The Delicate Art Form of Hope

May 23, 2017:

In which Isa Reichert takes the first step, and turns to Steve Rogers for help in regaining something lost.

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.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Phil Coulson, Sloane Albright, Tony Stark

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

The Triskelion's facilities are designed to cater towards a very large array of operatives. As such, it has almost anything a person could want, almost making it into a city unto itself; a small enclave of cleanliness and order within the chaotic urban sprawl of the Big Apple.

Its medical facilities in particular are very good. Patients can come in two steps away from death's door, and they can leave whole and mended. Such is the case with one of SHIELD's newer quinjet pilots. Although no formal reports were filed, it may be that Steve Rogers heard about a botched mission to Russia, if only because of the property damage it resulted in. One quinjet was completely lost, destroyed when it was shot down twenty miles outside of St. Petersburg. One of the four agents dispatched came home in pieces.

That agent in pieces is currently in the medical ward, still within the intensive care wing. Monitors measure the beat of her heart and the rate of her pulse. Yet, for all that the vitals sound as though they're weak, Isa Reichert is much stronger than she had been several days ago. Her heart is strong, or so the doctors say, and aside from the absurd amount of broken bones, she should make a full recovery. She should even be out of intensive care, soon, or so they say.

Somehow that agent has managed to get word to Steve Rogers, through whatever means necessary. He may not know who she is, but she'd like to meet with him. There's not much information available about her – she's a quinjet pilot with some kind of military background, and she's apparently Phil Coulson's personal pilot, ferrying him around as official operations dictate. According to those scant records, she's extremely good at what she does, and the crash doesn't reflect on that.

A lesser pilot should have been delivered back to the Triskelion in a body bag, apparently.

Right now, the red-headed woman is awake, staring dully at the ceiling as she waits for her next dosage of painkillers. She looks like she's been through hell, and that's probably putting it charitably. Old burn scarring ravages the entire right side of her face, and indeed, it goes down past the collar of her thin hospital gown; her right arm and hand are similarly scarred. There is no right eye, only a scarred-over socket. She hasn't bothered to replace the eyepatch on the bedside table.

That's not even including the recent injuries – her left arm is in a sling and a cast; her left leg looks to be in a cast, by the line of the blankets over her. There's a shadow under her good eye, and although she looks somewhat gaunt and haggard, she's looking much stronger than she has been.

Only way to go is up, right?

"I'll do my best."

"Thank you. —I knew I could count on you, Captain."

The soft sigh is given, the eyes close and war claims another soul.

With a head bowed, Steve Rogers takes the moment to pray, something he rarely does in public to avoid issues with 'Church and State' and other complicated issues that religion always seems to bring with politics. But with his prayer for the fallen field agent given and the request to bring down the HYDRA traitor who killed this man and his partner, Rogers makes his way out of the room, still dressed in his Captain America garb.

It is by chance that brings him here close to where Isa is for the time being, as her room is close to where the elevators are, perhaps due to the extensiveness of her injuries or just luck with bed openings. Either way, the American Icon presses the button and waits calmly, folding his hands behind him as he looks around. These elevators always take forever, but when you have this many floors and this much traffic, it's little surprise Steve tends to prefer the stairs, even when he's fifty stories up.

Movement catches the pilot's dull eye. It isn't much more than a flicker, a fleeting glimpse of red, white, and blue.

Association with SHIELD has taught her who that might belong to, though, and association with Phil Collins has taught her that this is a potential ally.

"Podozhdite!"

The Russian word is given in a woman's voice, although lower than most, little more than a croak from disuse. Yet it does issue from the room that Steve stands so near to while he waits for his elevator. A half-second later, the voice issues again, this time in English.

"Wait… please…"

There is a threat of desperation in the hoarse, reedy tone.

Isa is in no shape to get up and try to flag down the passing Captain America. All she can do is hope that he had heard her voice, and that he can track it to the proper room. Even that effort cost her – she lies back, gritting her teeth and cursing her weakness for the hundredth time that day.

Coulson had told her that Steve is an ally. And if there's one thing that Isa could use, lately, it's allies.

At the Russian woman's cry, the A on Steve's brow rises up to the heavens as his ears pick up the source. Discerning it came from behind, Rogers averts his attention toward the one-eyed woman. The elevator dings open and people move around the Star Spangled Man to get to their destinations.

A brow is quirked at what he sees, Steve unsure what to make of this situation. "Were you talking to me?" he inquires with concern in his voice, moving through the doorframe of Isa's room with some hesitation as he clearly doesn't know if he heard correctly, much less what she wants if he's right. Being the man who he is, his eyes flicker over the room, looking for the usual clues that would let him know who he is speaking to: Cards, flowers, personal items lying about… Any small clue to offer a hint as to Reichert's identity.

"Da. Yes. Was talking to you. Come in, please. Shut door." Isa's use of the English language is a little odd, dropping particles here and implicit subjects there. Her voice is still rough, but that could easily be a product of multiple surgeries, throat dried out from the procedures. The Russian accent in her voice is almost impenetrable.

