Colonel Kovačević walked through the halls of power with a thick file under one arm, and his cap in his hand. Rows of soldiers saluted crisply as he passed. The final soldier opened the office door for him, and he stepped inside.

The new director of intelligence operations had made the office his own, in a short amount of time. Photos of a smiling family standing before the countryside dacha sat on the expensive mahogany desk next to pictures of the director in the company of senior government members. The ones still in good graces, of course.

The Colonel smiled grimly to himself. Russia never changes. Before the Revolution, there were the tsars and their palaces. During the Soviet era, there were the high Party officials and their caviar. After the collapse, there are the oligarchs and their yachts. Those who understood that the perks were their reward for service to the motherland would survive. Those who gloried in the excesses of privilege would be removed.

And what was that service? The crushing of indolence, daydreaming, and hope. The state could not survive if the people thought only of themselves. The people could not survive if the state fell. The mother must endure. The Colonel was here to brief the director on his areas of research, but also to find out what sort of a man he now worked for.

The conversation was cordial, professional, and productive.

Finally the director’s attention came to ANTIBODY.

“I was unaware of this program until now. Colonel Kovačević, what is the purpose of this research?”

Kovačević cleared his throat. “At a high level, ANTIBODY is a program to develop and deploy strategies to neutralize singular external threats. Hypergeniuses, superheroes or supervillains, world leaders, or similar individuals or groups that wield disproportionate levels of power.”

“Through assassination, one assumes.”

The Colonel nodded. “Sometimes, at first. We realized it was often better not to attempt it. Some individuals are simply difficult to kill without causing significant collateral damage. Others are able to produce technology we wish to acquire, and it’s better to minimize their disruptive potential than to simply kill them. Every case is different.”

The director’s eyes lit up. “I see. That is why you named this project ANTIBODY. Proteins the body develops to counteract specific antigens.”

The Colonel’s smile widened. “Yes sir.”

“I understand. And connected with this effort, what is the purpose of the development at Sayansk? The requested budget is, shall we say, extravagant even for a modern agent-training facility.”

Kovačević was afraid of this moment. Would the director understand? Would he appreciate the sacrifices necessary to achieve order?

“Yes, sir. You see, some years ago we made a breakthrough. This allows us to force-grow human clones in months, rather than years, and allows the implantation of synthetic memories via RNA transcoding. We are using this capacity to develop people who will function as neutralizing agents for specific individuals of interest.”

The director breathed in. Kovačević saw that he understood the ramifications of it, at least. “Soul mates or seducers. Perfect assassins. Provided you have a sufficiently accurate profile of your target, of course.”

“Of course, sir.”

“And have you had any successes with this program?”

Kovačević was mindful that listening devices can be found anywhere - even in the offices of a director. He slid the files in his folder around, just enough to reveal two names, and briefly gestured at them with index and middle fingers.

The director nodded slowly in shocked comprehension. “And… your current activity? That justifies the budget you’ve requested?”

A handful of photos emerged briefly from Kovačević’s folder, then vanished again. One of them depicted Dr. Byron Quill.

The director sat back in his chair and exhaled.

Kovačević waited.

“Daring. And dangerous.”

Kovačević found himself holding his breath.

The director leaned forward again. “But if it is necessary, that is acceptable. Thank you, Colonel, for answering my questions.”

The Colonel had found his answer. This was indeed a man who would do whatever it took to see Russia endure.

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ANTIBODY is my equivalent of the Red Room from the MCU. They don’t just train assassins - they produce people to order, tailored to take down a specific super-human threat. Other Antibodies than Jenny Byrne might exist…

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I always found the USSR’s fairly quick adoption of tsarist wealth and glitter and pomp and palaces to be head-scratching. It struck me less as Animal Farm-like “new boss, same fancy chandeliers as the old boss” and more a hidden sense of inferiority, like they needed to still outshine the oligarchs of the West more than they needed to be utterly functional or performatively proletariat. But I digress.

I like it.

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