Racing, Pacing, and Plotting the Course

April 23, 2017:

Sally Stojespal reaches out to Phil Coulson to see what he intended when he dropped his little recruitment hints.

A race track in NYC


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Isa Reichert, Tony Stark, Darcy Lewis


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Phil Coulson has been a busy man. There is a lot of work to be done on Isa's case; and it's not even the only problem on his plate, really. Still, he picks up Rusalka's call readily enough.

When she asks to meet, to find out why he's interested in recruiting her, his lips had quirked into the slightest of smiles, but he hadn't let it enter his voice.

"I just think you show promise," he'd said, holding his cards good and tight to his chest as ever. He considers how to hook her a little further— recruitment is something he's been doing for a long, long time, and he knows a good potential Agent when he sees one. So he lets a tiny bit of doubt creep into his tone. "If your skill behind the wheel is actually solid." He lets the implication float in his words, that anyone with some money can purchase a Lotus, can play around at the track.

He then settles back in his chair, waiting to see if her response will be as predicted. If it is, he might actually get to go legitimately have a spot of fun while things are currently slow and stalled, while he's waiting for other people to get back to him with actionable intel.


Busy has been something that's affected them both - between keeping her best friend's spirits up as well as her own, college classes, discussing the future with one of the few adults she honestly trusts, and merely being a teenager, Rusalka Stojespal can understand. Maybe she doesn't have world-ending crises breaking out, but then again maybe her world is just that much smaller than Phil's. At least, before today that is.

"Promise," she'd repeated. Well. A wonderfully vague term, and she could almost picture the smirk as he'd been so downright sphinxian. When he'd insinuated her honest assessment of her skill behind the wheel had been overblown, by money or other reasons, /that/ had rankled her.

There had been a haughty anger in her tone, just a faint trickle, but enough to tell the SHIELD agent she was being honest - just holding it down a little. It also said that she's still young, with tempering of the soul still yet to come. And, tellingly, it was a potential insult to her deepest and most treasured thing. "Very well, Agent." That's not really his name, but she's a little insulted. A reminder that he's merely a civil servant is petty, but so is she. "If I may borrow a bit of your time, I would appreciate your personal assessment of my skill, to erase any doubt. Even if I am just a girl."

Oh look, a Button.

The meeting place was obvious; the track where they'd met before. The white and black Lotus Evora is easy to spot, Sally herself - calmed down, now, and actually happy in a place she is her best in - waves when she finally spots the older man. Dressed similar to how she'd been before, the white jacket zipped up over a Columbia university t-shirt, fitted jeans, and black leather t-strap flats. And, unlike before, an open face helmet covering her hair with a second one held in her hands. Clearly, she's serious…or wants him to think she is.


He hadn't even mentioned her gender, hadn't even considered it. Phil Coulson has known too many incredible female agents for that. But… if it achieves the desired results, who is he to step up and reassure her?

He'd pretended he hadn't even heard the button, though of course he'd noted and marked it. Someday, if things work out the way he wishes, he'll train her to use another person's underestimation of her abilities, rather than to grow affronted by it.

Instead, he'd thanked her and had made his way to the track just as if the offer had surprised him, as if, even, he would have to fit it into his schedule and make a few calls, beleagur his secretary into moving this or that around. As if this wasn't precisely the demonstration he wanted to see all along. Not just to find out what she could do.

It's a matter of salesmanship. When someone has to fight to be seen as good enough, the offer becomes all the more enticing.

He arrives in a middling suit, neither rumpled and cheap nor sharp and tailored. The suit, in fact, that a mere civil servant would wear, with no other personality attached to said suit. And his sunglasses. He allows himself another one of those faint riddler's smiles as he approaches.

All he says by way of greeting is: "Am I going to need one of those helmets?"


Phil might not have mentioned it, no. But clearly, women weren't good drivers, or so many seemed to think. Only good for being eye candy, which…admittedly, yes, she /did/ work as from time to time. The recent auto show in New York, for example, had one particular bunny-suit-clad booth worker who knew much more than most attendees about the product…

That she'd been so cleverly manipulated into it, she doesn't quite realize - at least, not until she thinks about the kind of agent Coulson is, and the way he's worked. Then, sure, she'll salute him - but right now she's balancing her opinion of him on Sloane and Isa's trust and the honorable way he'd kept his word about her best friend.

