Vivian had almost let herself believe that Pierce would be taking a hands off approach. It wasn’t hard to convince herself of that lie. Last she’d seen of him, he’d been dropping her off at the facility and threatening Bucky to keep her in line. Since then, she’d always known he was keeping an eye on her, but he just wasn’t coming around for whatever reason. And that meant that his making an appearance was either a sign of her doing extremely well or a sign that he thought she was fucking up beyond measure. Following Madame B to the door, Vivian opened it and stepped in, keeping her expression passive as she saw Pierce waiting for her. A television was strapped to a cart off to the side.
“Come, sit. We have much to discuss,” Pierce insisted. It took a second for Vivian’s brain to understand what he was saying though, since he was speaking in crisp English.
Sitting down across from him, she waited until the door behind her was shut before she focused on Pierce, “Did you need something, sir?”
Pierce chuckled and shook his head, “No, but I can understand why you’d think that. It is also good of you to ask. Red Room seems to have brought out the best in you.”
Vivian kept her mouth shut, merely staring at Pierce until he sighed, “Fine. First and foremost, I know you’re wanting the information, and since you’ve done such a good job with the students here, I’ll let you know that your soldier is fine. In fact, I’ve assigned him his own personal project.”
“A project, sir?” Vivian asked carefully.
Pierce grinned, “Don’t worry, he’s doing just fine. He’s…not quite himself, but he’s healthy enough.”
Vivian grit her teeth and clenched the arms of the chair tightly while forcing herself to not say anything or do anything. This seemed to amuse Pierce more as he threw his head back and laughed. He laughed heartily for several minutes until he finally sighed, “Ah, I had forgotten what a treat it is to speak with you, Vivian. Your soldier is not the reason I’m here though.”
“Then what is, sir?”
“As you are well aware, Natalia will graduate next year. She’ll be a fully fledged agent of Russia by then, and she, for reasons I’m sure you don’t know, has repeatedly expressed her desire to be partnered with you.”
Vivian nodded, “She told me she was making those requests.”
“Her request will be granted,” Pierce said, but then his expression became just a touch darker. “We will need to test her first.”
“Every graduate of the red room is tested,” Vivian pointed out.
Pierce shook his head, “Not like this. Not like what’s about to happen.”
“What are you doing?” Vivian demanded.
Pierce chuckled, “The world, somewhat through our influence and somewhat just on its own, has gotten more dangerous. Mutants are fighting everywhere, from the streets to outer space, terrorists are flying planes into towers, and the U.S. government is trying to recreate project rebirth. We can only tolerate the best of the best making it through this program.”
Vivian desperately wanted to ask what in the world Pierce meant by mutants fighting in outer space , but she kept her mouth shut. If he’d wanted her to have more details than that, he would have given them to her, but he hadn’t, and so asking would only result in punishment. She’d have to figure out a way to get that information on her own at a later date. Besides, she had more pressing issues to ask about.
“How do you intend to achieve these results?”
Vivian kept her hands flat on the arms of the chair as Alexander Pierce stood up and walked over to the television. The TV turned on, the electronic noise filling the room as static filled the screen before a disc got inserted before he hit play. At first the screen was just dark, but then images became clearer as she realized they were soldiers running drills. And they were extremely good and extremely accurate. She kept her mouth shut as she watched them rage through a battlefield, decimating the enemy often before their opponent could get off a single shot.
“When will they arrive?” Vivian whispered.
Pierce sighed and checked his watch, “Oh, about thirty minutes ago.”
The grin on Pierce’s face sent shivers down Vivian’s spine. She opened her mouth to ask another question, but then flinched as an alarm went off, the lights going out for a second before backup generators kicked on. Staring pointedly at him, Vivian then bit out, “What do you want?”
“To see how you react. You see, I have a proposition for you,” Pierce began, looking terribly pleased with himself. “You can either go out into the fight and help your students survive this test, or you can sit here, let them fend for themselves, and find out what special project Barnes has been working on since you’ve been gone.”
Vivian’s heart stuttered and part of her was desperate to stay and find out, but then she reminded herself that if she did that, she’d get nothing. Pierce wasn’t going to stop using Bucky and there was no way her mission here with the Red Room was going to end anytime soon. No, the only thing knowing the information would do would be to drive her crazy. Granted, the idea that Bucky was being used in some way that was making Pierce happy was also not something she was happy about either. No matter what, Pierce would get some satisfaction out of this, that was for sure.
Standing up, Vivian clenched her hands into fists by her sides before demanding, “Are you going to give me a weapon or do I need to get one off of one of your men?”
Pierce turned off the TV and sat down, looking pleased with himself before he motioned toward the door, “I’m sure you’ll be just fine on your own.”
Glaring, Vivian opened up the door and stormed out, heading toward where the girls would be around this time of day. On her way down the hallway, she rolled her eyes as a soldier stood waiting, gun raised as he shouted in perfect Russian, “Stop and surrender!”
