April 20, 2017:

In which Isa Reichert returns home from Barcelona, Spain, and finds an unexpected visitor in the hallway, and in turn finds an unexpected friend.

The Triskelion - New York City

The Headquarters, Armory and Fortress of the Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics division is, for the most part, an unassailable tower in the midst of the diplomatic sprawl that is Midtown East. The primary intelligence clearing houses and most of SHIELD's senior leadership are all housed hear, along with a veritable army of agents and staff to keep the place running, the world spinning and the weirdness at bay.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Phil Coulson, Sloane Albright, Tony Stark


Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

A week ago the quarters beside Sloane Albright's had gone dark and silent, and it's been that way since. The one-eyed pilot hasn't been in or out since then, nor has she been seen in the corridors or anywhere else throughout the Triskelion's grounds – normally, she could be seen in the training facilities, on the tarmac, or even looking over the quinjets in their hangars, carrying with her the scent of jet fuel and cigarette smoke.

But there's been no sign of Isa Reichert. She went to the tarmac to report to Agent Coulson almost a week ago and hasn't been seen since.

Now, it's a quarter to nine o'clock in New York City, and the sky is already dark. Clouds obscure the stars, not quite enough to threaten rain, but enough to dampen the air and lower the temperature.

The sound of heavy boots trudging down the hall can be heard, muffled by carpeting, and a figure can be seen making its way towards the silent quarters.

It seems that the prodigal pilot has returned after these long days. The closer she comes, the more it's obvious that she's in bad shape. The shadow under her good eye is deep, and her left arm is pinned in a blue cloth sling. She's wearing her white shirt, blue jeans, and bomber jacket, right hand tucked into the pocket and the jingle of keys suggesting she's already prepared to open her door.

But she moves slowly, stiffly, and exhaustion seems to hang over her like a cloak, or her own shadow. If anyone else is in the corridor, she's so exhausted that she doesn't even seem to notice just yet.

Nighttime in New York; the dark clouds settling in give a night where the only illumination outside is from below. The electric glow of New York City is something that has its own draw, and Rusalka had enjoyed the drive to the Triskelion much more than usual. It's an introspective trip, even if it's short, but is' the perfect night to wrap yourself in a car and drive, even for just a little bit. Sadly it's not nearly as long as she wishes, but the chance to spend time with her best friend is always a plus.

The one single door she has absolute power over opens, permitting the Sokovian into the SHIELD fortress. It's quiet, so late, but on the 16th dloor there's a familiar sound. Clomp clomp clomp. The sound echoes through the hospital-like corridors of the Triskelion, giving the Sokovian heiress a little bit of a smile. That Isa's room had been quiet and locked up tight for a week wasn't too much of a surprise; Sloane had noticed that the muscovite pilot hadn't been around for at least the last few days. Well, Rusalka's admittedly used to that - she is a pilot, and some kind of SHIELD agent, and the devil alone knows what kind of demands that puts on people's time.

Not to mention simple requirements of duty and such. Off flying a plane somewhere, just like others Sally had grown up around. The sound of the boots on the floor, though, tells her that the woman's returned from whatever it was she'd been doing. Huh. Well, Sloane's off doing superhero things on whatever top-secret ultra-classified training rooms she's beating up.

It leaves Sally with time to kill…and well, a new acquaintance at least. Who at the moment appears to be some sort of zombie, as the shuffling pilot makes her way through the halls. The gloomy weather outside seems to reflect in her nearly-dead atmosphere, and Sally watches for a moment as Isa finally stops at her door before clearing her throat softly.

"Ms. Reichert?" Blue eyes take in the older woman's sling, widening a little at the signs of whatever kind of injury she'd suffered. Sally stands there, clad in a black polo shirt bearing the rampant horse logo of Ferrari and dark slacks, cut and fitted perfectly to the girl's long legged body. She reaches a hand out, offering help to the apparently undead pilot. "Do you need a hand?"

Well, as long as Isa doesn't start mumbling things about brains and being hungry, at least.

That the pilot didn't immediately notice someone else in the hallway speaks to her exhaustion. She startles, badly; coming to life with a leap back from her door and a curse. At least she doesn't draw her Stetchkin on the girl.

Isa stands there a moment, breathing hard and making a conscious effort to lower her blood pressure.

"Devushka." Her greeting is low and a little unsteady as she withdraws her hand from her pocket, brandishing not a weapon but apartment keys. The fact that they're the only thing on the keyring suggests she doesn't own a vehicle of her own. "Is not polite to sneak up on people."

Up close and in the corridor's lights, the pilot looks even more haggard. Her face speaks of exhaustion and sleeplessness, and her single eye is red-rimmed; bloodshot, dull in the way of prescription-grade painkillers.

Narrowing her eye and blinking hard, Isa leans against the wall, dropping the keys back into the pocket.

Notably, she's wearing a wedding band on her right ring finger, the gold incongruous against the mottled scar tissue.

She seems to consider Rusalka's offer, almost on the verge of rejecting it, before blowing out a sigh and gesturing for the girl to follow her. She pulls out the key and opens the door, holding it open for Rusalka. "Come in."

Hooray for not getting shot at! But Rusalka isn't interested in firearms at all; her dislike for the things is enough that she doesn't consider anyone else to think all that differently. Besides, she's in SHIELD, who's going to be a real threat? Though, the jump and swearing gets a startled moment from Rusalka as well - she didn't realize she was quite so stealthy.

Sneak up? Didn't Isa hear her coming? Sally glances down at the suede oxford shoes she's wearing, shrugging mentally for a moment. Maybe they're not as loud as combat boots - or a jet engine for that matter - but she didn't think she was sneaking up on people. "Uh…sorry about that, I didn't realize." She slips into Russian to make a proper apology, partly because it's kind of nice to speak her native tongue - she's had enough for the day of English.

"<My apologies, flight officer Reichert.>" It's a loose enough rank, one that acknowledges the pilot's duties without sticking her into a chain of command. "<I had not intended to startle you, and I was not aware you were injured. Do you need help?>" It's almost a poetic tone, a very polite form of the language she calls home. Not very conversational, but she admittedly likes the mild formality of it all.

There's a glance as Isa waves her hand, and a nod of the head, as Sally catches the glint of gold on the woman's finger. A ring? That wasn't something she'd seen before, but…no, she can't remember for sure. Instead of questioning it for now, she'll simply accept the offer to join the redhead for a while. "<I suppose Sloane is…off doing whatever it is she does these days, but I didn't call ahead. I suppose it's all the same, I have not seen you in a little while.>"

She'll lead Isa into the apartment, glancing around - it's laid out like a mirror of Sloane's own, though with…decidedly different furnishings and a lot fewer musical instruments. Her gaze eventually returns to Isa's sling, though. "<May I ask, what happened to your arm?>"

The red-headed pilot glances back over her shoulder, once, although it isn't immediately clear what she's looking for. Her body language suggests exhaustion of the highest order.