She sits up in her bed as best as she can manage, although it doesn't buy her very much in the way of height. That single eye is bloodshot and red-rimmed, but the blue is still clear. In spite of the multiple IV drips attached to her she seems to be lucid.

There are a few personal effects on the bedside table. There's her dove grey eyepatch, and there's a set of military dogtags on their chain. Unfortunately, they aren't American, and they aren't even written in English. They're Russian – which means they're written in Cyrillic, and it also means that there isn't actually a name inscribed on them. There's only an alphanumeric that corresponds to the soldier in question.

Her chart is at the foot of the bed, though, and it identifies her as Isa Reichert in block print. The chart also paints a grim picture for anybody who can understand the medical gibberish on it. Her left leg is broken in four places, her left arm in three. Her right shoulder is sprained, there were multiple abrasions and lacerations that were already taken care of, and a concussion; there is bandaging over her forehead that backs up the lattermost item.

"I am sorry to have called you in like that." Curiously, her English seems to clear up – less broken; less of an accent, now more a touch of exoticism than incomprehension. Her blue eye is somewhat guarded. Wary. "But I have been told you are a good person to have as an ally… Steve Rogers, da?" She manages a faint flicker of a half-smile. "May I borrow a few moments of your time?"

The door is closed with little fanfare, the War Hero moving in to this rather bleak looking room. Most hospital have something to show warmth, something to show people who care. Instead, there are only signs of a military background, injuries, and seemingly no one to care if this woman passed on. A small frown forms as Rogers considers how many SHIELD agents he has known that would have a very similar room if they were in Isa's situation.

Blue eyes flicker from the medical cart at the bed to look at the one good eye. He doesn't really stare at the injuries, having been used to these and worse during his time during WWII, where some struggles seemed more like meat grinders of humanity than a battle of ideologies or a pursuit of power. "Sure," Steve begins, not exactly sure what to make of a request to be an 'ally' though he presumes that this is due to a language barrier rather than an intentional word choice. "What can I do for you?" he offers with a small, warm, and slightly awkward smile as the man still tries to figure out all the pieces for a clearly complicated puzzle.

With a grunt of pain, the pilot pulls herself a little straighter. Something about this man inspires her to put her best foot forward, even if that only means she's trying to put her only foot forward, broken as she is. It's the thought that counts, right?

"Forgive me my manners. I am Isa Reichert." There's an almost imperceptible hesitation over her own name, and her smile seems somehow apologetic. "I was told by Agent Phillip Coulson that it would be good to talk to you, maybe, and that you are a man of integrity, one who can be trusted."

She gestures toward the chair with her right hand, without a cast, but covered in that burn scarring. At least the burnt areas didn't seem to be a product of the crash – they're old, long healed, faded and white with age. "Please. Sit. Make yourself comfortable."

"I have a slight problem." No kidding. "I do not know how much you speak with Agent Phillip Coulson, but it is a problem I think I would like some help with. And even if it is not something you can help me with, perhaps some advice would be good."

"The list of people I can ask for that is short." Isa doesn't have very many friends, obviously. The ones who do come around aren't the type to leave cards or flowers. One of them, specifically, is the last type to leave a card or flowers, nice as the thought might be, and she would hardly expect that one person to make such a gesture. It would be uncharacteristic.

She fixes her eye on Steve, appraising. "How familiar are you with Russian politics, Steve Rogers?" Her use of his full name seems less a mark of unfamiliarity, and more a respectful thing – he has no patronymic to use, and so she does the next best thing. "My problem is somewhat closely associated with that."

A slightly awkward smile is given at the talk of Phil making it clear that Steve Rogers is a great person to talk to and confide in. It isn't the first time people have sought him out after a character reference. There are times, selfish times, he wishes he was just left alone and that his life was not constantly serving people that randomly come up to him. But he understands the moments of for what they are, like he does now, and with a swallowing of his pride, the smile becomes more sincere.

"Of course," Rogers replies with a polite tone as he takes a seat. He doesn't make himself comfortable, being rather prim and military proper in his way of sitting. "I don't pretend to be an expert on foreign affairs, but I try my best to keep current all things considered. Either way, I'm all ears." He then realizes the woman's struggle with English and explains in case she doesn't get American sayings. "I'm listening, what can I do?"

When that smile turns a little awkward, something almost apologetic flits across the pilot's scarred face, as though to offer her own silent apology. God knows she wouldn't want to bother the man if she didn't feel desperate enough to flag him down. Unfortunately, she feels desperate enough… or at least backed into a corner enough.

There's another flicker of gratitude when he rephrases things. Her grasp of English is better than she often lets on, but idioms and slang are frustrating. They're usually nonsensical from a literal translation, and they tend to change quickly.

"Good." Isa's eye hoods a little. "Friday, Agent Phillip Coulson led an operation near St. Petersburg. We were to bring in two quinjets, and retrieve information on a prototype attacker-fighter aircraft that is being somehow augmented by AI."

