A few days ago…a pre-war freighter strains against the unforgiving surf, as the last leg of it’s transatlantic voyage churns to a close. Two men stand on the deck of the ship in the cold of the night. The larger of them breaks the silence, in their native Russian he remarks that he wanted to sail once, when he was very young, reading “Treasure Island”. The other man laughs, ‘A banned book?’ exclaims one of Russia’s few super heroes, Nicolai Krylenko, better known as Vanguard. ‘You were an agitator before it was fashionable!’ he tells his long-time friend and teammate Major Mikhail Ursus a.k.a. Ursa Major.
‘Hardly’ Mikhail replies, revealing that he was so embarrassed to discover he was in possession of contraband that he tossed the book into the sea before anyone discovered his shame. ‘I was a good soldier…even at age ten’ Mikhail declares, before adding that it was a simple time, when so much was clear. ‘Where did it go?’ he asks Nicolai. ‘Nowhere…you grew older and your eyes finally popped open. We all did’ Vanguard replies, before lighting a cigar and asking his old friend if he is having second thoughts.
The handsome Major replies ‘Not about the goals of our mission…but our methods. Shouldn’t we have found another way?’ Vanguard tells Mikhail that he worries too much, before pointing out that this is a family affair, he does not want to involve the Americans as they have their missing heroes to deal with. ‘So you would rather deal with the Devil?’ the Major asks. Vanguard replies that Tskarov is just a man – a man with the influence and resources to find his sister. Vanguard adds that as far as Tskarov’s past is concerned, well, they all have history. ‘I don’t have to remind you of what we did under the KGB’
Mikhail tells Vanguard that he is right and doesn’t need to remind him, before asking what makes this different. Vanguard replies that this time they don’t blindly follow orders – this time they know that the money they make from Tskarov goes back to their war-torn nation where it is needed. ‘This time…it is for my sister’. Mikhail replies that he isn’t sure, ‘Something in my gut’ he begins, until Vanguard interrupts, exclaiming that a man thinks with his brain, an animal with its instinct – ‘Although I suppose you have the luxury of choosing’ he jokes, before asking Mikhail what his “animal’s gut” tells him. Mikhail looks up at the Statue of Liberty, before sighing and asking Vanguard to fire him up one of those Cuban cigars, as they are illegal in the United States.
Today…deep beneath an innocuous looking shop in Brighton Beach, New York. Vanguard and Ursa Major stand before General Tskarov who tells them that, as before, their countrymen have need of them. The General claims that the work they do here will ensure that at least some of their comrades back home will have food on the table – and a roof over the heads of their babies. ‘Take pride in this’ he tells them. Vanguard tells the General that the friends they left behind to come here already sing his praises, otherwise he and Mikhail would not have come here. Vanguard goes on to make it clear to Tskarov that he has one priority here in America, and that is to find his sister.
The General assures Vanguard that he has every available man working to find Darkstar, and boasts that no one can hide from the Snow Wolf for long. ‘On that you have my word’. The General motions to a monitor with the Black Widow on it and tells the Soviet Super Soldiers that in the meantime, they have other business at hand, unfortunately of a most unpleasant nature….
Meanwhile, in a nearby cellar, Daredevil a.k.a. Matt Murdock and the Black Widow a.k.a. Natasha Romanov are being held captive. Daredevil thinks that it is tough to say what is making him more uncomfortable – the musty fingers of the million or so mildew spores clawing up his nostrils, the searching taunts of the gunshot wound obnoxiously reminding him that he should have stayed home, or the chilling silence of his cellmate. ‘So…does this mean there’s not going to be a second date?’ Matt jokes, before deciding that he supposes that puts an end to said quandary – silence is the winner!
Matt reminds himself that, supposedly, Natasha is acting, masterfully playing the role of the fallen hero, the corrupted Black Widow. He thinks that if only she wasn’t doing such a stellar job of it, then he would feel much more at ease, and in a lot less pain. He recalls how Natasha shot him with a point 22 at close range to keep her cover intact for some Russian mob boss. He jokes that Stanislavski would have been proud, but personally he thinks she took the method acting thing a bit too far.
With nothing but the silence between them, he cannot help but wonder if Natasha has gotten herself too involved with her role to pull back – has she really gone over the edge? Suddenly, Vanguard enters the cell and calls out to the Black Widow, informing her that General Tskarov requests her presence – for a discussion of loyalty. ‘I’m sure he would’ Natasha mutters, before telling Vanguard that she needs a moment, and going over to Daredevil, she exclaims that she has a farewell to make, ‘Perhaps the last’ she adds as she kisses Matt on the lips. Matt asks what that was for, to which Natasha replies that to kiss the Black Widow is to kiss death ‘And only death will set you free’ she exclaims, before bidding Daredevil goodbye and leaving the cell with Vanguard.
