- "Killing Dreykov was the final step in my defection to S.H.I.E.L.D."
"Simple as that?"
"Yeah, sure, 'simple.' That's what I'd call imploding a five-story building and then shooting it out with the Hungarian Special Forces. Took ten days in hiding before we could even get out of Budapest."
- ―Natasha Romanoff and Yelena Belova[src]
S.H.I.E.L.D. had managed to track down Natasha Romanoff, a dangerous assassin and the Red Room operative known as Black Widow, and tasked Hawkeye to find and eliminate her. Barton traveled to Romanoff's safehouse in Budapest where they had a confrontation, however, Barton made a decision to let her live. Romanoff provided Barton with all information about the Red Room and her overseer, General Dreykov.
S.H.I.E.L.D. decided that Dreykov's influence made him too dangerous, so they ordered Barton to take him out. Barton then joined forces with Romanoff, as she was the only one who was able to find him.
In order to kill Dreykov for sure, Black Widow and Hawkeye rigged the five story building in Budapest with bombs. Romanoff then lured Dreykov inside the building by bringing in his daughter, Antonia, knowing that she would die in the explosion as well. Romanoff and Barton then split up, then while Dreykov and his daughter were inside the building, Romanoff detonated the bombs. Both Dreykov and Antonia were seemingly killed in the explosion that followed.
Soon after the explosion, Romanoff and Barton were chased by and engaged in a heavy firefight with the Hungarian Special Forces, but managed to escape. Given there was no extraction plan, they hid themselves for ten days, two of which were spent inside the ceiling of a subway station, before being able to leave the city.
Agent Romanoff of S.H.I.E.L.D.
With Dreykov out of the picture, S.H.I.E.L.D. concluded that the Red Room had been shut down. Black Widow was officially recruited and became Hawkeye's partner in STRIKE Team: Delta. The details of the mission were kept secret on S.H.I.E.L.D.'s files and the full details were only known by high-ranking members. However, in 2014 when HYDRA was discovered in S.H.I.E.L.D., Natasha Romanoff chose to release all of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s secrets on the internet to expose the terrorist organization, including details of her mission in Budapest.
The New Black Widows
- "He takes more every day. Children who don't have anyone to protect them. Just like us when we were small. Maybe one in twenty survives the training, becomes a Widow. The rest, he kills. To him, we are just things. Weapons with no face that he can just throw away. Because there is always more. And no one's even looking for him, thanks to you and Alexei."
- ―Yelena Belova to Natasha Romanoff[src]
Unbeknownst to Natasha Romanoff and S.H.I.E.L.D., Dreykov survived the attack, although Antonia was barely alive. Hiding in the shadows, Dreykov continued the Red Room by kidnapping more girls and turning them into Black Widows. Melina Vostokoff later developed a mind control system, using the data stolen from the North Institute, so that a Black Widow would never be able to defect again. Dreykov also subjected his daughter to extensive experimental enhancements, turning her into the operative, known as Taskmaster.