Ah, there he is - one hand waves, as she holds up the helmet. "It's a safety thing, yes. You shouldn't need it, I'm sure, but." But even the best driver can be caught unawares by an invisible piece of debris that knifes a tire, sending a car spinning into the wall. "Better safe than sorry. After all, fighter pilots wear helmets too, right? Just in case."

She'll help him get it adjusted right if he needs it, then once he's settled into the car she'll join him in the driver's seat. It's actually nicely appointed, and surprisingly - for a car with an engine in the back - has a rear seat. Mostly, anyway, you'd have to be a six year old to be comfortable back there. It's rather comfortable, and is clearly not just a track toy but Rusalka's personal ride. Interesting choice.


He lets her help him adjust it, a bit of a puttering older man who might need help from a younger person to do something right. The truth is he knows how to do it, but now is the time to let her be the expert, and not the time to remind her that he's a bit more than the Mostly Harmless facade he presents to the entire world.

"Hey," he asks happily, just like an idiot who drives a great car and doesn't know the half of it. "Does this thing come with butt warmers? I love those!"

The Dork is out in full force all of a sudden.

But he's watching her closely, tolerantly, as if he's expecting a Woman Driver who isn't going to show him what this thing can do, especially given its her own car, even though privately he feels no such thing at all. He puts his seatbelt on and waits for her to rev it up. Privately he marvels over it, able to recite the details of a sportscar like this down to the last spec, knowing exactly what they mean, an enthusiast himself.


Perhaps it's a little bit because of his age, but it's also because Sally's the one in the driver's seat - and she's the one responsible. That she'd let anyone in when it's serious who wasn't 100 percent ready is not an option; it's the perfectionist nature of the girl. If she had her choice, they'd both be in full track suits, but the Evora isn't /that/ kind of a car.

Once she's settled in with the car started and purring, the question catches her by surprise - and then there's a giggle from the Sokovian. "Yes, actually," she says, pressing a silver button on the dashboard. "I suppose I can tolerate a little comfort for my esteemed passenger," she grins, before steering them onto the track. Phil will find that yes, actually, Lotus was kind enough to add seat warmers - and, being the enthusiast, will probably feel how new and mostly-unused the passenger seat is.

Alas, Sally doesn't get many passengers, even if she /is/ a perfectly acceptable driver without a single ticket to her name. She simply knows the legal limits, and maintains them. Precisely.

She's not actually going all that fast, for the wide open track - a few other cars pass, as the speedometer picks up to float between 60 and 70mph. A turn here, a hairpin there, she's actually taking it fairly sedately with a rather light touch on the wheel and pedals. It gives her a minute to talk, as well. "I show promise, you stated…"

Her voice is serious, almost as much as the ride…isn't. "In what ways? I am a student," that accented voice adds. "An engineer, at best. Not a superhero or spy or soldier. Your offer, I admit, has me curious, but I wonder what promise I might have." Unless he's just looking for a chauffeur, in which case she will politely drop him off halfway through the track and return home.

Meanwhile, finally reaching a straight, the car speeds up a little - hitting a whole eighty miles per hour, as other cars scream past. The engine isn't even struggling, and Sally's giving the wheel a little flick left and right, giving the car a wandering, S-shaped course. Warming up the tires, the enthusiast would recognize, but why is she going so slowly?


He approves. Good. So she's not punching it to 200 right away just to show him how brave she is. He watches how she handles the car, how she takes responsibility.

"I understand your reservations," he says quietly. "But few people start as spies or soldiers. I myself was all set to be a history professor. SHIELD came to me out of college. I'd written some papers that caught their attention. Here I was, this guy that got picked last for dodgeball all through high school, being told SHIELD thought it had a place for me. I was about as skeptical as you were."

His lips curve into a tolerant smile. "I wore sweater vests. I'll show you a picture sometime."

