(Hydra’s remaining members)
December 26th, 1996
Baron Von Strucker landed on the teleportation platform in a heap. Under him, Valentina de Fontaine writhed and finally pushed him away as he was too heavy. The man rolled until he was on the stone ground, the atmosphere was cold and dusty. Strucker looked around himself for a moment and took a device from the inner breast pocket of his black vest, adjusted his monocle over his right eye and looked at the screen. On it was the list of Hydra’s facilities around the world.
They should have arrived in the Berlin facility but it seemed that they had landed in a remote or mothballed base. The more he scrolled down, the more Strucker’s scarred face darkened. The Berlin facility was offline, Oslo, Rome, France… even the South American bases. The only bases left were the Russian one where he and Madame Hydra had just teleported to, and the Japan base. It took everything in him to not crush the device in his hand.
“What’s wrong, Wolf?” Valentina de Fontaine, looked worriedly at the Baron.
She was still in shock about what had just happened to them; Valentina had thought that it was going to be a normal council meeting, where she would be able to needle some of the more useless members or obtain more concessions from them. But no, it went sour after some of them had discovered that they had missing members; then everything went to shit when armored mercenaries stormed the place. She had briefly seen someone who she had thought was off the board, a young Peggy Carter, who had recognized her too.
Von Strucker looked at her, Valentina stepped back as his gaze was hard and full of anger. “It seems that our enemies took a page from our own playbook and launched a blitzkrieg on almost all of our facilities.”
Valentina's ire rose as she heard what happened. So much time and work had gone into the restoration of their organization, she could scarcely believe that such a monumental set back had happened. "They dared?" Valentina hissed.
Strucker looked at her, tightly controlling his expression. He dusted his business suit and straightened it. "That was unexpected of them."
Valentina moved and slapped him. "Unexpected? UNEXPECTED! The damn Captain is back and instead of fighting to the end, we fled!"
Von Strucker held onto his cheek and stroked it, he didn’t retaliate against Valentina, he knew she was still going through shock. He acknowledged her observation. "Rogers seems to be back, yes.” Though Von Strucker still doubted that it was truly him; still... the Baron had seen stranger things happen in his long life. “And this is just a tactical retreat. We will do what we have always done when met with a setback, we will rebuild, our heads will regrow and spread-"
Valentina interrupted his rant. "I doubt it will be that easy, Wolf… He isn't alone now, I am sure that you saw her, Peggy Carter was somehow there, healthier, younger, taller and more powerful, on par with the captain."
The monocled man couldn’t refute that Valentina was right; that group led by Peggy and the (maybe) Captain had technology surpassing their own and there was something more worrying… the appearance of a younger agent Carter with abilities on par with her paramour meant that, "Someone has rediscovered how to make the Super Soldier serum and somehow rejuvenated the senile old bitch."
They kept silent as that supposition made them more afraid than anything else. Von Strucker was the first to speak and to walk up to the end of the room they were in. "We must see if our compatriots are safe."
"Somehow I doubt it…" The Baron heard Valentina say from behind him as she followed him.
Opening the door, they were confronted with a flight of stairs that they had to take, after a really short hike they surfaced into another room that looked like a laboratory, it was dusty, and dark. Fortunately there was a breaker box near the door that the Baron stood in with Valentina. He pulled the lever up, and with a loud sound, the lighting system came on, flickering slightly.
Cardboard boxes and crates were piled everywhere on the work tables and the ground; on the ceiling silvery pipes spread like a spiderweb, as he visually followed them, the Baron found an oval shaped structure against the farthest wall of the lab room. As the two Hydra council members walked up to it, they noticed how cold it got as they approached the machine; because it was obviously a mechanical creation. As they stopped before it, Von Strucker saw an obvious window port, he rubbed a finger over it. It was crusted with ice that melted to the warmth of his appendage.
The Baron narrowed his eyes as he saw the face of a man when he cleared the port. A familiar man, then cleaned the plate with the subject’s designation and smiled.
“Is that a cryogenic chamber? It looks like one.” Valentina looked at the instruments and computer linked to the oval box. Walked up to it and found that there was a book on the desk the computer was on. She took it and leafed through its pages. Her eyes widened and she moved to the Von Struckers’ side.
She pushed the book into the Baron’s hands. “This is the-”
Von Strucker was still grinning as he said, “Зимний солдат (Winter Soldier).”
The man chucked, kissed the woman’s right cheek and pointed a finger at the cryogenic chamber. “Isn’t it wonderful? We may have lost a lot but fate conspires to give us the means to return on top.”
Valentina shook her head, the man was already getting presumptuous at this extraordinary find. “Wolf, we will need more than that if we want to reach our goals, and it might not be in our lifetime and don’t forget… we are fighting a superior enemy who has a telepath at their beck and call.”
The woman had doused Von Strucker’s enthusiasm and she was right to do so. Carter’s faction in SHIELD had counterattacked them and found everything they needed to take down Hydra and its associates thanks to that meddling teenager. Pierce had failed to contain her and in just a few days they had turned the tables and only Valentina and himself were left. “If we stay careful, we can win this.”
Valentina looked at him in the eyes and searched for the overconfidence and bravado that she was used to confronting in the men of the Hydra council. Wolfgang Von Strucker had a superiority complex and was arrogant to a fault, he frequently underestimated his enemies in the past and it resulted in his defeat. But this time she found determination shine in Strucker’s gaze. The man was hopefully going to be careful this time.
Valentina acquiesced. “All right, I will trust you to do what it takes to get us out of this bind, but I will be monitoring you.”
Strucker gave her back the book with the control phrases, kissed her on the lips and said, “That’s why I like you, Val. You are always here to catch our mistakes.”