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"Russia has been training young women to be undercover operatives."
Peggy Carter to Edwin Jarvis[src]

The Red Room Academy was a Soviet-Russian facility for the Red Room program that created Black Widows. Originally posing as a boarding school located in Belarus, it was relocated to a mobile aerial platform in the 2000s following the Budapest Operation.

History

Training Child Assassins

"Training young girls to be what, assassins? Seems like the Russians would want to train grown men."
"Women are often overlooked, taken for granted. They can slip easily through a man's defenses."
Peggy Carter and Johann Fennhoff[src]

Dottie Underwood ready to spar against Anya

In 1937, the girl who would assume the identity of Dottie Underwood was one of the many girls that lived and were trained as elite spies and assassins in the Red Room Academy.

Every morning, one of her instructors entered the room and opened the handcuffs that tied each girl to her bed. One of those mornings, Underwood shared a piece of bread she managed to hide with one of her friends, Anya.

The girls were taken to a room modeled after a typical American classroom, where the girls were indoctrinated and brainwashed through films they were forced to watch and learn by heart. The films, such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs served a double purpose, as they showed the behavior a woman should show to not raise any suspicions, and also, through subliminal messages embedded in the movies, they brainwashed the girls.

Dottie Underwood ready to break Anya's neck

One day, Underwood and Anya had to fight each other as part of their training under the watch of her instructor. Though it looked like an even match at first, Underwood managed to overpower Anya and grabbed her by the neck. With a gesture, her instructor ordered Underwood to kill her friend, and she subsequently broke her neck.[1]

Infiltration into the Red Room Academy

"That building seemed to house a training facility."
Peggy Carter[src]

Peggy Carter, Dum Dum Dugan, Junior Juniper, and Mike Li infiltrated together the Red Room Academy, and they examined a room modeled after a typical American classroom that made them all feel uneasy.

Li unintentionally activated a projector, and while Dugan told him to shut it off, Carter realized there was something hidden in the images. Carter started to slowly examine the projected movie frame by frame, and found subliminal messages embedded in it, with the words "Instill Fear" written in Russian. Li then heard a child crying, and wondered what was a little kid doing in that place. Carter grabbed her weapon, and told them to be careful, feeling it could be a trap.

The team entered a room filled with children's beds, and Carter realized the facility was a boarding school. Juniper wondered why there were handcuffs on each bed, and Dugan simply answered it was Russia, before noticing a little girl crying in a corner of the room.

Dum Dum Dugan attempting to comfort Eva

Dugan approached the girl, Eva, and told her they were there to help and they would not hurt her. Eva stopped crying and slowly touched Dugan's bowler hat, nodding when he asked her if she liked the hat. Dugan asked Carter the reason they were called "bowler hats", and Eva seized the opportunity to quickly stab Dugan, take his gun and shoot at Juniper.

Carter managed to disarm Eva, but she was too fast and was able to escape, while Juniper died on the ground. Dugan, who managed to survive despite being stabbed, grabbed a hand grenade and attempted to throw it through the hole that Eva used to escape, but Carter stopped him from killing a little girl. Carter asked Dugan if he was all right, and explained that his Bulletproof Vest took the brunt of the stabbing, saving his life.

The second team, composed of Jack Thompson, Happy Sam Sawyer, Pinky Pinkerton and Rick Ramirez arrived to the room, and Thompson asked what had happened. Carter revealed that Leviathan would have almost certainly been alerted of their presence, so they needed to move quickly.

Dugan took Juniper's dog tags, and breathed heavily until he managed to overcome the death of his friend for the time being. Dugan told Carter they needed an exit on the back of the facility, who acknowledged that they needed to find the ones who were trying to frame Howard Stark.

Carter ordered Dugan, Pinkerton and Ramirez to find a back way out of the facility, and the rest to come with her to further investigate the bottom levels.[1]

Prisoners of Leviathan

Happy Sam Sawyer killed a Leviathan soldier standing guard in a hallway, and Jack Thompson ordered him to stay at that position to alert them of any other soldier that could appear.

Johann Fennhoff speaks to the SSR in his cell

Thompson approached a prison cell where two prisoners were being kept, and one of them, with a heavy Russian accent, realized that they were not Leviathan. Peggy Carter told him they were the "good guys", and asked them why Leviathan was holding them as prisoners.

Doctor Ivchenko explained that Leviathan acquired a set of blueprints in the black market, and they wanted his cellmate, Nikola, to build it for them, as Nikola was an engineer and Ivchenko was his psychiatrist. Ivchenko explained that Nikola was burdened with a gift that allowed him to see things in multiple dimensions. He exemplified the gift saying that Nikola was able to see the biology and phytochemistry when looking at a simple field of grass.

Ivchenko explained that in order to keep Nikola's gift from overwhelming him, he required discipline and stability, and since Leviathan took his family, and Nikola's stability with them, he provided Nikola with the discipline he needs.

