Agents of STRIKE
World War II
World War II is widely considered to be the beginning point of extranormal phenomenon. This is where organizations like Leviathan and HYDRA got their beginning (at least, as modern threats to the world), and where the boundaries of what is considered “real” began to be pushed and broken.
Leviathan and Red October (1917-1922)
According to our best intel, Leviathan began as a secret society of Russian oligarchs and military officers who were very concerned with the direction that the Great Bear was taking. In 1917, when the Russian populace was overthrowing the Tsar and installing what eventually became the Soviet government, Leviathan infiltrated and ingratiated themselves to the revolution. By the time World War II broke out, Leviathan had taken control behind the scenes of the NKVD and what would eventually become the KGB. They didn’t control the entirety of the Soviet government and the leaders like Lenin and Stalin were still beyond their direct control, but they commanded incredible influence over Soviet intelligence and military policy.
Hunger of the HYDRA (1925)
Meanwhile, in Germany, another sinister secret society was rising with the war. Wolfgang Von Strucker, a Prussian noble and occultist, formed the group known as HYDRA around a philosophy of mysticism and so-called “deep science”. HYDRA appealed to many members of the nascent Nazi SS, and HYDRA (which didn’t begin as a Nazi group) found itself embraced by Nazi ideology. HYDRA mythology, like that of Thule and the coming of a racial eschaton, aligned nicely with Nazi beliefs.
Initially, HYDRA was merely a society of believers in certain ideals and concepts, something akin to Freemasonry but for Nazis. But once the war broke out, Von Strucker began offering the Nazis advanced weaponry and strange, alchemical reagents created by his top scientist, Dr. Arnim Zola.
Formation of the SSR (1942)
The Strategic Scientific Reserve was the ancestor of SHIELD, and was formed in response to the machinations of HYDRA. A division of the OSS, the SSR focused on trying to capture, study, and potentially reverse-engineer HYDRA’s technology and techniques.
The Super-Soldier Arms Race (1942)
In 1942, the Teleos Conference was held in Geneva, Switzerland. At this conference were a number of important and influential individuals in medical and chemical science at the time: Abraham Erskine, Arnim Zola, Herbert Wyndham, and Wladyslav Shinski. While we have little details on the specifics of the conference, it led to huge leaps forward in research to augment and enhance the human body and mind.
Suddenly, the idea that so-called “super-soldiers” could be a real possibility was at hand, and there was a race to successfully create them. Arnim Zola worked on such projects for the Nazis with HYDRA, and according to some intel, Wladyslav Shinski worked with Leviathan on something similar.
Project: Rebirth (1943)
Unable to produce results for the Nazis, Zola forced Abraham Erskine to help him work on their super-soldier program. However, Erskine was exfiltrated from Germany by REDACTED: LEVEL 9 ACCESS REQUIRED
Taken to the United States, Erskine began working with the SSR on Project: Rebirth, an American Super-Soldier project. Eventually, Steve Rogers was chosen for the project. It was a resounding success, but Erskine was assassinated by a HYDRA infiltrator shortly after the procedure on Rogers. Erskine kept the formula for Rogers’ transformation entirely in his own mind, keeping no notes so they could never be stolen, so the secret of Project: Rebirth died with Erskine.
Initially, Rogers was used as a publicity stunt, dubbed “Captain America” by the Army. However, when his augmented prowess was displayed in battle, the SSR started deploying him directly against HYDRA.
Rise of the Red Skull (1943)
Using his own, incomplete version of Erskine’s formula, Zola was able to create a Super-Soldier for the Nazis: Johann Shmidt, the Red Skull. The derivative, incomplete nature of the formulation scarred Shmidt horribly, hence the name he was given. He forbid Zola from producing more like him, stating that he alone should have such power. This made the Nazi authority very unhappy.
Red Skull and Captain America fought many times during the war. Eventually, Red Skull overthrew Von Strucker as leader of HYDRA, and led HYDRA away from the Nazis into following Red Skull alone. He led them on a mad quest to find Thule, the mythical promised land of HYDRA beliefs.
Loss of a Legend (1945)
On a mission to Greenland to stop Red Skull, Captain America was declared MIA. Red Skull was declared KIA. According to the reports, Red Skull was in Greenland searching for Thule, and REDACTED: LEVEL 9 ACCESS REQUIRED, eventually leading to Red Skull’s death.
With Red Skull dead and Captain America lost, the two great Super-Soldiers of the war were gone. HYDRA was leaderless, with Arnim Zola having fled and Von Strucker already exiled.
End of the War and Operation Paperclip (1945)
When the war ended, HYDRA was shattered and their agents and assets being divided and conquered by the forces of the SSR and Leviathan (who were, technically, allies at the time). HYDRA’s structure changed to a cellular one, with no distinct overarching leader. Von Strucker fled to Argentina, where he apparently died of old age. Arnim Zola attempted to flee to South America as well, but was caught by the SSR as part of Operation Paperclip. He was employed for decades under custody as a scientist for the SSR, until the SSR was eventually mothballed.
After the war, the SSR realized that HYDRA was no longer its greatest threat; that was Leviathan. Leviathan had grown powerful from HYDRA assets it had stolen, and unchecked Soviet power was a danger to Western civilization.