“Go to Hell,” Vivian snarled, not slowing down for an instant as she held out her hand and ripped his gun from him. Turning it back on him, she then shot him rapidly along all of the weak points in his armor. Continuing on, she shot him again for good measure as she passed, forcing herself to not look at the man. She was doing this for a reason. She just needed to keep it locked down until after she was back in her room.
And just like that, it was like everything became muted and she felt shuttered, cut off from everything. These soldiers were just cutouts. Paper floating in the breeze ready to be ripped apart. She pretended she was back in that emptiness that the chair had given her, the emptiness that Bucky felt every day now, and she proceeded. She gunned down agent after agent without flinching and while barely blinking.
Once she reached the mirrored room for ballet practice, Vivian stepped over bodies that the girls had dropped and then focused on the agents that had overpowered them. Two bullets each. Her ears were ringing, probably had been from some time, but she merely stared at the blank wall now with the bar in front of it. Bullets had hit the mirrors, shattering them all over the floor. The broken pieces glittered under the strong light and were splattered with blood.
Glancing at each of the girls, Vivian took a careful headcount, noting three dead students, their bodies riddled with bullets. Thankfully, Natalia wasn’t one of the dead, but she also wasn’t one of the living ones either. Turning on her heel, Vivian was about to go search for her only to feel some of the tension leave her body as Natalia came in, blood splattered all over her. Her chest was heaving as she forced herself to take deep breaths and Vivian moved closer, shouldering the weapon before steadying her. A quick onceover told Vivian that Natalia wasn’t injured and that the blood was thankfully not hers. When Vivian noticed Natalia’s lips moving, Vivian shook her head and tapped her ear and shook her head.
Too much gunfire. Can’t hear anything for a few hours.
Vivian had signed fairly rapidly, but Natalia nodded, shoulders slumping before she replied in sign language.
How did these men even get in? Why did they come in? This place is supposed to be safe.
Rubbing her hands over her face, Vivian glanced over to where the other girls were gathering up the dead and she then focused back on Natalia. She wondered for half a second about whether or not to tell this girl the truth before she decided she wouldn’t lie about this.
It was a test. A test of the entire class.
Natalia frowned, her brow furrowed as she signed angrily. A test? They destroyed part of our building and killed my classmates.
Vivian shrugged. Apparently, the challenges outside have gotten harder. I only found out about this right before the alarm went off.
By then the intruders were already inside by then!
Natalia was aggressively signing, looking more than a little annoyed. It was drawing attention from the other girls, so Vivian shook her head and gently gripped the girl’s shoulders. Staring into her eyes, Vivian then sighed and released her before carefully signing her response.
I think they wanted to see how you would truly respond in a crisis, how you would handle split second decisions in a real life scenario. I know this wasn’t fair, but know that as long as I’m here, you’ll always have me to back you up. You’re not alone in this .
Natalia nodded and then pointed to the gun. Vivian just grinned and signed. Killing your enemy with their own weapon is the easiest way to handle a situation like that. It makes it so that you can avoid getting caught on the way to the crime with a weapon. Plus, if they try to trace the murder weapon, they’re only going to find out more information on the victim.
Natalia nodded again before scrunching up her nose as she tried to scrub the drying blood off of her skin. Tapping the girl’s hand, Vivian shook her head and then signed. Don’t bother. You’ll need to take a shower to get clean, but if you think you can still feel it long after the shower, don’t worry. It happens to all of us.
Natalia looked perturbed and Vivian sighed before gently cupping the back of the girl’s neck and pushing her hair out of her face. At a glimpse, her hair just looked wet, but upon closer inspection, it was splattered with blood just like the rest of her.
You will survive this, little one.
She signed that quietly and covertly, unsurprised when the door opened and Madame B. came over and gripped her arm in a vice grip. Grinning widely as she was led out of the room, she waved at all the surviving students, staying upright and keeping her head up high as she went back down that same route. It was a little bloodier than usual, and once they passed the room Pierce was in, she was unsurprised when she saw him just standing in the doorway. The grin on his face was damn near psychotic. A monster who felt he was three moves away from a checkmate.
She was then put back into her room, the little not-apartment that she’d been given. Even without her hearing, she knew she’d been locked in. She was always locked in. After all, Madame B. was too smart to actually trust her. Shaking her head and heading into the bathroom, Vivian stripped down and then got into the shower, turning it on and stepping directly under the spray. The water was boiling hot and then she pressed her hands tightly onto her face and screamed.
She couldn’t hear the sound of her own screams, could still only hear the ringing, but she could feel it in her fingertip, could feel it in her chest, throat and mouth. The sensation radiated throughout her, twisting in her insides as she screamed harder, screamed until dots appeared in front of her eyes. Once she started to sway, she stopped, her chest heaving as she leaned against the wall, sliding down and closing her eyes as blood swirled around the drain, a pinkish hue.
She really needed to carve that fucking grin right off Pierce’s smug goddamn face.