This does not, of course, answer precisely what it is that he sees. He instead puts that out there, that it's not as obvious as she thinks, that nobody starts as a level 8 Agent, or Captain America, or even Isa Reichert. Of course, all this means, as he settles into his blissfully comfortable warm and unused seat, that he does not do her the injury of telling her that he's looking for a driver. He instead notes as she takes it up to 80, as she guides the wheel with just the slightest of motions. Why is she going so slowly indeed?

He keeps a poker face. He has his suspicions. He lets them remain behind his teeth.


Sally's driving style is, definitely careful. And very precise. A glance at her face would catch those intense blue eyes flicking quickly between the rear and side mirror, the road ahead, and the dashboard. It's not quite the level of spatial-awareness of a fighter pilot, but not much misses her notice - shown when someone in a Porsche screams past the pokey little Lotus; she doesn't even flinch.

Curse something very softly in Russian, perhaps, for being such a showoff. But certainly Phil wouldn't hear such language from a heiress to a barony.

"I see. I admit…I'd never thought of it, myself. My family, the Stojespal, we take care of our people - and it's very common to join the military. My mother, of course." Irja Stojespal, a major in the Sokovian air force, an administrative officer and career soldier. "I…understand tradition, but I have other things I want. Sometimes it feels as if I'm in a cage, an animal forced to perform, with the amount of family history and all that's expected." Shrug. Even her name. There's a reason she insists on the Americanized 'Sally.'

"I suppose at least you knew what you wanted, though…" Just wrote some papers, that brought him to their attention. And yet she'd never consider him as a history professor. The smooth charm, the wheels-within-wheels planning he has…the fact that a friend of hers trusts him to the point of storming the gates of hell at his suggestion? That isn't the sort of thing you find at Columbia. Usually.

Maybe she understands. "I suppose…there's a lot of growing into the position. 'Not everything needs to be decided right away,' right?" It feels like a bit of a cheat, that she'd make such a decision for her life only to find it leading to a cloudy future with little clarity. For someone who sees problems as something to be understood, variables clarified, and precise answer gleaned, it's a little disheartening.

"There…I think that's enough." She smiles and straightens the wheel as they come to the end of the straight, glancing over to make sure he's settled in and buckled up tight like she is. "I've never done this with a passenger before, so. I wasn't sure how it'd affect the balance, but…it wasn't as much as I was concerned about." The finish line lies ahead, marking off their first lap, as she settles her hands on the wheel. And then in a suddenly cheerful, singsong voice, she says one word.

"Khorosho~!" Very good! And her right foot slides to the floor, the sudden growl of the engine an equally cheerful agreement.

The Lotus is of a certain line of thought. "Simplify, and add lightness" were the words of the founder. Light, the car definitely is. Exceptionally nimble, as well. The steering is fantastic, and the suspension design was always a high-point in every review Coulson would have seen. Sure, it surrenders a whopping thousand horsepower to the god of speed, the Bugatti Chiron. A full speed a hundred miles an hour slower than that overpowered monstrosity.

But it's also nearly a full ton lighter than that car, and as responsive as a hummingbird. And this track is one Rusalka knows well - every variable accounted for, the perfect angles and curves taken to the limit. Dancing what might as well be a ballet, Sally's feet switch between the three pedals almost too fast to watch. Clutch, brake, and gas all in perfect harmony, her hand flicking between the wheel and the stick shift perfectly, nailing each shift to keep the engine singing in its power - her soul in perfect chorus.

And drive she does; the little white Lotus breaks past 140 in the short straights before Rusalka's braking and steering sends it knifing through turns. The sides of the car mere inches from the wall, if that much - one particularly close and precise turn means all Phil can see outside the passenger window is the wall; there's no sign of the road between them. Oh, look up ahead, a Porsche.

Maybe it's not the fastest car on the track, but in Rusalka Stojespal's loving hands, it's easily the quickest.


"There is," Phil replies, when she says there's a lot of growing into the position.

He decides that will suffice. Just as his own recruiters saw some quality beyond the mild mannered sweater vest kid, he sees something in her. It is not his way to wax poetic on what it is. He just trusts in what it is.