Glancing over her shoulder, she looks Rusalka over in passing. The pilot switches to Russian, too; as before, it seems somehow less harsh than her English, and very slightly formal. "<If you want to be technical, my rank is not Flight Officer. I do not have one. Call me Isa, if you prefer.>" It isn't her name, but it's close enough, and it is a diminutive of her real name.

Isa waits for Rusalka to step over the threshold before swinging the door closed, catching it with her boot and giving it a little kick for that extra push to latch it.

Although it's the mirror of Sloane's apartment, it seems like a completely different place, all from the choice of decor and arrangement. It's much more Spartan than Sloane's quarters, for one. The furniture is all the standard-issue equipment that comes with any furnished unit, barely used. There's precious little else to suggest someone lives here – everyday things like the keys she tosses onto an endtable (apartment key, backup key, and the nearest grocery store's member card), or a folded newspaper (the New York Times, of course).

"<Injured.>" Isa laughs, a little bleakly. "<Yes, I will need a little help. For a few days, in fact, if you and Miss Albright do not mind the trouble.>" She tilts her head to indicate the arm in its sling. "<I am not able to do much with this arm, for the moment.>"

"<Have a seat.>"

There's a loveseat, a chair, a coffee table, kitchen table with two places, and a few non-standard floor lamps, which she briskly walks over to turn on. Warm but subtle lighting makes all the difference. Instead of looking sterile, the apartment looks inviting.

Isa herself drops into one side of the loveseat, with a snarl of pain. She's too tired to lower herself slowly, though.

"<I did not see her when I came in.>" When that was, though, Isa doesn't specify. She flicks her right hand, and this time there's the unmistakable glint of gold. "<If you had not been there, I would have knocked and explained that I may need her help in the coming days.>"

Isa shrugs more securely into her bomber jacket. It seems just a hair too big for her, the breadth of the shoulders more suggestive of a man's garment. Although Rusalka would have no way to know, the service patches are wrong, too – they're for a combat pilot, not a test pilot. It looks well-worn and well-used, though in good repair.

Leaning back, she bares her throat, half-scarred, single eye sliding closed. "<Are you hungry? Thirsty? Help yourself to whatever is in the refrigerator. Unfortunately, I am not a very good hostess right now, or I would offer you something.>" There's a short pause. "<But do not touch the vodka. Or the wine.>"

There's not much in it. In the back, there's the bottle of vodka, and a bottle of wine; the former is an expensive Russian import, and the latter is inexpensive stock from an upstate vineyard. There's a jug of orange juice, bottled water, and a quart of milk, which hasn't even expired yet.

"<There are glasses in the cabinet, above the refrigerator, to the left.>"

The temptation to pour herself a glass of wine is overwhelming, but the painkillers don't mix well with it. Isa heaves a sigh.

As to the comment that she hadn't been seen for a while, Isa cracks that blue eye open, gaze straying to the mantle. On it there are a few framed photographs.

One shows a much younger version of herself in the cockpit of a sleek fighter aircraft, unscarred, laughing as though at something the cameraman had said. There's a ring on her finger there, too; the clipping yellowed from age. To go by facial features, it's maybe five or so years old – or ten. It's hard to say the exact age of the photo. Isa looks a little worn even on the best of days.

Right next to that is a framed wedding photo. It shows her in a simple but elegant dress, laughing, in the arms of a handsome blonde man. He has short hair of a bright sandy blonde, and his eyes are blue, a shade or two darker and greyer than Isa's own. As with the press photo, she has both eyes, and no scarring mars her pretty face; both of them are wearing their rings. There's an almost playful quality about his grin, and an honest, pleasant quality to his features.

Funny. Nobody matching those features has ever been around her apartment. And wasn't she not wearing a ring the first time Rusalka and Sloane had met her?

The pilot waits until Rusalka gets whatever she wants from the kitchen, or not, leaning her head back and half-closing her eye. "<I was shot,>" she says, subdued. "<The doctors tell me there is nerve damage. I will make a full recovery, but in the meantime, I cannot do some of the things I am used to doing, and I must attend regular physical therapy.>"

"<I do not think I can tell you any more than that.>" The flamescarred pilot wrinkles her nose. "<I think that it is dangerous enough for you and your friend to even know me, but Agent Coulson seems to think that it is safe, here, so I must defer to his judgement…>"

Exhaustion is something that Rusalka's learned how to read instantly, with her mother's life and hidden medical issues. The latter Rusalka keeps as a secret to the grave, but the former… "<As you wish, Isa. You look extremely tired, have you slept in…the last week?>" She's been gone about that long, Sally thinks. She certainly looks like it; a darker circle under the redhead's eye and the slump of her shoulders reminds the younger woman of the worst times in her mother's career.

She steps across the threshold and takes in the apartment, comparing it to Sloane's - her friend's is an already-well-lived-in apartment, this is more like a stage set. Just enough to establish itself as a place, and…nothing else. Yet despite that sparseness there's a simplicity about it that Rusalka actually finds comforting in a way. The soft light of the lamps improves her opinion of Isa's apartment, and she nods approvingly before glancing across the few photographs and personal effects.

"<I see. She must be busy somewhere, then, in this earth-swallowing fortress.>" Seriously, it feels like a single building the size of an entire college campus. Massive, strong, and ominous in its own way, though perhaps with its softer side - at least, the few apartments she'd been in.

"<Ah? No, no thank you, I've had dinner. Though I would appreciate something to drink, yes.>" She makes a brief grimace at the mention of alcohol. "<Pfhah. I would not dare; I'm only eighteen. And I despise the taste. And driving home.>" Still a few years to go before she's quite legal, though she doesn't mention how she knows the flavor. Also, Rusalka did just admit she's less than half Isa's age; the older woman was already in college when the younger was born.

Not that Isa's old or anything.

She does, however, glance back at Isa and makes a small snap-judgement - a quick check of the fridge produces a supply of juice, and Sally snatches a pair of glasses before joining Isa at the table. "<If I may be permitted, you might need this. You remind me of me during finals, or working a whole weekend. Hydration is important.>" Playing the role of hostess, she'll pour and serve, leaving the juice container out - who knows how thirsty Isa is.

Cobalt blue eyes follow Isa's gaze at the photos, taking in the features of the young man - the wedding photo, she realizes, smiling a little sadly. She glances back, seeing the ring finally on Isa's hand. "<Your husband, I gather? He seems a kind man, very…open, I think. And very good looking,>" she adds with a smirk. It shifts a little sadder for a moment before returning. "<I remember photos like that of my father as well."> And she understands the placement of those photographs, and why they're there - it's an icon, a shrine to the departed.