Carter asked about the weapon Leviathan wanted them to construct, and Nikola explained that it was a Photonic Amplifier. He asked Carter if she knew that light was composed of both particles and waves, something she already knew, so Nikola explained that Howard Stark had found a way of altering the behavior of the waves, showing them the blueprints with the symbol of Stark Industries.

Carter asked if Stark was there in the facility, and Nikola got angry, saying that Leviathan stole the blueprints, if Stark was there, they would not need him and he could be in Kiev with his wife. Ivchenko calmed Nikola, and asked Carter if they had entered the facility hoping to find Stark. Ivchenko also revealed he had heard no mention of Stark himself from Leviathan.

Sawyer shouted that Leviathan soldiers were coming, and Nikola begged Carter to liberate them. She told Nikola and Ivchenko to get away from the door, and she shot to its lock, breaking it and liberating the two prisoners.[1]

Final Shooting

Peggy Carter, Jack Thompson, Happy Sam Sawyer, and Mike Li retreated to the Boiler Room with the two prisoners they had recently liberated, Nikola and Doctor Ivchenko, to defend themselves from a squad of Leviathan soldiers that were attacking them.

Carter contacted Dum Dum Dugan to tell him they were trapped in the boiler room and needed an exit. The soldiers continued to attack them, and while the agents managed to kill some of them, they were clearly outnumbered. Carter asked Nikola and Ivchenko to show them the way out of the facility in case they knew it.

Eva appeared from inside a pipe and killed Li with a shot to the head, and while Sawyer retaliated, Eva managed to shoot him in the leg, escaping from the gunfire.

Soldiers shooting at the Howling Commandos

Nikola, claiming he knew what to do, took Sawyer as his hostage, and told the soldiers to hold their fire, as if they let Ivchenko and himself escape, he would handle the Americans. Carter tried to persuade Nikola, saying they would not be leverage and would die before being captured.

Thompson was paralyzed by fear and unable to move, and Ivchenko tried to calm Nikola down while grabbing a weapon. Nikola was tired of being a prisoner and did not want to hear Ivchenko, so Carter threatened to kill him in case he killed Sawyer. Before he could react, Ivchenko killed Nikola, apologizing in tears for having to do it.

A large number of soldiers arrived, so Carter contacted Dugan again to make him hurry with the exit. Sawyer ran out of ammunition, and as Carter told Thompson to take Li's ammunition, she realized that Thompson was paralyzed in fear. Carter handed Sawyer her gun to let him continue shooting, and she tried to make Thompson react, to no avail.

Dugan blasted a hole in the wall and entered the room with Pinky Pinkerton and Rick Ramirez, shouting his war cry, "Wah-hoo," though Carter told him to stop "wah-hooing" and help them. Pinkerton and Ramirez started shooting at the soldiers, and Carter ordered everybody to get out.

Thompson was still paralyzed by fear, so Carter went to his position and made him regain his senses while Dugan covered her. Dugan told Carter to leave, but she insisted on being the last one on leaving the facility. Dugan asked her what would Captain America say if he left Carter behind, and she answered that he would tell him to do as Carter said.

Dugan left and Carter shot a final wave of bullets to buy some time for her to escape. She ran to the truck that was waiting outside, covered by Pinkerton and Dugan, and she managed to jump it and avoid the enemy fire. Ivchenko, surprised by her performance, told Carter that it had not been bad for a girl, and she jokingly answered that she hated them all.[1]

Natasha Romanoff's Training

Natasha Romanoff caught Dreykov's attention, so he recruited her and Yelena Belova to be trained by the Red Room.[2] Romanoff worked hard, although became nervous about the impending graduation ceremony and attempted to lose a match on purpose, upsetting her trainer, Madame B..[3] Romanoff looked on as a group of younger recruits were being trained and felt for them, worried that they would break. Madame B. told Romanoff that only the breakable ones would break.[4] Romanoff continued training, and got to the point where she could expertly fired at targets with deadly accuracy.[3] She demonstrated this skill to a group of observers, who switched the targets for a hostage that she killed.[4] Romanoff was deemed ready for graduation and was nervous[3] as she was wheeled on a gurney into an operating room, where they removed her uterus and ovaries[2] in order to sterilize her and turn her into the perfect killer.[4]

Resurgence of the Widows

With Dreykov though dead, he moved the Red Room Academy into the sky, allowing them to stay under the radar for many years, where he operated his chemically subjugated operatives around the globe. Black Widows trained there and used it as a base of operations, although they were always sedated before leaving and arriving so that they could not know where it was.

Destruction

In 2016, Melina Vostokoff contacted the Red Room about Natasha Romanoff, Alexei Shostakov, and Yelena Belova's plans to kill Dreykov and end the Red Room Program. Vostokoff and Romanoff used Photostatic Veils to disguised themselves as one another, so Romanoff could access Dreykov. They were flown to the Red Room Academy by "Vostokoff."