Perhaps it's how cool she is under pressure. The fact that she already likes risks, or she wouldn't have chosen this as her passion. He's aware of family history, but it matters not to him…SHIELD isn't precisely the military, after all. There's grit in there: the ability to stand up and say what's what, and if in her that stems from power and privilege it's nevertheless an asset. SHIELD needs people who can speak the truth even when the truth is hard, who will ask pointed questions even if the person they are asking them of is intimidating, or has the ability to push back.

All the rest— the guns, the ability to create a legend and live a double persona, the ability to assess a situation and respond to it, the toys, the martial arts— all the rest is useless without qualities like the ones he's already found in her. But to actually explain that could even be detrimental, because this is a proud young lady, who may start to feel like she would not necessarily need her training if it's really all about the other stuff.

And given the risks, Sally will need that training. Will need to decide she wants it, in fact.

Meanwhile, she punches it.

A few scant weeks ago, Isa Reichert had cut the engines on an experimental Quinjet and let them plummet. This had produced merely a flicker of an eyelash from Phil. He'd stayed mostly calm even as it became clear they were late to come on. He has certainly put Lola through her paces, though she's no hummingbird, his Lola.

The result of being hurtled through space at 180 miles per hour is nothing short of a delighted laugh, one that is actually genuine. He leans back in his seat and enjoys the drive, waiting to see how she'll handle the evil Porche.

Even as he does, he asks, "What is it you do want, Sally?"


Growth will come. At least, unlike some, she has quite a few more years to do it in. Whatever quality it is, whatever unforged metal is in her soul, she certainly has time to learn what it is. Not that Rusalka is one to take such a thing slowly, though.

And, in fairness, her unflappability and precision are assets. Perhaps it's her acceptance of risks - despite knowing of the hundreds of drivers who've given their lives during a race - and her willingness to still do something difficult. Perhaps it is her honest assessments of things, even if it might still be a little too much sometimes.

Maybe even her pride, and demonstrably determined nature and refusal to compromise on what she believes in so deeply.

And, of course, her skill behind the wheel. There's bumps in the tight turns, as the car reaches the limits of the road - deliberately driven, using every last inch of the asphalt left and right as Sally dances the machine through its course. Speeds arc up to 180, with the engine she'd lovingly improved and tuned herself, and dive in hard braking and sudden flicked turns as low as thirty before her foot sends the engine roaring again.

The pursuit of the Porsche comes quickly, the bright red German sportscar getting headlights flashed at it as she signals an overtake. The driver of the other car, however, isn't having it - and the race is on. Her driving doesn't change - she's still just as precise as before, absolute control over the car as she noses up /close/ behind the other car. Normally, it's a distance that'd get her ticketed for tailgating, but she's got a measure of the other driver, and she's got good enough reaction time that she's matching the other car move for move, waiting for -

The red Porsche fishtails slightly, tires breaking their grip for just a moment as they come through a hairpin. In an instant, she's got the wheel harder over, pulling the Lotus inside even tighter through the turn, tires bouncing over the edge of the track. From Phil's point of view, as the other car slides past, if the window was rolled down he could reach over and touch the other car's window. Somehow there's no thud, despite what seems to be an impossibly close pass, as Sally catches fresh air on the front of her own car and sends the German into her own wake.

And then it's a long straight, engine right back up to the limit as they rip past the lap marker again. "That," she finally says, with a smile.

But his question has more to it, and she'll back off her performance just a little, mulling it over. She's silent for a few turns, thoughtful despite still keeping the car growling with power through each one. A moment of blessing for the Russian redhead she'd talked to the night before, for her advice. "I suppose…I want to help Sloane. I want to protect my friends. My family. I want…I want to do what I am good at, and do it well. And…do it in a place where it will matter," she finally decides. The line from Steve McQueen's film comes to mind, and a frown crosses her lips. "I don't want to spend my whole life, just…waiting."

After the third trip around the track, she'll back off the heavy speed - even if her passenger was enjoying himself, perhaps it's time to talk. Unless, of course, he wants to keep going - she's got nearly a full tank, and fresh tires, and a kindred soul as far as enthusiasm goes.