And then there is a record-scratch as Isa mentions her injury, and Sally's eyes widen instantly in worry. "<Shot?! What…how! What happened?>" Ahh, the innocence of youth, even with the things Rusalka has seen in life. The alarm is honest, doubled down with Rusalka's dislike of guns, and she can't help but wonder just what happened. Of course, her first thoughts are to the mundane - a mugging, perhaps. Her point of view of the world is slowly expanding, but it takes time.

"<I am glad that you will be well, but…>" Shock, especially even a little disbelief at the nonchalance from Isa. Maybe she's just that tired, and it doesn't register, Sally thinks. And then mention of Coulson, and the implications of secrecy. "<I see. SHIELD business, I imagine…>" Sally frowns, thinking of the kinds of things her own mother had to go through. So many secrets kept from the daughter, because of military rules.

When Isa makes her secret-agent claim of being too dangerous to know, Rusalka just huffs noisily in dismissal. "<I am a daughter of the Stojespal family, one of the oldest in Sokovia. I am an heir to the barony, and there has been danger to the family and the land since forever. Even from within,>" she adds, giving one more glance to the photograph of Isa's husband. A haughty mien crosses her features, a little bit played up and a little bit true. "<I doubt the machinations of a mere pilot in service to some foreign agency can be so much worse.>"

Okay she's stretching with Isa's description, but trying to improve the woman's mood. "<And yes, I suppose…this Agent Coulson, he is much more than he seems. An interesting man, after all.>"

The mantle of exhaustion is something that Raisa Ivanovna Yakovleva had worn in the past, but Isa Reichert is the one to truly experience it. It shows in the pilot's single blue eye, fleeting shadows and haunted looks. It shows in the darkness beneath that eye. And it shows in the hollow beneath her strong cheekbone. She had not known what exhaustion was until she left her homeland; not truly.

Have you slept in the last week? the Stojespal girl asks her, and it's telling that she has to actually think a moment on that answer.

"<Not enough.>" Isa flashes a sardonic half-smile, blue eye hooding. "<'I will sleep when I am dead,' my father used to say.>"

As to where Sloane might be, the redhead can only shrug. Although she's quickly learned her way around the place, having something of a knack for directions and navigating, the Inhuman's location is still a mystery. There's no telling what inscrutable purposes SHIELD has in mind for her on a day to day basis. How does one train something like that, anyway?

It would be rather like asking her how to explain how she pilots. Sure, there's plenty of technical knowledge that any other pilot would know. But she herself leans hard on intuition and even emotion. It can makes her an abysmal field agent, but it makes her an incredible pilot.

Isa can only give a weary nod in response, when Rusalka says Sloane must be busy somewhere. Obviously that's the case, or she would be in her apartment.

"<Then you have more self-restraint than these American teenagers I see.>" Head leaning back, baring her scarred throat, Isa sighs, hair near her mouth fluttering. "<I do not think they would keep their word on such a thing… but I think that you will.>"

Eighteen, and her friend likely no more than a year beyond that estimate. So young, she thinks. It must be frightening for the other to have these new abilities. How does one prepare oneself for such a thing? Once again she feels a rush of sympathy; once more she finds herself silently resolving to look after the fish-scaled girl and her car-infatuated friend.

Isa lets her eye slide closed. The darkness is soothing to her stinging, scratchy eye, even as Rusalka leaves a drink. She'll get to it, for her mouth does feel dry, but later. She's about to say something when the Sokovian girl asks about the photographs.

Slowly, her eye slides half-open; though she looks at the ceiling, she doesn't really see it. It slides closed a moment later, and for a fleeting instant, the stress lines in her face and the shadow under her eye seem much more stark. Isa continues in a soft tone.

"<Yes, that was my husband. Those were taken five years ago. He was very kind, and I do not think he was open, always, but he smiled easily.>" There is a subtle thread of melancholy in her voice, and she only speaks of him in the past tense. "<So easily.>"

Isa snorts, softly, but declines comment on whether her husband had been handsome or not. Maybe she assumes the photo speaks for itself. Of course he was handsome. Her opinion, however, is entirely biased.

Rusalka's shock at the nature of her injury draws no real response; the pilot doesn't even open her eye, showing a blatant lack of concern. It may be that she really is that exhausted. Physically, she looks capable of that. Isa tilts her head faintly in the shrug she can't execute. "<Yes, by a long-range rifle. He missed. According to Agent Coulson, the sight was between my eyes.>"

Her voice is remarkably bland, enough to suggest a joking tone on the last two sentences.

"<Stojespal… no, I do not know that name. But I am not overly familiar with… Sokovia.>" There's the faintest hesitation over the name. She no longer has to filter what she says so carefully. There are no agents waiting to pounce on dissidents here. Still, her observation is honest. She isn't familiar with the region, whatever its current political status. "<But this is not like what you may be accustomed to. I am not the danger to you, but there are… situations.>"

Isa makes a soft sound of discomfort. "<I cannot tell you any more than that.>" Agent Coulson? "<Interesting. Yes. But he is a good man, even if he does not always seem so. I would walk into fire again for him. I will walk into fire again for him. He has only need of telling me when, and where,>" she vows, softly. Clearly he must have done something Herculean to gain the loyalty of this fierce and otherwise independent woman. "<He is a man you can trust.>"

In a way it's a Russian thing. Enduring hardship, enduring trouble, and being beaten down like a rock under a waterfall. Yet, being stubborn enough to mock the devil himself with fatalist glee is what truly makes them Russian - and Rusalka, if she were to think about it, would agree that Isa's had at least one appearance with Satan himself and stared him down.


"<A claim I have heard many times before, but do not let me keep you up. If you'd prefer…>" To be alone, that is; Isa might just want to curl up and sleep for a week. Certainly she probably should considering her wound, but Sally gets the feeling the older woman would actually like a little company and conversation first. Why not; she's not a bad person. And maybe Sloane will be by later.

Isa's thoughts on flying, the need of intuition and emotion, Sally would understand perfectly. There isn't time, often, to think of a solution to a problem - simply to know how to truly dance, or misstep in tragedy.

The Sokovian girl gives a harsh bark of laughter at Isa's mention of Americans. "Nekulturnyy. <Most of them, sometimes it seems; maybe it's nice to have civilized company after all. Well.>" A nod is given to the next door neighbor; Sally's opinion of Sloane's parents might not be the highest but she'd die for the girl, if it came to that. Friendships don't come easy, but when a Stojespal forges them nothing can break it.

"<Don't worry. My word is my family, and my family is my word. Baba would likely skin me alive if I went back on it.>" This 'baba' again, not her mother - there's more of a soft fondness and just a little fear, instead of parental respect and affection. A faint touch, but Isa might pick up on the difference in the soft Sokovian dialect.

