything, "this is one too," there was a time she saw red every which way she looked too. Still does, on occasions, actually. It never really leaves you, the red. Though no doubt, there's multiple layers of meaning to it. "Look for ballet…performance in Bolsohi Theatre, in VIP box…Mikhail Kirov, Winter Soldier was there." She neglects to mention she was a performing prima ballerina that night, or that Kirov didn't make it to the end of the show, but those details are not important. What's important is locking on actual memories of the Winter Soldier. They need a base.

"This feels different," mentions Nate. "Like he was different. Hrm. Kirov, let me see if that name means something to him." Memories pass by at high speed, and in the physical world the Soldier will have a headache soon, if he didn't already. In fact, all of them are likely to wake up with a nice headache. "I think I got something. As soon as we get there I am going to push the memory to the forefront of his mind, okay? It could shock us out of his head, though."

There is another fragment of memory regarding the ballet. Little details are highlighted, but not much to do with the actual performance aside from a brief glimpse of the prima ballerina. Then there is yet another death. Quick, calculated, and seemingly in cold-blood via a silenced gun during a particularly loud moment of music. No doubt it wasn't noticed until Kirov never left the VIP box.

If this memory is held and disallowed from slipping away like the others, it will continue in a loop…always focusing on the kill. That is what he has been made to remember.

A glimpse of that scene has Natasha in dead silence, while she doesn't necessarily divulge the fact, this is a moment she remembers crystal clear. Her first assignment as a duo with the Winter Soldier. Seeing it so vividly, even if from an askewed angle, particularly the brief glimpse of her in a life she thought she had, it chills her. "Poor Kirov never had a chance."

"That was murder," states Nate with an angry tone. "Is that the man you are trying to rescue from Hydra? He was an assassin already." And Nate is trying to grab him in the memory, to drag him from the shadows and into the light. Running through the hallways of the Bolsohi Theatre that was decades ago.
The memory is a first-person view as it was Winter Soldier himself doing the action. If the first-person memory is dragged, it doesn't fight. It's a memory. It's been unlooped, but it doesn't stop the venues from shifting and sliding and slipping around even as Nate seems to try and focus on the hallways of the Theater.

Maybe Winter Soldier remembers the hallways…maybe they become hallways of a High School in the late 1930's New York. Maybe they become tunnels beneath the city in Moscow or Leningrad. Maybe they become tunnels in HYDRA headquarters. But the memory doesn't fight.

"You think?" Natasha asks without a tinge of remorse, letting her sarcasm show in full force, she doesn't have time for lectures of morality at this moment in time. "You don't know who Mikhail was, you don't know what the order was, you just judge based on a glimpse…" she shakes her head, "we're looking for someone, for him, Winter Soldier, not for what they made him become." When Nate attempts to lock on the Bolshoi with that particular hit, Natasha notes the venues shifting back and forth, always the same goal. That is very familiar to her, sadly, as she shakes her head, "I'm not sure if he ever had a life…not of his own. Everything is scripted…" she sighs, as there's something she really doesn't want to touch, but she's left with little choice if she truly wants to help him. "Siberia, look there…any memory of Tzarina?" She has in mind the time she and Winter Soldier exchanged their affections for one another, and also the last time she saw him for decades, until these recent assassinations, where she learned he was still alive first hand.

"Damnit," Nate caught nothing but a shade. Not a real consciousness in the memories. Where is the real Winter Soldier? "Very well," he returns to the Widow's side. "But he is either hiding very well or, I don't know, very detached to his own life. Or maybe crazy."

Siberia? That is a very large place to find a person. But maybe he can find something on Siberia and the redheaded woman. Memories flow again, like a high-speed movie.

If there's a memory of Natalia, it's fast. Very fast. Maybe barely a blip and certainly nothing that can be grasped onto. Not yet. They were thrown into his mind by violence and he's definitely getting a headache, so pleasant thoughts of gentle afternoons aren't really a focus. His missions never included seduction — that was never why he was activated. He was efficient and capable. More than many. Although there might be a few different redheads showing up as his memories speed from one to another. There are even a couple wearing victory rolls in their hair. Twins. Laughing before they disappear into the mist of Winter Soldier's mind.

Or were they plants as well?

"Crazy is the last thing he is…" Natasha snaps, not liking the insinuation, though granted, Nate all the reason in the world to think just that. As she looks at the movie like fastforward sweep of a span of wouldbe memories, she frowns, she figured locking on the one moment that was truly hers and his, there might be hope to find him. But if even that doesn't exist, maybe that was the point Hydra got him? No…it makes no sense, had to have been the Red Room that wanted no emotions in him. She was being punished one way, he was probably punished another. "Mmmm…all else fails, try the English…doesn't seem to fit, but before, you got to him…he claimed English was his native tongue. Maybe look for English speaking memories? Shouldn't be much…"

"His oldest memories don't feel Russian," mentions Nate. "At least I think they are the oldest. But definitely his first language wasn't Russian. Unfortunately there is not a chronological order here. I could try to put some order but I fear I would do more harm than good." He thinks for a few moments. "He calls himself a soldier, and I think that is important to him. Lets see…"

Maybe it's the attempts to hold onto memory scraps, maybe it's trying to sift through, but there is barely any warning before there is a mental 'push' to get the others out of his head. They don't belong there! Not that Winter Soldier has any mental powers himself, but this is pure defense. Anything that's coming up from an older memory is just that — bits and bobs that have managed to escape the prison they were put in by trauma and brainwashing.

But now the memories are trying to make this stop! Guns…so many guns are aimed from so many Soldiers through memories. They -will- fire if the enemy doesn't retreat immediately.

"Nate…? Is it safe to say we hit a deadend? I don't think telepathy is a skill the Winter Soldier possesses, this shouldn't be happening….can you make it stop? Or just end this exercise? I thought I could set him free, but I think I was too optimistic." Black Widow loathes admitted to failure, but that seems to be the case at the moment.

"The problem is I seem to be losing contact with him," explains Nate. And that means he is losing control over the mindscape. But why? Ah… "Yeah, he is awake. And so we should too."

And that is what happens. They wake up on the floor of the cabin. Nate jumps back up in a flash, but the chair where the Winter Soldier was is empty. "He is now too far to get a good reading at deep memories. But I think we can still chase after him."

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