Red Bird

May 22, 2017:

In which Isa Reichert is visited by Tony Stark, and learns a little more about why he does the things he does.

New York City - The Triskelion

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, Rusalka Stojespal

Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

Last Friday night, the one-eyed pilot had been rushed from a crashed quinjet's wreckage twenty miles outside of St. Petersburg to the medical facilities of the Triskelion. She had been in and out of surgery for most of the night in a desperate effort to stem internal bleeding, set a great many broken bones, and tend to surface damage from her rough landing.

It's possible, and probable, that Tony Stark hasn't heard the news. Instead, he might have received a gentle suggestion from his racing enthusiast intern that the pilot wanted to see Stark; that it was very important, and directions to her ward room in the Triskelion.

Stark was also given footage from Phil Coulson - blurry, grainy recon images of a strange-looking hunchbacked fighter jet that doesn't match any known profiles. Something about it looks menacing. There are a few close shots of the aircraft in flight, too, from the combat surveillance gear of a second SHIELD aircraft.

Isa Reichert looks like hell, and that's the charitable description. She's a shadow of her former self. Her effects have been returned to her, but she hasn't bothered to replace the eyepatch. She's been too fatigued, by the look of it. Even after time and healing, the wound is hideous, with no more than a scarred-over socket, as though her right eye had never been. The rest of her doesn't look any better. Left arm and leg broken; right shoulder sprained, abrasions and lacerations.

Machines track her heart rate and pulse. Both are faint and a little erratic. The story the machinery tells suggests she's not out of the woods just yet. Despite her good eye being closed, her heart rate is not low enough for actual sleep. She must be between the dosages of her IV drip.

The first thing that Tony Stark was told when he arrived on this fine day is 'Remember, last time you were shot so behave!'

To which he replied 'I always behave!!'

…very not-specific about just how he behaved but he always behaved. Somehow.

Making his way though the halls though he was slightly suprised to be directed towards medical rather than the motor pool. He knew that she got hurt but no one had told him on the extent of the injuries…

So when he opens the door there is a moment of silence. He's dressed still like he owns the place, wearing sunglasses inside. Case in one hand. Little drone hovering along one shoulder(Its not Dunce, he just makes these things in his sleep). He couldn't be more Tony than he is.

However as he sees the pilot lying there he frowns just slightly as he reaches up to take off the sunglasses.

"Desk Job, what did they do to you."

Maybe the pilot isn't actually awake. She doesn't show any reaction to the sound of the door opening, or the half-second that Stark takes to study her. In fact, she doesn't show any recognition at all until he takes his sunglasses off and voices a greeting.

"Nyet! Pozhar, pozhar…!" Isa shudders awake with a ragged gasp, which rapidly segues into an ugly-sounding wet cough.

Maybe she'd been on the verge of drifting, jerked away from it by nightmare. With old scars like hers, it's probably not a surprise that fire is up on the top of her list of 'things that garner an overwhelmingly phobic reaction.'

Recognition returns as she realises who's there. It's none other than Tony Stark. Her expression sags, as though she were disappointed; as though she were expecting someone else. She takes a second to just breathe, savouring the air; unable to take a deep breath all the same. It's difficult just to breathe lately. She'd been functionally crushed in the cockpit, and it's a wonder the life wasn't crushed out of her.

"Welcome to my… humble lodgings, Mister Stark." Isa tries to take a breath, blue eye rolling over to regard the entrepreneur. Her English is clearer than it usually is; her accent more an exotic touch than completely overwhelming her words — her usual grasp of the language is much better than she lets on, it seems. Neither does her voice seem quite as guttural and gruff as it ordinarily is, though her voice is still very weak.

Her eye is red-rimmed and bloodshot, but between dosages, it's reasonably clear; lucid. At his flat question, she manages the faintest flicker of a smile. "The papercuts… are dangerous business… in this line of work. Please… sit." She flicks a hand without picking up her arm, indicating the bedside chair. "Sorry if I do not… get up to greet you."

"What do I have to do to get you to call me Tony?" Comes the responce as he makes his way over towards her bed with a shake of his head. He notes the change in accent. The touch of a softer voice. Is this how she sounds when she's not thinking about trying to sound angry?