The melancholy and the past tense Rusalka recognizes. Being part of a large family, even one as split in vendetta as her own, means that losing family members happens too often. There's a formality in her words as she commisserates. "<I see…you have my sympathy, Isa Reichert. Your husband…he was a good man, I believe. May he rest peacefully and await your reunion.>"

Oh the irony.

A hand waves, an almost regal dismissal. "<Sokovia is Sokovia, and is far away. I am, in all honesty…glad to be out from under such, ah. Traditional demand, shall we say.>" Shrug. Hell, even her name is surrendering to family tradition. "<And I do not care about such situations, if they come I will deal with them. I am not entirely blind to the world, even if…well.>" She glances at Isa's shoulder, not seeing the wound under her clothes, but her meaning is still clear. "<I refuse to be a mere child.>"

If there were such a thing as a princess alarm, shouting the dangers naievety and headstrong stubbornness, it'd be going off right now. The girl's self-confidence is practically that of a fighter pilot. Or, for that matter, that of Agent Coulson. Does not always seem to be a good man, Isa cautions, yet…her dedication to him reaches out from beyond even the grave. "<Then I shall do so. I have had much to consider, lately. I…might like your advice, in such a thing. If I may ask, that is.>"

After a few moments, the pilot wearily climbs to her feet and makes her way to the kitchen. Every move practically bleeds exhaustion. There's a moment or two of rummaging around and rifling through cupboards, before she returns with a small, aluminium cylinder a few inches long. It's not a lighter; it's too cylindrical. It's probably not an ammunition shell, either; both ends are flat.

Isa unscrews the cap to reveal that it's a toothpick holder. She pulls one out to chew on the end of it – it beats smoking, and she's reluctant to do that in these nice apartments. Also, it might be inconsiderate in light of her guest. Not everyone smokes copiously like she does.

"<No. Stay.>" She slumps back into her chair at the table, taking a sip of the juice that was poured for her. It's better than nothing, and it beats pouring herself the vodka that she really wants to turn to. "<I do not mind.>"

She doesn't say it, but she doesn't want to be alone. Everything in her rebels against being alone right now.

Resting an elbow on the table, Isa props her chin into her hand, scarred right fingers resting against the scarred right side of her face. Only the ring glints through the midst of that wreckage, nearly pristine in the care she's given it. A few years ago, she couldn't even bring herself to wear it. It was only a reminder of what had been lost.

Now, though… it's a symbol of hope. As long as he's alive out there…

Her single eye focuses again, blinking as she realises Rusalka's saying words that she doesn't immediately parse.

There's no response when Rusalka gives her formal condolences. Isa merely bows her head slightly, looking a little troubled. That would be her hope, to reunite with him quickly. It would be a peaceable solution for everyone involved. Not for the first time, she finds herself wondering, somewhat despairingly, what kind of mess he'd gotten himself into.

"<Yes,>" she agrees softly. "<He was a good man.>"

Isa's eye slowly hoods, not quite closing, a thin limn of blue watching the Sokovian girl. She flips the toothpick to the other side of her mouth, arching her red brow at the request. "<Advice? I do not see why not. Speak,>" she urges, straightening and folding her hands over the table's surface.

She'd get up to help out, but Isa's running on autopilot - and it's probably easier for her just to grab whever it is she wants than give Sally instructions on how to find it. If whatever it is is even where it's supposed to be, but for Isa's sake the little container's right there. There's a moment of curiosity as Sally glances at it - maybe enough for a shot glass, and Isa does have the glass of juice to mix with it, but…it's a strange - oh.


When bidden to stay, Sally just nods, lifting one hand to adjust the headband slightly and tuck a few errant strands back where they belong. "<It's a quiet night, I suppose. I am happy to provide company, then.>" She looks over the ring, over Isa's scars, not cringing this time - just taking in her conversation partner in full. She falls a little quiet when Isa seems to be woolgathering, though when the pilot snaps back to focus she smiles a little.

"<How is your shoulder, then. A rifle shot…I imagine that must have been very painful. Are you comfortable?>" Maybe it's whatever she's taking for pain that's got her a little faded out, but then again…there's more than just a shoulder injury that's weighing on her mind. "<If I may speak openly, you, ah. You remind me a little of my mother, when the bad times cascaded on us. My father, her career, she tried to shoulder a lot of it.>"

Maybe it's a little too forward, but she's trying to learn how to really reach out to people. At least Rusalka's kind enough to studiously ignore the fact she's suggesting Isa's her own mother's age, even if that fact is true. "<For a while…my mother is a very strong woman, and endured much, but it cost her.>" Now it's her turn to go distant, those eerily blue eyes losing focus and thinking back to the past.

Moments when her mother simply…stopped. Like a wind-up toy whose spring has run down, Irja would settle into a near-coma. It had happened once too many times, on the road, and only Sally's skill behind the wheel had saved them. In time, they'd stopped, but for a while Rusalka had been terrified that her mother would fall into one of those fugues…and never come out. "<It isn't as bad anymore, but. I was scared, for a time. What would happen to her, what would happen to the family. It is a difficult thing to watch. I would not wish to see it again…>" Her fingers gently play with her empty juice glass, tapping out a soft and tuneless rhythm.

And then her request for advice is accepted, and she refocuses her eyes on Isa's. "<I had an interview of sorts with Agent Coulson a little while ago. He was mostly interested in making sure I wasn't going to do anything foolish with Sloane; spirit her away or anything. We came to an understanding about her, and just what it is he intends for her future. He is a very reasonable and charming man, but…>" There's a soft tapping of her feet against the floor now, the leather-heeled shoes a little louder than she'd expected.

"<I believe it was his intent to recruit me into SHIELD, at least…to help with Sloane, but he left a very curious implication at the end of our conversation. I am no soldier, but…I would like your opinion. You trust Agent Coulson intensely, you said, but I…do not know what to do.>" If her mother were here, the decision would be easier - Irja would know the risks and rewards of service like that. Unfortunately, Isa is the one in the hot seat, and she's already given an opinion that answers half of Rusalka's question. The rest…remains hanging between them.

"<It was very painful, and it still hurts.>" Somewhat gingerly, Isa looks over her left shoulder, frowning. "<The doctors said there was some nerve damage. Instead of piloting, I go to physical therapy. They say I will make a complete recovery. It will only take time.>"

She sounds fundamentally unhappy about that. As far as she's concerned, being grounded is one of the worst things that can happen to her. It's like clipping the wings of a bird.

Neither does she take offense when she's compared to the Sokovian girl's mother. Her uninjured shoulder rises and falls in a faint half-shrug. "<A few years, and I could be her age, maybe. I do not take offense.>" She knows she isn't old, even if she isn't precisely young any more. It is what it is. There's no comment in response to the shouldering, though. Isa chooses to remain silent on that front. That may not be much of a surprise, from what little Rusalka has seen of her stoic personality.