Thirty-two different sensations rock Daredevil’s hyper-senses, all carried in one last desperate kiss, Taste and smell hurl Daredevil back to a time when he and Natasha were more than just a team, more than partners, when they could practically read one another’s thoughts. Matt thinks that Natasha has still got it, “in spades”, and she still knows how to kiss – and a small little pick that Natasha put in Matt’s mouth when she kissed him pokes out.
Across the underground complex, in an area restricted only to the General’s most trusted allies. General Tskarov smirks, ‘You’re killing me. Do you know that? We could be so close, you and I…oh so close, instead of this!’ he says to the beautiful and powerful Laynia “Darkstar” Petrovna, still imprisoned on a strange device. Calling Laynia his “dark one”, the General tells her to open herself to him, to reveal her deepest secrets to him as a flower unveils itself to the sun, ‘So that I may stop tearing away your petals!’ he exclaims. ‘Never!’ utters the exhausted Darkstar.
Tskarov tells Laynia that whether she is willing or not, this machine will exploit the dark energies that course through her body, adding that continued resistance only ensures an agonizing death. ‘Is that what you want to die for? Pride?’ he asks. Laynia tells the General that what she wants is to show him everything, but only on her terms, and watch as his eyes learn what darkness is! Laynia calls the General a monster, before spitting at him as he smirks that he can hardly wait.
Meanwhile, miles away in a messy little Manhattan bachelor pad Foggy Nelson, friend of Daredevil, squeezes a toy squeeze-bone as he sits slumped on his couch. His girlfriend Liz Allan tells him that he is really going to have to move on, to which Foggy sighs and replies that he knows, but that he cant help wonder if he could have been a better father to Deuce. ‘Would he still be here if I had paid him more attention? Should I have fed him milk-bones more often?’ Foggy asks. Liz remarks that she has an idea, and suggest she do something to help him forget about the dog, to which Foggy perks up a bit and asks her what she plans to do.
Liz begins kissing Foggy, who mumbles ‘That might work’, when suddenly the phone rings. Liz tells Foggy to let the answer machine get it. Uh…I think…this is on Uh, you’ve reached Foggy and I’m not home, leave a – BEEP - Foggy’s voice mail message is cut off, and a new caller message is heard, ‘Hey, Frankie-baby! It’s Niomi Brinke! Just checking if you got the flowers…’ the message exclaims. Liz clears her throat, and Foggy claims that he hasn’t spoken to her and swears he doesn’t know how Niomi got his number. ‘Call me, kiss, kiss!’ Niomi exclaims as she finishes her message.
‘Yeah, sure, you super stud’ Liz jokes as she cuddles up to Foggy, who asks her if she isn’t mad. Liz replies that she isn’t mad, that she trusts him, but that she doesn’t want him to return the call. ‘Sure! You bet!’ Foggy exclaims before asking if they can go back to that “making him forget” part, as he is seeing Deuce in his mind again….
Back in Brighton Beach, the Black Widow sits on a chair, her arms tied behind her back now as the General tells her that, years ago, he saw a production of “La Bayadere”, but Dame Makarova was ill that night and her understudy played the lead. He remarks that he was floored by the work of that young girl, an ingénue, so naive and yet so utterly captivating, talented beyond her years. ‘Do you remember how they applauded you? How they cried for their Natasha?’ Tskarov asks.
Natasha frowns as she replies ‘Yes’ and tells the General that it was an adequate performance with a generous audience. ‘Pity to see that you’ve lost your appreciation for my work’ Natasha remarks before telling the General that this is hardly a way to start a business relationship, though the bonds could be a start. The General puts on a large glove and tells the Black Widow that in her case, this is the only way, because right now, he feels like she is on stage again, performing for his benefit. ‘I need to know your not acting’ Tskarov exclaims. As an electrical current pulses from the glove, the General zaps Natasha, who smiles and exclaims that she expects that when this is over, he still won’t know. ‘I’m funny that way. But if you insist on this course…just remember…the Widow never forgets…and never forgives!’ The General tells Natasha that the curtain is about to fall, ‘Your performance is over!’ he shouts, while outside the room, a pensive Vanguard can hear Natasha being blasted once again.
