Agents of STRIKE
The Cold War
While the general public was not aware of extranormal phenomenon during the Cold War, this was a time of secret conflict between Leviathan and the Western powers. Both the Soviets and their Western opponents put a great deal of effort into keeping extranormal phenomenon a secret. This was to ensure that the public did not panic, and to deny any advantage to the enemy.
SHAPE and the SSR (1949)
In 1945, the OSS was disbanded, eventually being superseded in 1947 by the CIA. The SSR, meanwhile, continued to operate on its own, seeing its mandate as being still relevant. They worked with the British MI-13 globally to oppose Leviathan, until it was determined that their activities on US soil fell under the purview of the FBI, or abroad under the CIA. The SSR was formally disbanded in 1949, but their resources, personnel, and facilities were then re-assigned to the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), a NATO organization designed to keep Soviet power in check. SHAPE continued to perform covert operations against Leviathan under the direction of Clandestine Operations Director Peggy Carter.
The Menace of Leviathan (1954)
Leviathan had taken full control of the Soviet intelligence apparatus during the post-war period. With the creation of the KGB in 1954, Leviathan had a powerful agency at their full disposal that avoided conflict with members of military intelligence that were not under their command.
In the 1950s, their primary goal was the acquisition of enhanced individuals, extranormal artifacts, HYDRA technology, and anything else that would give the Soviets a distinct advantage over the West.
The Winter Soldiers (1959)
One of the most dangerous Leviathan projects that the West became aware of was the so-called “Winter Soldiers”, the outcome of the Soviet Super-Soldier program that they began after the war. These were highly trained, chemically enhanced operatives with superhuman abilities. Documents obtained after the fall of the Soviet Union have also discovered that the Winter Soldiers were highly unstable, and difficult for Leviathan handlers to control. At the time, however, they were the most feared operatives in the intelligence community, and they changed how the Cold War was being waged.
Project: Homegrown (1960)
The United States intelligence community realized that the Winter Soldiers presented an imminent threat, and that they could no longer be ignored. For decades, new attempts to create Super-Soldiers had not really been attempted in earnest for various ethical and safety reasons, but with the fear of the Winter Soldiers the CIA created Project: Homegrown (classified in their official documents as MK-HOMEGROWN). The project was a disaster, and the Super-Soldiers it produced were unstable and dangerous. They were used in the field against the Winter Soldiers for a short period, but were so dangerous the project was abandoned, the assets dissolved, and the whole project cancelled and concealed until SHIELD obtained the documents related to it in 1997. This was the first of many attempts by various US intelligence and military agencies and private corporations to create Super-Soldiers over the decades since Project: Rebirth’s success.
Cloaks and Daggers (1962)
Leviathan eventually retired the Winter Soldiers as a whole (with one exception) due to their instability, and returned to more conventional espionage and “active measures”. They still used extranormal technology and were able to find and deploy enhanced operatives from time to time, but this was met in turn by SHAPE counter-measures. Peggy Carter worked closely with allies in the CIA, MI-13 and other international agencies to combat extranormal threats like Leviathan and others.
Creation of SHIELD (1965)
Frustrated with SHAPE bureaucracy and NATO oversight giving them a vague mandate, Peggy Carter needed a new agency to fight against Leviathan and other extranormals. This led to the creation of the Supreme Headquarters International Espionage Law Enforcement Directorate (SHIELD), which was separated from SHAPE and given its own resources, facilities, and personnel. Based in Washington, DC, SHIELD was originally created in secret and the public was unaware of its existence. Peggy Carter was the first Executive Director of SHIELD.
SHIELD was enormously successful in the beginning in battling Leviathan and keeping extranormals in check. When Peggy Carter retired in 1969, Rick Stoner took over as Executive Director.
The Black Widows (1972)
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In 1972, SHIELD executive director Rick Stoner was assassinated by a Leviathan operative. The Leviathan operative was a member of a secret Leviathan Super-Soldier project known as the “Black Widows”, a successor to the Winter Soldiers. Knowing that Leviathan was once again using Super-Soldiers caused a change in policy for SHIELD, under new Executive Director Nick Fury.
The Avengers Initiative (1982)
Nick Fury worked with various intelligence agencies and scientist Dr. Henry Pym to develop secret arms caches, safe-houses, spy-rings, and other support apparatuses as part of a “stay-behind” program in Europe and North Africa in the event of a Soviet invasion. Secret operatives, known as Avengers, would be inserted among the populace to be activated in the event of emergencies such as the catastrophic loss of government and infrastructure or foreign invasion. Some of these Avengers would be highly trained intelligence and military personnel, and some would be enhanced individuals and other extranormals that SHIELD had acquired over the years.
The Avengers of the 1980s often found themselves working as spy-rings against Leviathan operatives. They operated in secret, and conducted themselves very differently from how the public perceives the Avengers now.
The Avengers Initiative was eventually disbanded, as over the years a few of the cells were discovered by the governments of the countries they were living in. Until the Operation Gladio inquiry in 1991, these cells were never traced back to SHIELD itself.
The Fall of the Soviet Union (1991)
The Soviet Union’s collapse sent shockwaves through the intelligence community. It was uncertain at the time if this was something Leviathan couldn’t foresee, was unable to stop, or was directly responsible for. But it quickly became clear that with the fall of the USSR and the dissolution of the KGB, Leviathan seemed to have lost its power base. The Black Widows appeared to disband, with one of their youngest members (Natasha Romanov, known publicly as the Black Widow) fleeing for the United States and growing up there.
SHIELD agents were able to obtain literal tons of files and documents from collapsing Soviet intelligence, and detain and interrogate fleeing Leviathan assets. Much of what we know about Leviathan comes from the period immediately after the fall of the USSR and the chaos that ensued.
The Quiet Years (1992)
In 1991, there was a public investigation in Italy into a “stay-behind” program called Operation Gladio. This was one of the Avengers Initiative cells in Italy, and the inquiry into how a paramilitary espionage unit was operating in Italy without the authorization of the Italian government eventually led to the public becoming aware of SHIELD’s existence. It did not lead to the overall discovery of the Avengers Initiative, however.
The discovery of SHIELD’s existence changed the shape of the organization. It could no longer operate in the shadows with impunity. There were calls for oversight, and as a compromise SHIELD was put under the authority of the World Security Council, a non-UN advisory and oversight committee made up of global representatives, largely NATO members but ultimately ended up including Russia and China due to global political pressures.
With Leviathan seemingly disbanded with the fall of the USSR, there was a quiet period in the 1990s where extranormal activity and international espionage was at a minimum. SHIELD was very careful in its operations during this time as it was under heavy scrutiny.