Isa reaches for her juice, ring making a small, metallic sound when it touches the glass. A sip or two are taken while she listens.

Despite all she's been through, she's never fallen into one of those states. No matter how hard she's pushed herself, she's always had support, always had help from either her parents or Mikhail, even before they had married. She had only worn that ring for two weeks, but they had been together for some years. Enough for her to know he was the one she wanted to grow old with.

Gaze dropping and turning away to a distant corner of the room, Isa seems to slip out of focus, too, lost for a moment in memory.

Rusalka shifts tack to the matter of advice, though, and somewhat gratefully Isa lets the topic go. She herself has shouldered a lot over the last month. While she hasn't slipped into a near-coma, part of her has to ask herself how long it will be before the stress begins to show physical symptoms. She decided long ago that they won't be forgiving when they do begin to show. She may be young yet, but her chosen vocation has been demanding, and the strain she's withstood over the past few weeks has been grueling.

She sighs, red hair fluttering, considering the other's request for advice. That's much safer territory, and at this point she has personal experience she can rely on.

Reaching up, she shifts the toothpick to the other side of her mouth, teeth worrying at it thoughtfully. What are the risks and rewards? What should she do?

"<That is because there is no right answer,>" Isa murmurs, studying Rusalka through her lidded eye. "<You have never been military, I am guessing. I cannot tell you what to expect. Nor can I warn you against what you will or will not encounter. SHIELD is not like a military, but those who serve as agents, we are at times in danger all the same.>"

She reaches up to shift the toothpick to the other side of her mouth, single eye locked on Rusalka, studying her reactions. "<I trust Agent Coulson. He has proven he has earned that trust. Maybe I do not always know why he does the things that he does, but I know that he has good reason to do them. I would advise you to trust him, too. If he thinks that you are the makings of a good agent, then I would trust his intuition.>"

"<However…>" Isa tilts her head and regards the Sokovian girl thoughtfully. "<I must warn you that it will not be easy. It will not be safe. You may be put in danger, just as Sloane Albright may be put in danger.>" In place of a missing patronymic, she seems to use someone's full name to refer to them respectfully. "<But I will tell you this. Agent Coulson, he will do all in his power to look out for you, and for Sloane Albright, too.>" The pilot dips her head once, as though reaching a decision. "<And so will I.>"

"<I suppose it must. But you carry it well, if it were not for the sling…>" Shrug. It's not as if the 'Isanator' lets much stop her, clearly. There's a thoughtful sadness on her face for a moment as she continues. "<I am glad your prognosis is good. To take the sky from you would be a cruelty.>" There's a thoughtful moment, a question that comes to her now and then. One of those thoughts that comes when news breaks of yet another race driver suffering a terrible accident.

What does a pilot do when they can no longer fly? What does a driver do, when they can no longer drive? Everything else…is just waiting. She does not want to spend her life waiting.

The shrug gets a smirk in reaction, as Sally internally sighs with relief. She had meant no affront, and is glad to be taken well - then again, maybe Reichert is just too tired to put her in her place. "<It is possible. You both…have seen quite a lot, I will say. But you both are still here, at least.>" Both of their husbands dead and buried, at least as far as Rusalka knows. As well as both being air force officers, just with different career tracks - the pressures of military life have their own demands.

And it those demands that, at a distance, she's familiar with - and doesn't know what to do. The question might be long winded, and Isa is given all the time she needs to answer. She's attentive, her feet finally settled and quiet, as the pilot weighs her comments. It comes as no real surprise, in all honesty. Isa had made it clear how much she trusted Coulson…

…but there's the unspoken question if that trust ends at Coulson. What does she feel about SHIELD, and what they do. The first part of the judgement gets a nod, as she expected such an answer. And the second part, with its caution, is also something she expected - but to know for sure what kind of person Phil Coulson is does help.

"<It is a lot to consider. I thought…six months ago, before the Terrigen bombing, well. I would continue college, graduate and achieve my masters degree as an engineer, and likely go into business at home.>" Sokovia. "<But I suppose the devil loves changing people's plans, and…the things that have happened. Sloane. Meeting Phil Coulson, yourself, and…opportunities I never thought possible. It's not an easy decision to make…>" She ponders, letting her eyes lose focus once more in the orange juice glass.

All she sees in that reflection, all her soul cries out for, is a white stripe upon black, rocketing past with the holy choir of a roaring engine for a soundtrack.

"<The world is so much more than I'd thought…but I suppose that's part of growing up. I have a lot to think about but…I appreciate your opinion, Isa Reichert.>" There's a mix of formality and intimacy with that name, as well as respect. "<At the very least, I will trust Agent Coulson. And yourself, I might add.>" She smiles a little at Isa's promise.

"<Thank you. I suppose, at least to speak to Phil, and learn more of what he wishes…that is something I can do. Aah, it's so much to think about,>" she adds in frustration. There may or may not be a little mumbling of short words with fluid syllables that usually come with bashed knuckles; the Sokovian's inner voice is quite soft. "<And so much to ask of you, with you in your condition. I apologize. And, once again, I thank you.>"

"<It is what it is.>" Isa shrugs, somewhat wearily. "<I will wait until I am well enough to fly again, and then I will fly again.>"

After all, Coulson will have need of a skilled pilot, especially if he's chasing down the mystery of Isa's own husband. Never mind that she's anxious for an opportunity to see him again. Aside from the opportunity to see him again, she wants to ask him why – why, all these years; why his first instinct was to run from her. That had been a knife in her gut, even though she had seen the pain and the obvious reluctance in his eyes.

Isa pulls her toothpick, taking a drink of juice, and considering for a moment whether she wants to pour something stronger in there after Rusalka leaves. It's awfully tempting. She just wants to stop thinking for a little while and sleep; sleep for a very long time. The exhaustion is almost a physical ache.

"<Yes. I am here,>" she asserts wearily, replacing the toothpick at the corner of her mouth. Even if she looks like a flame-scarred horror, she is still here.

She regards Rusalka levelly through that lone red-rimmed, bloodshot eye. The pilot is sharp enough to pick up on that unspoken question, and all she can do is shrug, elabourately. Time will tell if SHIELD is worthy of her trust. Her loyalties are personal.

Coulson has proven himself to her beyond all shadow of doubt. She will walk through the fire for him, but she's reserved judgement on those whom she hasn't yet spoken with. SHIELD was not a question of loyalty for her, but a last resort. Her decision to work for them was a calculated risk, backed up by dangerous collateral.

That blue eye settles on Rusalka again as the girl reasons her way through her plans and her concerns.