Back in his cell, Daredevil begins to pick his handcuffs with the lock pick that Natasha put in his mouth when she kissed him. He thinks to himself that Natasha is a better super spy than he would ever be, before deciding that the taste of bile on the lock pick paints a nasty picture of where she hid it. In a moment, Daredevil is free from the cuffs, while telling himself that the Widow is in over her head on this one, even if it is thanks to his untimely arrival, but he is trying not to feel guilty about it. Matt tells himself that his priority now is to find Natasha and get out of here, to call in her back-up and let them handle the rough stuff.
Daredevil’s chest feels like it has been through a diesel-fueled epilady, and he decides that there is no way he could go toe to claw with that bear again! Matt tells himself that the direct approach is out of the question and wonders what trouble he can get into with his radar sense. He detects thick mason work, solid walls and a lingering heat signature where Natasha had been sitting. ‘I’m pathetic’ he tells himself, before remembering that he has to focus on the task it hand, and that if he is going to lose it fantasizing about someone, then he should be fantasizing about his girlfriend, Karen!
Speaking of whom, Karen Page is sprawled out on her sofa, ‘He left…just like that…left me alone!’ she exclaims, before telling herself that she is so whiny when she is drunk. ‘I’m already starting to annoy myself!’ she exclaims before telling herself that she has got to get a grip, needs to talk to someone while the wine goes through her system. ‘Someone who would understand what a pain it is to be Daredevil’s girlfriend sometimes…’.
The answer machine clicks on at Foggy Nelson’s apartment, and Liz pulls away from Foggy as Karen’s voice is heard. ‘Hey, Foggy…it’s Karen. I’m lonely…and not exactly sober…wanted to talk to you about your friend Matthew…are you there?’ Foggy turns to Liz and tells her that this never happens, no one ever calls him. ‘Uh-huh’ replies Liz, rather unimpressed. ‘Oh boy! Uh…cheese doodle?’ Foggy asks, offering Liz the packet.
Daredevil meanwhile is making his way through a vent duct, and he decides that apart from his chest wound opening up again, everything is going well, although the echo in the ventilation duct is scrambling his hyper-senses and the draft is bombarding him with every stench that this place has to offer. ‘Okay, I lied. This sucks’. Matt remarks, before a strong scent cuts through the haze, female sweat, ripe with adrenaline and pain – all the trappings of someone being tortured. He believes it to be Natasha, but the grate he finds will not budge. Daredevil tries to use his other senses, but with all of the interference down there he cannot get a clear picture of anything. He thinks that it is times like these he would trade all the hyper-sense in the world for one glimpse with regular eyesight, and knows that he has got to find another way.
Meanwhile, not too far away in the complex, Mikhail thinks to himself that this is not good, and that the it is bad enough they have had to make compromises to work with General Tskarov, but Mikhail does not agree with the way the General has handled the Widow and Daredevil, and has had enough of his secrets. ‘Nicolai is confident that this is the way to find Laynia…but I want answers, now!’ Major Ursus thinks to himself, when suddenly he is stopped in his tracks by two guards, blocking an area Mikhail wants to enter.
Mikhail tells the men to lower their weapons and explains who he is, adding that he is a personal guest of the Generals. ‘We know who you are, genetic misfit!’ one of the guards replies. The other adds that they don’t care who he is, as this is a restricted area and only the General and his aids can pass. ‘Turn back – or we do our part to cleanse the gene pool…mutant!’ ‘More secrets…I see!’ Mikhail exclaims before smacking both the soldiers in the face and knocking them to the ground. As his body transforms into the massive bear, he tells them to be thankful that his thirst for the truth overpowers his hatred of bigots like them, before excusing himself, ‘I have a conscience to save!’
Meanwhile, the General looms over Natasha, ‘Dear Natasha…you were right…your resolve is strong, and I have learned nothing from this little exercise!’ he exclaims. Weary, Natasha tells the General that he can’t have been paying very good attention then, to which the General replies that after a brief respite, they will continue. As the General walks away from the Black Widow, Vanguard approaches him and tells him that he can see by the state of her that she has been telling the truth. ‘You’re touching me’ the General mutters motioning to Vanguard’s strong hand around his arm. Vanguard ignores that comment and asks the General to leave Natasha alone.
The General replies that he will, provided Vanguard doesn’t care to ever see his beloved sister again. Tskarov informs Vanguard that it is his belief that the Widow is working for the same military-industrial complex that is holding Darkstar, and asks Nicolai if he wants him to show the Widow courtesies which he can assure him Laynia has not enjoyed. ‘No…but this is not right’ Vanguard replies, to which the General retorts ‘Fine, then…help me end it. Help me finishing the questioning…quickly’. Vanguard then approaches the Black Widow….