Ain't that intresting.

But thats neither here nor there as he looks around for a chair. "I think this was more than papercuts. Let me guess, a shelf fell on you?" He asks as he slides the char carefully up. The gaping wound that is her eye draws her attention for only a moment, the scars keep his gaze for less than that before they settle on her single red-rimmed eye with a slight smirk.

The banter helps. He doesn't like feels and like it or not seeing people he knows, even people that he strives to make angry all the time, hurt is not something he appriciates feeling. Its awkward. Its uncomfortable. But the jokes keep it moving at the very least.

"So! I'd ask how are you but its obvious how you are and I really hate people that just ask 'how are you' to fill awkward silences in the conversation." He adds with a shrug. "So how bout how long you in for?"

Gradually, there's more alertness to her eye. It takes an effort of will to project the strength she doesn't feel; to keep her voice from sounding so weak and halting. The effort will eventually cost her, but for now she can make herself be understood.

"Nothing, Mister Stark." She won't call him by his given name. Although she would use a diminutive if she were close to someone, a given name is still a breach of protocol as far as she's concerned. She's had a few breaches of protocol lately, and they leave her feeling… not necessarily uncomfortable, and not even like she's done anything wrong. Just vulnerable, and Isa Reichert detests feeling vulnerable.

It's hard, frustratingly hard, to project strength and confidence in a thin hospital gown.

She settles for lying back, opting to pace herself and meter her strength. It's going to be a long conversation; the simple act of forcing herself to stay awake is somewhat difficult. Everything hurts. Sleep is more of a temptation.

But this is important. Important enough to endure Tony Stark's unique personality; important enough to sacrifice sleep and the healing that it brings.

"I am sorry, Mister Stark, but I do not have the strength for jokes today." Her blue eye is somewhat apologetic. "I do not know how long I will be able to remain awake. I am between dosages; as soon as the next comes, I will sleep again, whether I am in conversation or not."

She gestures weakly toward the bedside table, where a pile of papers are neatly contained in a manila folder. "There are documents there, analysis of airframe and fuselage specificiatios. The truth is that I was shot down twenty miles outside of St. Petersburg, Mister Stark, and I need to know what in the Hell it was that shot my quinjet down. It is a prototype, but I do not have enough information to find out in what way."

"It was also accompanied by a series of drones. I counted ten before I could not concentrate on counting them any more, but there were more."

Isa pauses, winded, swallowing on a dry throat and trying desperately to reach for that momentum she'd had a moment ago. Her broken body refuses to cooperate, though, and she sags back against her pillow.

"I do not like to trouble you, but would you fetch for me a glass of water, Mister Stark? My throat; it is always dry after surgery." She says it so unthinkingly, like it's just another part of her daily route. Eat breakfast, brush teeth, major surgery, go to work. Coulson had been somewhat annoyed at that fatalism, but she herself has gotten used to it.

"One day I'll break down your walls, Desk Job. One day." Tony smirks slightly towards her before he draws a deep breath and nods. He doesn't even argue or snipe when asked to get water. He just turns to get the glass.

"Well you're always trouble, but for some reason I still put up with you." A beatpause. "Do you know when I was here last Phil shot me? I must think you're a little important."

He still calls him Phil. Just because he knows it annoys him.

Its how he rolls.

For all his grousing though he is careful when he helps her with the water. Attentive as only an engineer can be. Precice and careful of her not to spill anything.

"Drone control ship, I've been going though the reports you sent. Trying to find a good sensor read of the area to see what kind of control devices the guy used. The Drones themselves are built for higher-than-human-tolernace manuvers. Little hunter-killer units. The big Swayback thing is the carrier or control system. I've been trying to figure out the proultion systems as well. Might tell me where its from, so I can go turn them all into scrap I can study easier."

He rattles it all off without even thinking, eyes fixed on helping her with the water.

"No, Mister Stark, I do not think that I will." Isa's faint smile is a little melancholy. "There are reasons for that. It is better this way."

And like that, the pilot moves away from that topic, something approaching discomfort in her lone eye. She's gotten used to shutting people out. The few times she's mustered her courage and consciously let down her guard, it's ended awkwardly. Not badly, mind, or she might be refusing all of her visitors, but awkward enough to give her pause.