"<No, it is not an easy decision.>" Isa shakes her head. "<And it is not one I can make for you. You will have to weigh your options, I think, and weigh them carefully; it is not a decision to be made lightly. SHIELD is not a safe place, not unless you are working at a desk, and I do not see you doing that.>" No more than she herself, and a desk job would be a slow death for someone like Raisa Ivanovna Yakovleva.

It wouldn't even be slow.

Part of her suspects that if the ability to pilot were taken from her, she would seek her own end, in the absence of anything else – though these days, she might suffer through it; might swallow her pride and happiness and endure just for the opportunity to answer the questions she's carried with her since Barcelona.

"<I am sorry.>" Isa shakes her head, wearily. "<I cannot offer you more guidance than that, but this is not a decision that may be guided, I think. Speak with Agent Coulson. But do not trouble yourself over my condition. I have been in worse.>" Her scarred right forefinger rises, to point at the scarred side of her face. "<At least I am coherent. All I can tell you is to speak with Agent Coulson… that is the best course I can think to recommend.>"

There's a smile at Isa's words. It's almost worthy of her own family, maybe; there's a bit of a statement to the world that she will fly again. Maybe it's just Rusalka hearing her own determination stated, but if she were questioned she'd have to say that the weary tone carries with it a strong assurance. As if Isa were to say 'the sun will rise again' perhaps.

The flicker of emotions that crosses the pilot's face, even through the scarring, does get noticed - but for Sally, she only knows the woman as a widow, and sees the pain as mourning. It…takes a while to do such things, she knows; her father's own death is still something that haunts her in private. Grown up too fast, perhaps, having to support her mother as much as herself.

For the Stojespal heiress, there's less assurance towards Phil Coulson - though, he has proven entirely honest with his intent toward Sloane, and has carried through precisely with his promises. She appreciates the straightforwardness, and admits…at least, where her friend is concerned, she is willing to trust the man. If Isa does as well, it builds another brick in the foundation of trust.

By extension, of course, that leads to SHIELD as well - as it is what Coulson has pledged himself to. But so far, at least from where Sally sits, he is a doer of good. Perhaps dangerous things, perhaps dark things, but good things. Well.

There's a gentle snort of derision at the idea of desk jobs, even if it's likely to be her fate - or at least would have been. And is her mother's as well, a mid-ranked 'administrative' officer. Not a pilot, not a great doer of deeds.

"<Do not apologize, please. I have asked a difficult question, and I did expect a difficult answer. It is still informative, though. Hmm…although, I suppose it is getting late, and I wouldn't want to keep you up too late. That is, ah…unless you'd rather the company. I would not mind talking with you a little longer, Isa.>" She'll certainly allow the older woman the chance to rest, but there's still questions in her own heart.

And, she suspects, a desire for company in the other woman.

If she's not dismissed, if Isa does seek more company, then Sally's happy to provide. And there is still one more thing she'd like to ask, if given the opportunity, and it is a simple question as much as it is a loaded one. "<May I ask one last thing? What made your decision to trust him so deeply, in such short time?>"

Isa couldn't have been here much longer than Sloane at all, she thinks, if they were both getting lost right next to each other. So, that means they'd either gone from zero to two hundred in a remarkably short time, or else she'd known the SHIELD agent previously - which she doubts, from the Russian's tone. What quashed any embers of doubt in her mind about him, from the pilot's point of view?

There is no doubt from the red-headed woman that she will fly again. The doctors had been clear that the damage was only a setback, and that she would make a full recovery, so long as she was careful to follow their instructions. That had been her immediate question to them as soon as she had regained consciousness, a concern at the forefront of her mind, of those concerns which doctors could answer.

She bows her head slightly, eye slipping out of focus a little; a gesture somewhere between careful thought and no thought at all as she considers Rusalka's retort.

"<No, there is no easy answer to that question. It is a difficult question with a difficult answer, but only you will know what that answer is, when the time is right.>" It galls her to be so cryptic, but that's been her experience with major life decisions like this. The same had been true of her, when she had first been approached to fly as a test pilot instead of part of the rank and file. She had grappled with her answer for some time, although she couldn't say that she has regrets. "<You will find it in time. Of that I am sure.>"

She looks up, shaking her head. "<No, you do not need to leave. Your friend is not yet home, and I do not mind if you stay until she is back from wherever it is she has gone.>"

What made your decision to trust him so deeply, in such a short time?

Slowly, the pilot looks back to Rusalka, studying her with that same stoic and solemn air that the girl might recognise from her mother – the look of someone exhausted, yet knowing they have more still to go before they can rest.

"<I do not think I can tell you.>" Isa sighs through her teeth, rolling the toothpick to the other side of her mouth. "<It is to do with an ongoing investigation. I can give no details.>"

She does not look directly at Rusalka. There's a reason why she's not very good at espionage. The red-headed woman is far too honest a woman in her reactions; too inclined to wear her heart on her sleeve. "<It would be dangerous for you to give you that information. The less of it that is known, just now, the better. I am sorry. But know that mine is not an easy mind to change, I know; and know that I give him my trust absolutely.>"

But it may be telling that, for the briefest instant, her gaze skips over the framed photo of Mikhail Nikolayevich Makarov.

It's curious that Isa is suddenly so cryptic, and for a moment a burst of levity drowns her momentary annoyance at being faced with a sphinx. "But that's what all the grown-ups say," she laments in childish English, before laughing. It's a musical sort of sound, the slavic voice fluid and lyrical, though it tapers off quickly. Still smiling, she shrugs.

"<I suppose that is the way of things. One rarely chooses their life, but it is often chosen for them…>" The thought kills her smile, as she bristles a little, her voice slightly thorny with dissatisfaction at the end. What of those who are incompatible with it?! Why cannot life merely supply the few things she desires, and nothing more? The thoughts abate into a sigh, an argument she's had with the fates themselves since she was named is not going to be concluded in one night.

A shake of her head sends her hair bobbing, as the girl's mien soothes. "<I will find it, or it will find me, more likely. But I suppose we will meet one way or another; at least…you have given me things to think about. I appreciate that, Isa Reichert. It is no small favor.>" Her finger begins circling the top of her glass, as she wonders.

A moment later she glances up, wondering why Isa had fallen silent - and her eyes open a little, cobalt blue irises widening in a bit of surprise at being examined. Examined by one burdened by a sackful of secrets, it seems, and her finger pauses, then taps the top of the glass. The smile finally returns to her face."<I appreciate the offer of company. It would be rather boring to wait outside; I suppose. It is quite pleasant conversation, after all.>"

And then there's a soft nod at those cryptic words."<I see. Actually…in honesty, you have told me much. Comrades, the two of you - whatever the details are, you have the bond of brothers in arms. I see it in you, I think.>" She did, after all, mention that her great grandmother - still alive, apparently - was once a partisan in the Great Patriotic War of the 1940s. A family with such a matriarch would understand the ties of blood and steel, and a distant child of more peaceful times would still recognize them.