"Vostokoff" entered Dreykov's office and they discussed seeing her family again. Despite "Vostokoff's" protests, Dreykov demanded that she operate on Belova to find out what went wrong with her brainwashing. Meanwhile, Belova was prepared for surgery and Shotakov and "Romanoff" were placed in cells. Dreykov told "Vostokoff" that he planned to brainwash "Romanoff," before revealing that he was aware of the ruse and took Romanoff's veil off. Taskmaster pulled a gun on Romanoff, but Dreykov told her not to.

Meanwhile, Vostokoff and Shostakov got out of their cells, and Vostokoff contacted Belova over an intercom, telling her about a concealed knife in her uniform. Belova used the knife to break free and killed the surgeons who were operating on her. Vostokoff told Belova that the Red Dust was being kept in cold storage and that Belova needed to get it to free the Black Widows, so Belova went after it.

Meanwhile, Dreykov taunted Romanoff about the death of her mother, causing Romanoff to realize that he was emotionless. Romanoff asked if he felt something when she killed his daughter, prompting Dreykov to reveal to Romanoff that Taskmaster was his daughter, Antonia, who survived the explosion. Romanoff asked if Antonia could hear her, but Dreykov simply sent his daughter to kill Belova, Shostakov, and Vostokoff. Romanoff pulled a gun on Dreykov, but found that she could not bring herself to shoot or stab him due to the pheromonal lock in her system. Dreykov went to hit Romanoff, who flinched, but Dreykov walked away and said that he would have to kill Vostokoff.

Meanwhile, Taskmaster found Shostakov and Vostokoff, and Taskmaster and Shostakov began fighting while Vostokoff entered the computer room and began the landing sequence. While Belova got the Red Dust, Dreykov watched Vostokoff work and canceled the landing sequence, locking Vostokoff in the computer room. Romanoff taunted Dreykov, causing him to beat her, but Romanoff continued taunting him. Dreykov kicked Romanoff to the ground, saying that he owned the world. He used his ring to activate a holographic monitor, showing Romanoff the locations of deployed Widows, saying that he gave the girls a purpose.

Belova recovered the Red Dust while Vostokoff crawled through the vent in order to find the engine room. Meanwhile Shostakov continued to fight Taskmaster. Dreykov continued to tell Romanoff about the power and influence the Red Room had, and that the power came from Dreykov's console. Romanoff slammed her head against Dreykov's desk to sever her olfactory nerve, ending the pheromonal lock against hurting him. Romanoff attacked Dreykov, who pressed a panic button, causing the Black Widows to rush to Dreykov's office before Belova could get there.

Meanwhile, Vostokoff rushed to the engine room of the facility and found herself surrounded by soldiers. She blew up the engine and told Belova about the new plan, while Belova found the Widows' training room to be empty. Vostokoff then returned to Shostakov, who was losing his fight against Taskmaster, and the two locked Taskmaster in a cell.

Romanoff taunted Dreykov, but was stopped from attacking him by the Black Widows, who Dreykov ordered to kill Romanoff painfully before leaving. Despite not wanting to hurt them, Romanoff engaged in a fight with the Widows, who grabbed her and started beating her. However, Belova entered Dreykov's office and blew up several vials of Red Dust over them, freeing them from the Red Room's mind control.

While the Widows, Dreykov, and Belova tried to leave, Romanoff stayed behind with Dreykov's ring and downloaded all of the Red Room's files onto a flash drive while the facility started to blow up. Romanoff barely escaped with the drive and the remaining Red Dust, grabbing onto a rail as she jumped out of a window to avoid an explosion. She entered the building through a window on a lower level.

Vostokoff and Shostakov ran onto the runway into a plane and tried to wait for Belova and Romanoff, but the runway fell apart, forcing them to leave. Romanoff ran through the facility and came across Taskmaster. She freed Taskmaster from the cell and braced to have to fight her, but they were separated by an explosion happening between them.

Dreykov was brought onto a plane while Belova chased after them. Romanoff saw and ran after her while Belova got on top of Dreykov's plane and readied her staff. Despite Romanoff's pleas, Belova blew up the plane, sending her flying off the facility into a free fall. Romanoff jumped after her and was chased by Taskmaster. The battle was finished was Taskmaster was cured of her brainwashing on the ground while the facility crash-landed, officially ending the Red Room.[2]

Trivia

  • In the comics, the USSR had a "Black Widow Ops" in which young female orphans, are brainwashed, and trained in combat and espionage at the covert "Red Room" facility. Natasha Romanoff was one of these women.
  • Agent Carter showrunners Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas stated in an interview that the Russian Assassin Program is the precursor to the Black Widow Program.[5]

References

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