"Da, I am always trouble." Isa's statement is given in a ragged sigh; amused, but a little self-depreciating. "Clerical work is difficult and dangerous, but someone must make that sacrifice."

She eyes him somewhat appraisingly, before her brow arches until it's hidden behind the red hair that spills over the right side of her face. "What? He shot you?" There's incredulity in the question, and also a little disbelief. What on earth had Stark said to him to prompt that? Hadn't Rusalka said something about that, too?

"I trust Agent Coulson, and if he did that… then you must have earned it." Silly man, thinking he might have gotten some sympathy from the pilot. She's all business again, though. "Da. Is some manner of drone control. Agent May did something; she broke the connection between them. I am not sure how; I was busy about then, trying not to die." It's a joke, if a wan one.

She looks aside, thoughtful, finishing the cup and handing it back to Stark. "Thank you."

"I am not certain what the propulsion systems are. But they are powerful. Like nothing I have ever seen, and I have seen the finest of my country's interceptors. I saw it triple its speed before I was suddenly very busy." Isa pauses to catch her breath. "Maybe if I tell you some background, it will be easier for you to do research."

She sags back, exhausted just from the simple act of drinking a glass of water. "Have you heard of Icarus Dynamics? I had not. It is an aerospace firm, and the facility that we found was twenty miles outside of St. Petersburg. They are playing a dangerous game, competing with the Motherland. I am not certain. In any case…"

"I can tell you who the pilot was," she says, subdued. "His name is Mikhail Nikolayevich Makarov."

…How does she know that, anyway?

"You're a challenage, Desk Job. I like challenges." Stark's reply comes with a smirk as he glances down at her. However he doesn't follow up on that, instead he lets her steer the conversation back into safer waters. Watching the woman speak, though there is a short snort. "Defintally trouble."

The smirk continues as he sits back in his chair before he shrugs slightly. "I dropped something on Lola." All the explination Stark really needs. "Most people said I was lucky he used an ICER. Ah well, I won the bet and got a date out of it so I win." Thats gonna to be his official statement on the subject. As well as the official Stark View Of What Actually Happened.

Not to be confused with what actually happened of course.

A frown again before he sighs slightly. "I'll look em up, give me the short version." A beatpause. "And how do you know the pilot?" A longer pause. "You know if you don't tell me I'm just going to have to hack something or reroute some satalite and find out anyway. I cheat." He says it so mater-of-factly. Not ashamed of that in the least.

A nods though. "..and I'll talk to May about what she did. That might help narrow it down."

That blue eye studies the inventor, something quiet and serious behind it as she takes in his admission that he likes challenges. Of course he does or he wouldn't be an inventor. An engineer. At his heart he is someone who works with problems and turns them into solutions for the world.

"I am warning you that you will be happier if you do not, Mister Stark." Isa's statement is gentle, and so is the half-smile on her face. "We are business associates, you and I, and nothing more than that."

He dropped something on Lola. The pilot blanches, so much so that for a moment it might seem health-related. But no, it's just astonishment. Even she knows how very much that car means to Coulson. That car is his baby. His first love.

Also, the fact that Lola is off-limits to everybody, no exceptions.

So basically Tony had it coming.

Isa blinks somewhat owlishly. How does that translate to a date? Maybe there's some kind of cultural divide. She doesn't understand, so she moves on past it. Leaning back, she lets her eye hood a little further, finally closing it — not because she's tired, but a fleeting expression of pain.

"I can tell you exactly who he is," she murmurs, eye flicking open, "because you are going to find out anyway. You have no respect for personal boundaries."

"Mikhail Nikolayevich was my lover for eight years, and we were married for two weeks. He was a combat pilot in the Air Force; I was a test pilot in the same. Two weeks after we married, his aircraft experienced mechanical failure. There was no body or wreckage recovered. I grieved for him for five years, Tony Stark."

"But I do not grieve for him any more." She keeps her gaze fixed on the ceiling, and the reason why is clear a moment later. Her eye is too bright; and he might see the line of a tear a moment later, tracking down the line of her cheekbone. Yet Isa's voice never changes, and she continues forward, stoic. "As a pilot, he knew what he was doing, when he struck my aircraft with two missiles. And he knew that I was the pilot. He hailed me by name."