Phil does look over to see he could nearly touch the other car, and his eyes light up with pleasure. Yes, that will do nicely; that kind of precision could be incredible in any number of the kinds of high-speed chases and hair-raising circumstances his Agents deal with. He'd suspected she was good, but what he sees now is a young lady who is an artist; another Master of her craft, even though she is so very young. He doesn't even bother to hide his enthusiasm now. He could never drive like this, not in a million years— even in the world's most incredible car he would have turned them both into street pancakes in a heartbeat, trying.

But when she slows down, when she decides she's ready to open up a bit, to talk, to share, he does not insist on more speed. When they're done, perhaps, when he's satisfied that which she called him to satisfy, then he can indulge his inner 10-year old, smile at her, and whisper giddily, 'Again.'

But this is still work time.

Oddly, though, he doesn't answer with a lot of other words. Or…any. At all. She says 'I want to protect my friends, my family, I want to do what I'm good at, do it well, and do it in a place where it will matter.'

He merely turns, smiles, lifts up the visor of his helmet and touches his nose to indicate that she herself has now answered the question she wished to ask him. Because above and beyond the qualities that he's already noted in her, those desires are what make a SHIELD Agent in the arguably expert opinion of one Phillip Coulson.

When he's done touching his nose, he spreads his hands a little. He knows she's mostly watching the road, but a driver like her can catch these movements out of her peripheral vision, catch them and correctly interpret them, he's sure.

The spread hands look an awful lot like: 'You said it. I didn't.'


She is good. Quite good, a natural talent in her ability to harmonize with the car. Of course, much of that is also the ability of the car itself; if she were given a simple family sedan the results would be…less victorious at least. She could still easily drive it to the limit, it would just be a much less comfortable one. And the Porsche would have lapped them easily in the end, the air-cooled sportscar purring with laughter the whole time.

Damn Germans.

Her passenger's silent, and perhaps it's a difficult thing to immediately answer. That, and she'd forgive him for needing to catch his breath after that little unplanned race. Maybe she needs a moment herself; that really was that perfect moment she'd described to Isa the night before. Well.

Still, Phil's silence catches her attention, and cobalt blue eyes flick over to check up on him - if he's sick and about to throw up, or something. Instead she just sees him send his little signal, and blinks - then bursts out laughing.

The engine's still pushing them along at pleasantly fast speed, though it's easy enough to hear her over. And, as well, to hear the exasperated, prideful tone clearly in that accented english. "Really! I just had to figure it out myself, eh? I certainly know you were telling the truth, Phil Coulson." Gearshift, accelerate. "You have the wicked, deceitful heart of a professor after all. Hmpf!" Just for that, she's /going/ to try to get him a little green around the gills.

That might take some work, if he's enjoying it as much as he was a minute ago. For the first time since Sloane had appeared on her doorstep, there's a clarity in her being that wasn't there before, and she realizes it finally. The equation that makes up her future has a solution. The last variable was calculated, and the numbers all come down to one single, clear answer. No more darkness, no more confusion or uncertainty.

Just black asphalt, now. Alright, who's NEXT to overtake!


The wicked, decietful heart of a professor! Phil gives a low chuckle himself; it's not an extravagant or a loud one, but it's full of mirth. Then he braces himself, because he can feel the shift, can tell he's about to really be tested. There is liking a race, loving cars, and then watching someone try to push the limits of near-street-pizza'ing just to see if they can break up his implacable facade.

She puts on the speed, and he smirks. "I sense a challenge. Challenge accepted, Sally."

He is not going to break so easily! The asphalt becomes a blur beneath them, a shining sea of glittering black; he can't even really see it as a discreet entity anymore, and she's looking for someone else to overtake. He's perfectly comfortable in this position, his eyes gleaming still.

Then he asks the question, moving to close the deal even as she tries to break the sound barrier with her Lotus: "Would you like to finish your degree at your college first, would you like to enter part time training while you finish your degree, or would you prefer to finish your degree at SHIELD's Operations Academy?"