The moment of glance at her husband's photo doesn't go missed, though Rusalka doesn't understand the meaning. Her own father's short history colors her view, and the mention of her secret trust of the SHIELD agent simply reinforces the thought. Vengeance was an art form, and the heiress of an ancient name merely wishes Isa well in her goal. Not that she'd outright say something as foolish as 'happy murderings' or anything.

As for the rest, it's quite a simple thing to deal with. Her hand waves airily, a gesture literally trained for years, and Sally affects an air of disinterested detachment. "<There is no need to apologize, nothing has been said between us. Merely the sound of the wind.>" There are no secrets if no one has spoken, nyet?

"<No. That is what the experienced say,>" Isa says, with weary patience. "<Just because one is supposed to be an adult does not mean that they make the right decisions. But, that you can hesitate and examine the situation objectively suggests to me that it may perhaps be the right one… in time.>"

Isa drains her glass, pushing herself back to her feet and taking both it and the carton of orange juice back to the kitchen. The former is rinsed out and left in the drain; the latter is returned to the refrigerator. She doesn't return immediately, instead rummaging about the kitchen, and the sound of a pot being filled with some water and put on the stove, to the tune of an electric stove burner's handle clicking as it turns. Tea, maybe?

"<I am listening still,>" comes her voice from the kitchen.

Yet the pilot doesn't respond immediately, occupied with meteing out tea an a hint of sweetener and putting the lot of it into a plain, white coffee mug, part of the set of plain, white set of china that suggests nobody lives here. It's all the standard-issue furnishing. There's not so much as a hint of individuality in her kitchen except for the actual food and perishables kept in it.

China clinks as she sets a spoon in, leaning around the edge of the doorway so she can hear Rusalka better, and also see and be seen to show she really is still listening. It's all a bit clumsy. Her left arm seems to be useless for any task.

"<Yes. Comrades.>" The stress lines on her face look like they cut a little deeper for a flickering instant.

While the term galls her, coming straight from the place that she had tried so hard to leave behind, it's nonetheless an eminently suitable term. It describes well what she would do for Coulson, and also that he would do the same for her; has already done the same for her. He is a comrade, a brother-in-arms, and there are definitely arms involved.

She frowns as she leans against the doorway, right hand moving so she can absently twist at the ring on her finger, a gesture of distraction.

"<The sound of the wind,>" she agrees, wearily. In that brief moment Isa Reichert looks like a woman at the end of her rope and the limits of her strength. Although her bad eye is covered and that side of her face is largely immobile, the other side is still expressive. The hollow beneath her good eye is telling; so is the shadow beneath her cheekbone. She's gone a ways without sleep, and if she's slept, it hasn't been restful. "<Only the wind.>"

Retreating into the kitchen, the Sokovian girl might hear the sharp click of a burner being turned off and water being poured. A few minutes later Isa returns with a coffee mug that smells like herbal tea, trailing fragrant steam. It's not the kind of stuff she might have enjoyed in Moscow, but it's supposed to be calming. That's what the label said, anyway.

A slight toss of her head directs Rusalka to the cramped living room. There's a love seat and a comfortably, almost-overstuffed chair; Isa drops into the stuffed chair, drawing her knees almost up to her chest and hunching over the coffee mug.

"<Agent Coulson has spoken of you to SHIELD, but what is it you wish to do, if you join this organisation?>" Isa takes a sip of her tea, carefully, but her eye remains fixed on Rusalka. "<What is your desire, Rusalka Stojespal? Putting aside your wish to remain close to your friend, what is it that you would wish to do with SHIELD? I have heard your driving skills are very good. A skill you may choose to offer them, do you think…?>"

Sigh. She was joking! Humorless woman. But it's still funny in a way, and Sally is far more interested in Isa's wisdom anyway. But then there's a compliment, though it's one she isn't too sure about. The pilot stands, and Sally watches a moment before considering her words. "<I don't like hesitation…the word, I mean. I'm…the kind of person who lays everything out and finds all the variables before deciding things.>"

She spreads her hands, illustrating loosely a math problem. "<Everything I do in college is numbers, physics and mechanics and materials and more physics. Everything is an equation, and you cannot solve it until you can identify precisely each component - and then you have a singular answer, pure and…well, correct.>" There's a shrug. "<I suppose…that's why I like to drive. One true path, one perfect arc at a perfect speed. Doing something difficult with my best ability.>"

She looks up as Isa settles against the doorway, and nods. "<I suppose it might seem strange, with my love of cars and racing, that I'm not…simply one to, ah.> 'Jump in and floor it,' <as the Americans say.>" The colloquialism is in english, not really wanting to say such a foolish thing in her mother tongue.

The word might well come from a place Isa fled, but it is from more places than that - from a place her guest calls home and loves, albeit distanced. Perhaps a word is just a word, after all, with merely the meaning it has in its definition. And then for that moment of agreement, it seems as if that wind blows through Isa's soul, as if…as if her mother stood before her, frozen in mind and spirit and only existing in the body.

And then she moves, retreating into the kitchen - she waits, letting the wind die down into a faint breeze and then calmness. Whatever it was she'd said, meant only as a simple means of brushing away concerns of secrecy…her hands fold on the table, as she awaits the pilot's return. A moment to stand, and follow her companion - settling into the loveseat as Isa claims the chair.

"<I have…not yet decided. I am still an engineer, even if I lack the diploma yet. I understand machines, I understand how things work…I would like the chance to truly become that. I can imagine there would be many opportunities, in many fields within SHIELD. And…yes, I would say 'very good.>" One eyebrow raises, does Isa doubt her skill behind the wheel? She wasn't joking when she suggested wearing out tires in mere months. "<My desire, six months ago…is not what it is now. I do not know what it is now. I don't have all of the variables yet. But I might have one more soon.>"

She glances up, a little bit of pride slipping back into her voice. "For summer, I had applied for an internship at Stark Industries; I understand there are programs for advancement in various fields. I've been selected for an interview on Monday, actually.>" It was a spot of good news she'd come to share with Sloane; that Isa hears about it first, well. That's alright. Serves her best friend right for being off training her superpowers or something.

"<Perhaps hesitation is the wrong word. Caution, I think, that would be better. It is good to be cautious. Very good.>" From a country where secrets are practically a second form of currency, it's only natural that Isa would be a cautious woman. In some ways, she's exactly the opposite of that, but in others…

But… it is hard, sometimes, to simply… trust. I miss that. Will you help me to do that again?