Back in the duct, Daredevil mutters that it has taken him forever, but is finally above a corridor which he thinks is just outside the room – or else is somewhere in New Jersey he jokes, before detecting that his wound has opened up badly and realizes that he is losing blood fast, and notices that it is dripping through the grate – and onto the floor beneath the vent. ‘So much for subtlety’ Matt mutters as suddenly Ursa Major rips the grate open and Matt falls to the hallway, caught off guard. Daredevil detects that there are bodies in the hallway and that they are unconscious as he can hear their breathing. He wonders if they are Tskarov’s men, and if the “big guy” in front of him has switched sides.
Daredevil decides to take a risk instead of receiving another beating of paw in his face and shouts out ‘Tovarisch!’ Ursa Major, slightly puzzled, stops and asks Daredevil why he calls him “friend”. ‘I was hoping you’d find it less offensive than “Bongo”’ Matt replies. Ursa Major remarks that friendship requires respect, time and trust, and asks Daredevil why he should trust him. ‘I guess because I’m not the General’ Matt replies, ‘Besides my disarming smile and solid upbringing’ Matt jokes, while Ursa Major sniffs him, ‘No, you’re certainly not. You don’t reek of duplicity as he does’. ‘A little baby powder after a shower takes care of that’ Matt jokes, before remarking that they can talk about that after they rescue the woman trapped behind death trap number one.
Back at Foggy’s apartment, Liz tells Foggy that she did not get a baby-sitter just so she could listen to other woman calling him, to which Foggy protests that it was just Karen, when suddenly the phone rings again and goes to answer machine. ‘Who’s a party girl gotta call to get down in this town? I’m coming to the big apple, studly, and guess who’s playing host! In case you could tell, Frankie, it’s Candace! See ya!’ Liz stands up and begins to leave. With a frosty tone in her voice she tells Foggy that perhaps they should try this another night. ‘If your phone ever stops ringing, call me’ she exclaims, before slamming the door, not hearing Foggy tell her that she doesn’t understand, Candace is his sister!
Back in General Tskarov’s underground complex, Davidoff stands over Darkstar and informs her that if she would only co-operate with Tskarov, things would be more pleasant. Suddenly, Davidoff turns around as someone taps him on the shoulder. ‘Wha-?’ he exclaims wide-eyed, staring at Daredevil and Ursa Major. Daredevil jokes that he was only going to say, if Davidoff didn’t yell out, that his bear-pal here might leave his lungs in tact. ‘Thematically, it’s the same anyway’.
Ursa Major sees Laynia lying on the bench and calls out to her, surprising Daredevil, as it was not the reaction he was expecting from Ursus, though up close, Matt realizes that the imprisoned woman he sensed is not Natasha at all, but Ursus seems extremely interested in her. Davidoff calls out to Ursus, claiming that he can explain, but Daredevil tells him that he is not going to get much of a chance, ‘Not when two tons of Kodiak bear rips through you like a gallon of borscht’. Matt pushes Davidoff down onto a chair and suggests he start reconsidering his loyalties.
Mikhail switches back to his human form and frees Laynia, ‘Mikhail…you came for me!’ Darkstar exclaims, while Mikhail is shocked that Laynia was here all this time. ‘That man will pay!’ he declares. A teary-eyed Darkstar asks where her brother is, ‘He hasn’t done anything rash, has he?’ she asks. ‘I hope not…for your sake!’ Daredevil exclaims turning to Davidoff.
Nearby, Vanguard stands over the Black Widow, and asks her to tell Tskarov what he wants to hear. ‘I don’t want to hurt you…but if I must…for my country…for my sister’ Vanguard adds. Black Widow, who has worked with Darkstar in the past sarcastically replies ‘I’m sure, Nicolai, that would make her very proud of you’. Suddenly, ‘Enough!’ shouts the General as he tells Vanguard that the Widow is trying to trick him. ‘Act like a man!’ the General exclaims, telling Vanguard that he must fulfil his obligations to him, to his countrymen and family.
‘Forgive me…’Vanguard whispers to the Black Widow as he raises his hammer, when suddenly, the door to the room if blasted open by a concussive blast, forcing Vanguard away from the Widow, while the General shouts ‘See, Vanguard! The Widow has brought the American dogs here! Tear them apart!’ But turning and looking to the door, the General is shocked to see Darkstar, followed by Daredevil and Ursa Major. ‘Oh no…’ he mutters, while Darkstar calls out to her brother, telling him to stop. ‘Laynia…here?’ Vanguard exclaims, confused.
