Helluland - Black Widow

June 13, 2014: Lara Croft hires the legendary Black Widow to join her on her Helluland expedition.

Penthouse - Waldorf Astoria - NYC



  • Winston Smith (Croft Butler)

Mood Music:

The Penthouse of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City is as swanky as the name would indicate. The current person staying in it is Lady Lara Croft, who has set up a stay there for a few days to speak with some interested parties in the area about an upcoming expedition. First on her list is another person not native to the United States, the Black Widow. Her reputation precedes her. When the superspy arrives, Lara's butler, Winston, answers the door and shows her in. Lara is seated at a dining table with paperwork spread out over it, including many maps of Baffin Island, off the coast of Northern Canada. The woman is dressed in khaki hiking shorts that fall just above the knee, and layered tank tops, with her hair back in a pony tail. She looks completely out of place in the penthouse.

When the Widow arrives at the hotel, her appearance is designed not to raise eyebrows. Indeed, she wears the uniform of the hotel hospitality staff and makes her way easily through the lobby and into the elevator. Then, it's a simple jaunt along the hallway with an easy demeanor and a pushcart. Thus, as the Lady reviews the information on her papers, there's a light knock at the door and a call of "Room service."

Winston arches a brow, and Lara's head snaps up. There was no room service ordered. She stands at the table and reaches into a floral display at its center to draw out a pistol and level it at knee height at the door. Then she nods to the butler. The elderly man opens the door. "I beg your pardon, Miss, but the Lady did not order room service."

Well it doesn't look like any of her current rivals, but Lara doesn't take chances. She keeps the gun in hand, hiding it behind the arrangement. "Indeed, I didn't order anything, and the hotel has my room on a 'Do Not Disturb' notice, so care to explain?" She smiles, suspecting this is her guest. Still, she'd rather be cautious than dead.

The Widow straightens as the butler answers the door. "I'm fairly certain she did," she says pleasantly, a professional smile on her lips and a light shine to her blue eyes. She lifts the silver cover on the plate, revealing nothing other than a silver disk embossed with a red hourglass. "I was instructed quite clearly to be here for 2pm." And the clock is about two minutes to two. "I rarely miss my appointments. My employer wouldn't much like it if I did." A beat, she pauses to allow time for the Lady to absorb the calling card as much as her butler.

Croft's eyes sweep to the platter and the hourglass symbol. She takes her finger off the trigger slowly. "Interesting. And while I appreciate your promptness, why the need for playing dress up?" Lara asks, flicking the safety back on for the pistol and settling it at the small of her back. She gestures to the table for the Widow to join her and settles back into her chair. Winston closes the door behind her and moves to bring some tea on a silver tray from the kitchenette area. Real tea, not what passes for it in the States.

"Namely," Widow says, entering now, "because I have several other operations in the wind, at the moment, and I prefer not to have my movements tracked. You may thank me for it, later." Well, that, and it's actually fun to dress up. But, she doesn't add that. Between her recent encounters with Hydra and a few other rumours she's been chasing, it's one of those things.

As the tea arrives, the Russian smiles. Like the Brit, she has no love of the Americans' version of tea. As far as she's concerned, it's nothing better than sewer water — which she's also more acquainted with than she'd care to admit. "So, Lady Croft. To what do I owe the honour of an invite?"

"I need someone of your skills and aptitudes for a three day expedition at the end of this month. It will be a cold weather trek, likely extremely dangerous, both environmentally, and due to manmade interference." Lara speaks of danger with complete calm as she pours tea into dainty-looking teacups for herself and the Widow. "I have many rivals, some of whom may try to beat me to a find in this case, and I need someone able to ferret out any traitors in my employ on the journey. There is also every chance that they may ambush us before or after we reach our destination." Hazel eyes flit upwards to meet the other woman's and gauge her reaction.

Natasha's response is as even as the Lady's offer is. She doesn't look surprised — and, indeed, it's likely the SHIELD agent did her own research before accepting the invitation. Thus, she leans back in her chair and cants her head curiously in response. "I expect I can help you," she admits. "Where is it you're headed, and what, exactly, are you after? What makes it so important?"

Lara slides a contract across to the Widow, with a pen resting on it. "Until you sign that, all I will tell you is that it is in the northern Atlantic, and revolves around investigating some recently unearthed limited evidence of a very early, non-native population that may have been in residence pre-1000 AD." She folds her hands on top of the table and matches the tilt of the other woman's head. "I am willing to pay top dollar not just for your skill set, but for your ensured loyalty on the expedition. I do not put it past my enemies to bribe my employees to betray me, so I make sure they can't outbid me." Croft smiles simply, with confidence in her voice. "I also have a clause in my temporary contracts, which ensures I will pay a thousand dollars in excess of any bribe offered to one of my people, with proof of the bribe." That's one way to buy loyalty, offer to pay more than your enemies.

Natasha isn't the type to give into bribes — and she has a reputation that says as much. Still, she can appreciate the other woman's caution. Not everyone has such scruples. And not everyone would believe that she, a defector, has such scruples, either. That said, most people don't believe that the 20-something redhead could possibly be the same Black Widow that defected from Russian ten years ago. It's a mantle that's passed on or appropriated periodically.

She skims the contract and recognizes much of the phrasing. Matt. Well, he really is popping up quite a bit in her life, lately, isn't he? Still, she's read these contract several times before now. She knows what to expect. However, that doesn't stop her from looking for the fine print. Finally, she glances at the dates and starts calculating what it will take to ensure she can cover off from SHIELD.

"Fair enough," she says finally. She smiles, and reaches her hand out for a pen. "Where shall I sign?"

Winston graciously moves over and places little colored tabs beside each line for the Widow's signature, and the info on how she would like to receive payment for her services. "We'll be flying out to Baffin Island, off the coast of Canada, in the Nunavut territory," Lara explains once the pages are signed. "My lawyers are working on getting us access to the lands in and around where National Geographic's Patricia Sutherland came upon Norse artifacts which indicate the presence of a Viking camp that predate the Saga's, when Erik the Red and his contemporaries dropped by and decided it was not habitable, despite a climate similar to their own Greenland, and the native skraelings living there at the time." The explorer grins. "I think there was more to Helluland than the Sagas say. I think there was a civilization there, perhaps under the ice, and we're going to find the remains of it. Welcome aboard, Black Widow."

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