"He wishes to… to fix me. As though there is something wrong," she adds, something approaching real anger in her voice; cold and inexorable as a glacier. "As though I could not outfly him any day of the week. No. He believes the madness he speaks. I heard it in his voice. The insanity. And he is working on these drones, these machines…"

Her eye closes; another tear slips down the side of her face. She ignores it. "I grieve now for having been a fool for so many years. I did not see the fatal flaw in his personality. I did not sense the madness. But he is mad. He is lost. Twice now he has fled from me; left me to die. Willingly."

"But I cannot tell you why he is the pilot." Her eye opens slowly, turns to Stark; all fire and buried anger. "I can tell you only that whatever Icarus Dynamics is involved in, they are most probably researching ways to 'improve' pilots. I do not know how the drones are involved… but I can tell you that they are, somehow. I know it in — what is the word? I know it in my gut."

"And I will do whatever I must do to help you wrest their secrets from them. And if they are a threat, I will do whatever is in my power to help destroy them."

"Good thing I don't listen to people," His reply is distracted though, his mind already whirling though the posibilities of just what all theses revelations might mean. Did he pick up on the tear? Perhaps, but right now the energy of Tony Stark is not allowing him to sit still. The chair is too much for him as he hops to his feet.

That energy whirls around him as he starts to pace. His mind moving at speeds that would dazzle most people.

Besides, for someone like Tony Stark it's much easier to focus on the problem than on that stoic tone in Isa's voice. That tear gracing her face. Emotions are hard. Mechanics? Fitting a missile most would make the size of a car into the size of a finger? Thats easy. Emotions are hard, so he does what he always does at times like this. Focuses on something entirely different.

"Fix you?" A pause. "Cybernetics or some kind of advanced med-tech? Possibily combined with brain washing." He's muttering now, his words a rapid fire clip as he goes back and forth. "And he knew it was you, targeted you directly?" A glance towards the woman on the bed. "I'm going to take it this wasn't a routine mission for paperclips?" He asks with a quirked eyebrow.

"Idgit, get me the top drone manufacturers in the world. Have JARVIS pull everything you can about this…Icarus Dynamics. If they want to fly so close to the sun I'm happy to watch them burn." He adds as he starts to pace back and forth.

"The drones…" A glance towards her. "…did they fly like real pilots? You know how remote controled things fly. Computer controled. They are technicly perfect but lack anything like creative ability." A glance at his drone. "Sorry Idgit."

The drone almost looks sad.

"Look I'll get you a new creative program when we get back home."

The little guy perks up a bit again.

A shake of his head from Stark. "I sware they are worse than cats." He grumbles before looking back twoards her. "I'll get some cutting edge Stark Tech over here to help you get out of bed faster." A beatpause. "Not that I want to or anything, but I like abusing power and tweaking Phil's nose. Also we'll need you up and about to help with this. Also Also you'll get up and about doctor's orders or no once you can walk right." A pause. "Before you can walk right. I know your type."

It's as well that Stark does what he does best. Emotions are hard, especially when they've been stewing for years. When love turns to hate, it's a terrifying sight, and for all that life has burned her and beat her down, Isa Reichert is a passionate woman who feels everything deeply — love, hate, and everything in between.

That she once loved the man who turned his back on her makes her hatred burn all the brighter.

"<He thought he could fix me like some kind of lab rat. Like I couldn't fly circles around him any day of the week. He left me when I was shot! He put two missiles into my quinjet!>" In fact, she's so angry that she lapses into rapid-fire Russian, and the machinery announces her vitals a little more quickly. "<I do not know what he was talking about, but that was not the man that I married. Mikhail Nikolayevich would never say such a thing. And the worst part is that he believes it. He would rather shoot me down than face reality.>"

Isa Reichert trails off with a growl; a low and angry sound. Only her lack of strength keeps it from sounding foreboding.

She takes as deep a breath as she can manage, although it segues into that ugly-sounding wet cough again. Only after she's mastered herself again does she try to repond.

"Da. Yes. They flew like real pilots. Only… they were being controlled, I think. By Mikhail Nikolayevich. That is why," she adds. "If they are drones, they would not have flown well. I think it was some combination of the two — of drones, of human direction."