‘Don’t you just love family reunions? Sort of makes you all warm and fuzzy inside, doesn’t it, General?’ Daredevil remarks, adding, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, you’d have to have a heart to get warm and fuzzy…my bad’. ‘TSKAROV!’ shouts Vanguard. The General edges away, exclaiming that this isn’t possible, ‘My plans, my machine…annihilate them!’ he cries out to his guards. Daredevil senses a bunch of troops enter the room and calls out to the Soviet Super Soldiers, ‘We got gatecrashers at the reunion!’ he jokes, before he turns to the guards and tells them that they can’t possibly think they bear any family resemblance to Darkstar or Vanguard and suggests they try the Bronx zoo, as they will have better luck fitting in there.
Tskarov makes a run for it, and Vanguard angrily calls out after him, but cannot follow as he is bombarded by the henchmen. Darkstar unleashes her powerful Darkforce against the soldiers, while Daredevil performs his usual fighting techniques and remarks that Vanguard’s blood pressure is going through the roof. Matt suggests that Vanguard needs to learn to express himself better, before telling him not to hold back, that it is not healthy to keep all that anger pent up inside. Vanguard makes some macho yelling noise as he thrashes his hammer and sickle about, while Daredevil jokes’ That was just super…now try it again, but with deep breathing’.
Daredevil proceeds to turn to Natasha and ask her how she is, but in the process, Natasha warns him to look out as a soldier jumps him. This overzealous fellow?’ Matt jokes, tossing the soldier aside with ease while kicking another one that creeps up behind him. Matt remarks to Natasha that she has clearly forgotten about his “devils sense” which tingles whenever inept henchmen are afoot. Matt turns back to Natasha, except she is gone.
Meanwhile, General Tskarov is rushing through a nearby tunnel, splashing through some dirty water, he wonders how this could have happened, before telling himself to stop thinking like an old fish woman. ‘You are the Snow Wolf!’ he reminds himself, boasting that he will start again and devour those around him. Suddenly, something shoots out and trips the General up, he falls head first into the water. ‘Welcome to my parlor, General…sorry about the mess…but I was tied up’ exclaims the Black Widow. The General turns and looks at Natasha, who tells him that this is the part where she puts him under arrest by the power vested in her by the SHIELD directorate. ‘But you know…I’ve been reassessing my options…’.
Natasha has on the large glove that Tskarov was using earlier to shock her, and she holds it near him, remarking that perhaps she has failed in her mission. ‘Perhaps instead of bringing you to justice, only to be released back into the system after a paltry stay in prison…something unexpected happened. An accident, deep under ground. What do you think, General?’ Natasha remarks, before asking the General if he thinks she is acting now.
‘You don’t have the –‘ the General begins to say, but the Black Widow knows how that sentence ends and interrupts him, ‘Oh yes…yes I do, General…what is a black widow if she is not a killer?’ Natasha asks. ‘I thought she was a hero’ comes a voice further down the tunnel. ‘Hello, Natasha. What’s cooking?’ Daredevil asks. ‘The General’s good in about five seconds’ Natasha replies, before suggesting to Daredevil that he might want to leave if the smell is likely to offend him.
Approaching the Black Widow, Matt remarks that he thought the whole “Avenging Avenger” thing was an act. ‘Perhaps…or perhaps it wasn’t’ Natasha replies. Matt asks her if this is really what she wants, and holding out the glove, surging with energy, Natasha replies ‘Yes’. She adds that she wants to share with the General the tricks she picked up in the KGB, to enlighten him to pain, so exquisite, it would redefine his understanding of the human condition. ‘I want to return his attention to me in kind’.
A hand suddenly races towards the General, it’s Natasha’s – not the gloved hand though – and she smacks him across the face. ‘But if I did…I might forget that I’m not that person anymore. Worse…I might never get another opportunity…to do this!’ With that, Natasha turns to Daredevil and they kiss, passionately. Daredevil thinks to himself that there are no lock picks this time, no spy tricks or mind games. Just a lingering, unadulterated kiss.
But, the way both Matt and Natasha’s hearts skip a beat in unison, he thinks he is in trouble, but decides that is a headache for tomorrow. But for today, they took down the bad guy, reunited a broken family and saved the city. He picks up the unconscious General and tosses him over his shoulder, while walking out of the tunnel with his other arm around Natasha and thinking that he also got his friend back today, and that’s something that he can live with.