Finishing her degree is, apparently, very much something he thinks she ought to do. A good SHIELD Agent is also a highly educated individual. Either way, he's pegged her for the Operations Academy, the hardest, the most grueling, the one where the field agents and specialists go to train.

That wasn't the one he went to, as it happened. He went to the Academy of Communications, considered the easiest, a curriculum that focused on data analysis, computer skills, and logistics. He ended up in the field anyway; careers follow strange trajectories sometimes. Originally, even after being recruited, his destiny looked like it would lie along a trajectory that catered to what surely looked to operations agents like a hapless, unspeakable nerd.


Challenge indeed issued, and she's happy - she's started to sense the kindred spirit in him, even if he's just a speedfreak and not a complete petrolhead. Well, there's time yet to learn more about that. But it might be nice to have someone to share with, at least, even if he is an old fogey professor.

Then he brings up the mention of a degree, and she gives him a curt nod - and then sends the gearshift through a flurry as they round the tightest corner, downshifting while her feet follow their steps, before laying back on the gas and putting the car back up onto the straight. "I've thought about that…though, I'd like to stay at Columbia for now, I think…hrm."

The option to transfer to SHIELD education - and their technological understanding - is damned tempting. But there's still something else she has to decide on first. "I'd…have to decide about that. I'd like to stay close to Sloane, of course, and Isa's a friend as well. Her neighbor, I mean, Isa Reichert." The redheaded Russian knows Phil, and he her - and now he knows for sure there's a tight little group forming between them.

And then there's a minor monkey in the works, as she takes a set of smooth curves by simply cutting a straight line from the first through the last, tires whispering over the edges of the road and the red and white striped warning markers. "I have an appointment tomorrow, actually, for an internship interview. Stark Industries has a summer program, fully paid…" Smirk. It seems you have competition, Mr. Coulson, at least for a couple months.


As she ignores the warning markers and the way the road is supposed to work there is, sadly…

Only the slightest flicker of surprise from Phil— on his face. He does tense. His hand does wrap firmly around the silvery "Oh Shit Bar" in the door; and this is only after going for the non-existent one one might often find overhead. The grip goes a bit white knuckled. His right foot and leg tense against the floor, the Universal Parent Figure's way of trying to hit the brakes when a younger driver is doing something insane in or with a car. These are his only concessions. He makes no sound, he doesn't tell her to stop, he in fact wants to see what happens next, even as his instincts give these little concessions to the fact that 'what she can do' happens to be completely terrifying all the way down to the good old amygdala.

"It's not exactly competition. It's just you getting drawn further into my evil professor web," Phil says, mildly. No shaking voice, either. "Though I had nothing to do with it. Stark is one of our consultants. He designs most of our jets and cars and a fair amount of our field technology. He's a good man. A generous person, with a big heart. He's headstrong, infuriating, and he acts like a clown, but he'd sooner cut off his right hand than watch an innocent get hurt. If only because he'd be convinced he could design himself a bigger, better, and cooler hand after the fact."


The Lotus whistles past the markers on the curves - and the sponsor-flagged walls - with a razor's edge of clearance at a definitively /fun/ speed. Sally's face is pure concentration, eyes flicking occasionally at the mirror before spotting the slightest curve to take. It relaxes a little once they're through the S-curves, onto a fast but wide and fairly gentle turn, and she finally glances over at him.

And gives a momentary laugh of victory, seeing his hand tighten around the grab-bar, before laying it back on the power once the straight road returns. This time she's going flat-out, eyes right back at the road, and if Phil happens to glance over at the speedometer they're going even faster than before. Her foot eases down further, the shoe stretching a bit as she tries to push the gas pedal through the floor - the engine pushing towards 190, the needle just barely touching that marker and holding for a few seconds before finally easing off and then slowing for another turn.

That number's faster than the Lotus's specs say possible. She's not someone who'd jigger their speedometer for show, so…clearly there's been some tender customization to that engine. From someone who knows its performance so intuitively…it's not something that was done by anyone else. Engineering and mechanical credentials, clearly demonstrated.