Help her get out of bed? She snorts. "Mister Stark, my left leg was broken in four places. My left arm was broken in three places. I have blunt trauma, lacerations, and abrasions over the left side of me. Matches the burns on the right side, da?" she adds, as an afterthought. "Anyway… crutches will work for me. I will be out. But I need to take time, I think. To heal."

She studies him for a long moment when he mentions tweaking Coulson's nose. "No," she says, softly. "I think I have given him enough trouble for a lifetime. Once I can walk right… yes, maybe. If I will walk right." Isa gestures toward her legs with her good hand, frowning. "I think maybe I will have a limp for the rest of my life, after this. But I do not care. As long as I can still fly…"

"Mister Stark, to be trapped on the ground, to be unable to fly… that would be for me like you being unable to think, to invent, to create things." Her eye is solemn, quiet; settling on Stark. "I appreciate your offer. I do. Spasibo. Thank you. But I will not rush, in this, because I will not risk losing the sky. I cannot risk that."

For someone that keeps everything so far under wraps there is still nothing by fire to Isa Reichert. The anger. The hate. The burning flames of that passion that she at least tries to keep hidden till moments like this cause them to flare up. To someone like Tony, whose emotions are writ in neon for people to see, its intriguing. Facinating to see. But the circumistances that brought them to this point? Those are not pleasent. Those are in fact the worst.

The reversal of love to hate.

The breaking of trust.

Tony listens to the reports though, Idjit taking recordings of the perterniant parts. Then the inventor stops and tilts his head up to look at the ceiling. "I'm broken you know," He says. Entirely conversationally. A tap on the center of his chest produces a metalic ring.

"Take this out I cease to function. Full cardiac arrest in under ten minuites. First one of these I built in a cave, using salvaged parts." He adds with a smirk as he relives an old and unpleasent memory.

"Whats I'm saying is that I'm Tony Stark. If I can make something out of scrap to keep me alive, I can make something that makes sure your leg gets fixed right. So, I'm not gonna let you loose your wings. You might have to trust me a bit. I know. Its hard. I'm an asshole. But I won't let you break. Scouts honor."

His head tilts down to fix her with a gaze that is almost serious. Almost. A lopsided. Cocksure grin scrawling up his lips as he watches her in bed.


Then, as if realising just what he said. And just what he did he's suddenly spinning away again. A whirlwind of motion. "And now that I've gone and done something like that I'll be going. And leave you with your…beeping…things…" He gestures to the medical equipment. Things that he could likely give the proper names for every single one of them, but doesn't.

Because he's Tony Stark.

"Sleep well Redbird. And don't worry about your wings."

And with that he's heading for the door. Because thats enough emotion for one visit.

The pilot's eye slowly drifts closed, although it's clear that she's still listening to the other. In fact, once Stark starts talking about more personal matters, that eye flicks open again. She's too tired to fully hold her attention there, though, and it slowly droops to half-mast as she listens.

So, he's been through the wringer just like she has, only with fewer scars into the bargain. She can respect that. Suddenly his personality makes a lot more sense. Different people react to trauma in different ways, so maybe his clownish behaviour is his own means of coping.

That eye slowly drifts until it's nearly closed, no more than a thin line of blue watching Stark — but she hasn't given up yet, and she's still watching and listening.

"That is… impressive." That he cobbled together such a thing, and also installed it within his own chest cavity, in a cave. That he managed to do it without killing himself is even more impressive. "You are… like me… then. A survivor… no matter… what happens. I… can respect that…"

She smiles, tiredly, when he says he won't let her break. "I am already broken, Tony Stark… but perhaps you can help me… from breaking further. Thank you."

To his abrupt decision to leave and go handle other business, she only chuckles, weakly, coughing wetly.

"It is krasnaya ptitsa," she murmurs. "Red… bird…"

Maybe he isn't as bad as she had thought… infuriating, yes, and a hopeless man-child who can't be trusted to behave like a responsible adult… but he's a good man at heart.

Slowly, oh so slowly, she lets her eye slide closed the rest of the way. Soon, the monitors announce the slow of her heart as sleep overtakes her.

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