During an earthquake that shook San Fransisco, Leo Novokov was awoken. A Russian sleeper agent, he was awoken from his stasis with no recollection of where he was or what mission he was on. Slowly he began looking for clues, secret messages hidden in daily newspapers from his handler but instead he found that his long dead comrade, the Winter Solider, was now a celebrated American hero. Jealous of James’ new life, Novokov begins hunting him down, starting with anyone with a known association to him. With SHIELD aware of his activities, James and Natasha begin to follow his breadcrumbs of dead bodies. They find that Novokov has also kidnapped a defected Russian scientist, Professor Rodchenko, whose one job within Department X was to reprogram Russian agents, to turn them into what ever soldier the they needed them to be. As Natasha and James get closer to Novokov, he sets a trap – a trap to kidnap Natasha. Using Rodchenko, Novokov reprograms Natasha into her former soviet self – ballerina Natalia Romanova. With Novokov, planning to set off a bomb somewhere in Manhattan, James goes off the radar to track him down personally. Tracking them down, he confronts them: two against one. Managing to shoot Novokov, when he goes to save Natasha she doesn’t remember who he is. SHIELD takes Natasha in but after repairing her memories, she remembers everything that has happened in her life – everything except James. Knowing that perusing her will only cause them both heartache, he gives up on her, saying that she is better without him.
‘She is better off without me… And that is Leo’s final move. Even though he’ll spend the rest of his life in solitary… he still wins. I try to image my life without her and all I see is pain and heartbreak. But at least I’ll be the only one feeling it. I take solace in that thought and hold on to it for as long as I can. But it won’t be long enough.’
- Winter Soldier (2013) 014