And then Phil demonstrates that the world's a little smaller than she'd first thought. "Hmpf." Evil web indeed, though she does give him a quick look when he claims innocence. Mm, he's being honest, or honest enough, at least. Though an eyebrow raises some when he reveals Stark Industries is the technological backer for SHIELD. Well now that's quite interesting, she thinks, letting the car back down into a more thoughtful speed.

A generous person, yes…she nods, at that. She'd seen several of his talks, and how he'd pledged so much of his own fortune into further projects. Sure, they pay off well and continue to fund him…but the altruistic streak of the man who declared himself Iron Man is certainly undeniable. "Hm. That's…an interesting description, I suppose. But well, it's only an interview; there's a lot of students applying, I'm sure. I will promise to let you know how it turns out, and give you a final answer then."

And maybe she needs a moment to settle herself, the adrenaline from that last run was worth it - besides, that Porsche seems to have retired. Well, whatever his problem was…besides needing new rear tires. And a better balanced car, Sally thinks. "I wonder if I can transfer my Master's Thesis to SHIELD…?"


She gives the laugh of triumph, and he gives a wry, self-depreciating smile. He does not unwrap his hand from the oh-shit bar. His eyebrows climb even as the speedometer does, now that they are going nearly 200 miles per hour. He notes the engineering mastery; it's a note that will go in her file later. It's something that convinces him all the more that he has tapped real talent here.

He lets her tell him that he'll hear back and merely nods, smiling faintly. He makes a mental note to shoot Tony a brief e-mail of recommendation. Mostly, he'll talk about this car.

Much as he'd like to see her in SHIELD, as with Sloane, it's important for her to navigate her own destiny. And whether she eventually landed at either organization her talents would be put to good use. He does risk her crossing paths with Jane Foster and thus hearing all about what a total bastard he is, but stars are as stars are, as Darcy liked to say.

On the subject of the Master's Thesis, however, he simply nods. "You can. It's a full program. I'll send you some materials and videos so you can look it over for yourself. That way you know the full extent of all of your options and can start making some decisions, accordingly."

There's closing the deal, but there's also respecting decisions. She has to buy in fully, because if she comes to SHIELD she'll have to do a lot of things she won't want to do, stretch herself, push herself. If it all doesn't come from inside of her, she'll wash out anyway. Better to play the long game and make sure she has made an 100% informed decision than to rush her.


It all comes down to physics. Fuel, air, and fire is the equation that leads to speed; they all have their slight variables. An adjustment here, a minor change there, slotting different numbers into the equation will always change the solution. The true skill is in knowing how far to push those adjustments while maintaining control - and strength. Anyone can build a true monster of an engine running on rocket fuel - just, the first time they run it it will explode like a rocket.

Sally's path is something that's weighed heavily on her mind. Much as she'd said to Isa, one rarely chooses their life, but it is often chosen for them. As much as it had rankled her then - even more than Phil's hidden barb about her driving skill - she realizes she might just have that rare chance to choose on her own. And, once more in a moment of clarity, she decides.

"If I am accepted into the internship, I will do that over summer - and transfer to SHIELD afterward, next school year. If not, then I suppose I will do so sooner." Either way, it seems, she'll end up working around the same technology and for the same goal. But it might be nice to at least see what the inside of the Stark building looks like, once you get past the museum.

She nods. "I would appreciate that, actually. Hmm…you know, you're taking this quite well. Sloane would have been crying about three laps back…" Smirk. Someday she'll get the girl proper driving lessons; silly city-dweller and her public transport. Then again, it's not like Rusalka would put the girl through /quite/ what she'd done to Phil Coulson, but he's a big man. He can take it. "If I may ask, your interest in cars…?" She's curious. Okay, she'd nudged towards his lower limits, but clearly he can handle more than this car puts out.

Maybe it's just his SHIELD agent training and remarkable demeanor, but then again he was enjoying the hell out of himself earlier. "I suppose it might not be a bad time to work out details, and perhaps talk hobbies. Over lunch?" She slows gently, the braking much less fierce than it had been when she'd been serious, and starts aiming for the exit. She reaches up, rubbing one eyebrow a moment before letting her voice slip back into that aristocratic sing-song tone. "I'm a little hungry, and I suppose I could be convinced to accept your buying me lunch."

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