Her request of Phillip Coulson had been tentative, but it had been honest. Once upon a time, Raisa Ivanovna Yakovleva had been wonderfully trusting and open-hearted. She had been optimistic once. Some part of her still is. Yet, as she had commented to Coulson, she would need help to find that part of herself again. Flame-scarred and withered, it needs coaxing to return to its former strength; a skill disused for too long.

Isa looks away, single blue eye fixed somewhere on the wall. Steam curls about her face. The pilot lowers her face to it, inhaling deeply. There's something soothing about the smell of the herbal tea, crisp and clean. Her eye hoods. "<That is not so different from piloting, in that way. The perfect arc at the perfect speed, on the perfect heading. Fighting gravity, and winning, sometimes.>"

Of course, sometimes pilots lose the battle against gravity, as she's done before. As her husband did. The pilot affects something of a brooding look to her, frowning down at her coffee cup and its fragrant herbal tea. Rusalka speaks again, though, and pulls her attention away from old nightmares of fire and smoke, or imagined nightmares of what could have happened to the man in the photograph on the mantle.

"<Engineering. Yes, there could be a place for you in that. There are very good engineers working for SHIELD, but more is always welcome, I am sure.>" Isa takes another sip of tea, eye slipping out of focus a little. "<And I am sure you are very good at that, too. I know the look.>"

Her head tilts very slowly when Rusalka reveals another variable. Isa Reichert blinks somewhat owlishly; at least, very slowly, since the effect is somewhat lost with only one eye. Oh. Oh, no.

Isa's red brow disappears somewhere into her hairline.

"<I have a request. May I accompany you Monday? Tony Stark can be very…>" Her voice trails off. She can't seem to find the appropriate words before making a disgusted sound. The pilot blows out a sigh. "<Sometimes it is necessary to be very… direct with him.>" Oh, this poor wayward speed freak soul, going to go talk to Stark. There's a reason why she wants to be there, and that's to slap the smug off his face when he inevitably tries to hit on Sloane.

Raisa Ivanovna Yakovleva has a vicious left hook. Since that won't serve her right now… she also has a vicious right hook, too.

"<Cautious…and thorough. If you are going to do a thing, do it fully - or don't. Too many people don't, and it's…frustrating.>" There's a shrug, as she sinks into the loveseat some and lets her legs stretch out in front of her, turning to face Isa. "<Sometimes I wish I could truly become a race driver, professionally. To share the track with those who feel the same as I do. Not so much to share victory lane, perhaps.>" No, that's all hers.

Trust is something slow to Rusalka as well; for the most part…people simply don't understand. Her mindset, what drives her, how much she's driven by her own soul. Isa, one of those rarest of the few as a test pilot, would indeed understand, she realizes. Even if she'd been through a literal hell, she still understands what it is to find that perfect moment.

There's a quiet nod at her words, eyes soft with agreement. And just as Isa thinks of those who have lost their battle with gravity, Sally remembers reading the list - a list far too long, six hundred thirty two names of those who lost their lives in pursuit of that perfection. So many more around them, as well; yet knowing that danger…she can't deny what her soul cries out for.

She gives a small nod of thanks. "<I've always been good with numbers, and well…I took many things apart when I was little. Most of them I was not allowed to.>" Ahem. "<My mother was…well, she is an officer. And kind, certainly, but formal - my father was a little more indulgent, and I found myself being a bad girl from time to time. But I learned oh so much, and so many books…>"

Something to be said for coming from old money - library rooms. Wonderful, glorious, fantastic library rooms. And tool sheds and garages. Frankly, is it any surprise that Rusalka turned out the way she did?

The look on Isa's face, the wide eye, is met with Sally's own widening. "<Mr. Stark himself? No, I don't believe…it's only an interview, for an internship position in the company. Experience in industry, not…anything quite so much like that. Although.>" Her eyes narrow, that rich blue gaze staring deep at Isa. "<I suspect that if I refuse your offer, I will find you hiding in my back seat. Or my car will refuse to start, for some…mysterious reason.>" Her lips tick down in a frown, thinking about it. It's never happened before…and it would take an dated and signed act of god before she permitted it.

A long drawn-out sigh. "<Very well. I would appreciate your company, and your…experience,>" she adds with an amused smile, "<in dealing with Mr. Stark and his organization. I would be in your debt.>" She leans back and stretches, then just settles back into the loveseat some more, resting her chin on one hand. The only tricky variable there is how to explain her 'side work' at events like the New York Auto Show over the past week…

…and just what she might have been doing wearing a particular chrome-and-black checkered-flag-themed bunny-girl leotard as part of the eye-candy. In her defense, she likely knew more about the vehicles she was showcasing than most of the rest of the people in the show, but…certainly Tony Stark would never notice. There's so many people in New York, it'd be impossible, right?

"<I do not claim to always be thorough,>" Isa admits, with a faint half-smile. The events that brought her to New York City were the opposite of thoroughness, but she can hardly complain about something like that. There was also a great deal of good that came out of that choice. "<There are times when I was not. I do not regret them, but perhaps there might have been a better way, at the time. But it is also true that we rarely see these things in the heat of the moment.>"

The pilot takes a sip of the herbal tea, letting the steam rise about her face. There's something soothing about it; a balm to soothe her overtired and overactive nerves. Perhaps in some ways she's a bit emotional for someone as technical as a pilot, but she's good enough at what she does to mitigate that unfortunate quality. She's good at what she does. That's all that seems to matter to SHIELD.

Settling into her seat, she regards the girl thoughtfully. "<I was, too. But I did not take my father's radios apart. I know some engineering, but it was from books that I learned.>" Neither does she let on that it was a job requirement, as a test pilot. Rusalka doesn't know that part and the red-headed pilot has no intention of revealing that. It's too close to the mess she's found herself in the middle of. Her past is not so distant as she'd hope.

"<Hm? No. I would not do that.>" Isa shrugs; both the smile and laugh she gives sound curiously forced. "<Besides, I am hardly the Winter Soldier, am I? I would not be so good at getting into places I am not supposed to be. I will not mind if you decide to meet with him without me. It is an employment interview, after all. But I also have business to speak with him about, so it would not be a wasted trip, for me.>"

There's a long pause. She tilts her head, eye hooding as she tosses her chin to indicate her left arm's sling.

"<But you would have to drive, unless you intend to take a taxi.>"

Right hand cradled around her coffee cup, she glances briefly to the solitary clock on the mantle, beside the photographs, before shrugging one shoulder. "<I do not know when Sloane Albright will return home, but stay as long as you like. If you do not mind, I think I will watch the evening news. It is good to catch up on events, once in a while…>"

No television, tonight. The things she would be interested in hearing about will not air on the evening news. So, instead of that, she'll settle for swapping stories and discussing things of little to no import with the Stojespal heiress – well into the small hours of the morning, if that's how long it takes for Sloane to head back.

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