Her English must be pretty good. She doesn't stumble over the technical stuff at all.

Drumming her fingers irregularly on the blanket beside her, Isa continues, looking up to the ceiling. "Agent Phillip Coulson was able to retrieve the information, but my quinjet was shot down by a strange aircraft, and stranger pilot. If you have any information on something called Icarus Dynamics, I would be appreciative, Steve Rogers. I am convinced now they are a dangerous group."

"Allow me to be more honest. Agent Phillip Coulson has said you are worthy of trust, so I will trust his word. 'Isa Reichert' is not my name." Because Isa Reichert is not at all a Russian name, not in the least. "I am Raisa Ivanovna Yakovleva. And the man piloting the Icarus aircraft… was my husband."

Something flickers across her face; something cold and angry, inexorable and patient as a glacier. If there was ever any love there, it's gone now, given way and rotten into fear and hatred. "Twice he has now left me to die. He is not my husband, as far as I am concerned; he has willingly placed me into danger for reasons I can only describe as insanity."

Isa composes herself, frowning. "I am sorry. Allow me to get to the point, Steve Rogers. I am determined to shut down the threat that Icarus Dynamics represents. I have spoken with Tony Stark about the aircraft… there are a few things that I suspect. If I am right about those suspicions, allowing Icarus to continue as they are… it will be dangerous, and it will threaten many, many people before it is over."

"My husband has chosen which side of the line he wishes to stand on; he is obviously not the man that I thought I knew." She sighs, reaching up and passing her right hand over her face, clearing red hair away from her left eye. "But I am part of SHIELD, now. Protecting people… that is now my job. My duty. And I will do it, because I owe Ph—because I owe SHIELD that much, for all they have done for me." The slip is so minor, and she brushes past it so quickly, it could almost be missed. "They have taken me in when I have had nowhere else to go."

"But if I wish to help people, and protect them from this Icarus Dynamics… I think I will need some help. Even if that is only… talking." Her eye tracks back to Steve. "Steve Rogers. I was a trusting person, once. I had many friends, even if what I have done has lost them. But I have lost that ability; to trust, to rely on others."

All that to say…

"I am not asking for any miracles, or for any action right now. But… Agent Phillip Coulson has told me that you are a good man, and worthy of trust. Will you help me, Steve Rogers? Will you help me to learn to trust again…?"

As true to his word, Cap listens intently. As the woman describes the man responsible for her issues as her husband, a mix of shock and confusion fills his face. He's heard of bad break-ups before, but this one is something that can only be used by the same word that Raisa used: Insane. As the tale of hurt, betrayal, and desperation unfolds itself, the masked man takes it all in. His blue eyes are transparent. He believes and he cares, even if he wished he didn't at times.

The tale is told and once pulled in, he knows what comes. The favor. A word to someone in power this time to clear a name or give a second chance? An appearance on a mission or to a family member to prove this absent mother or sister cares in her own way? What the request ends up being is something rather unique. A plea for assistance, a woman seeming begging for a reason to have faith in humanity.

A soft breath is given before Rogers tries to do what he does best, what he was selected to do by a general who didn't like him, a woman who loved him, and a scientist who didn't like bullies.

"I wish I could undo the past. If there was a way to stop your husband, either time, I would have. But I can't. And now, you have to live with the scars." His blue eyes meet her single one, looking for the woman that desires so deeply at the core. "But it's clear that you have faith in Coulson. You have faith that he is a good man. I'd agree with that feeling. He trusts in me, along with a few people, but I can't just make you trust me. If you want to work with me, see what I can do, that's fine. But trust is something that takes time to build. You have the strength to come out of your hardship, insight to seek help, and the desire to want a better world for yourself and those around you. All I can do is be myself and hopefully, I'll be the trustworthy person that this country deserves."

Slowly, Captain America arises. "In the end, however, it will be you that must takes the steps to trust. I can't force you, manipulate you, or push you past yourself. That's only something you can do and its when you're ready. You seem to be a strong woman, so you don't need help to trust. Only the opportunity."

A hand is offered. "Not sure what SHIELD or myself will be able to do to against this AI robot or whatever, but I know I'll do my best and I'm sure I have a lot of people who are in the same boat. You might want to protect people even if it hurts and only thing I'd ask you to trust me on is that you're not alone in your fight for a better world."

"I do not." Isa's statement is given softly, about Steve wishing he could undo the past. She gestures to indicate the scarred side of her body; the missing eye. "I wished for that, once. When this first happened. No matter all that has happened to me, it has become clear to me that it has happened for a reason. If I did not fall from the sky, burning, I would not have found my way to SHIELD. I would not have met the people that I have met."

She lets her eye hood. "I would not have decided to spend my life protecting people, instead of being part of the problem. Oh, yes. The Motherland, she is part of the problem, no matter how her people may dress it up, da? I rest my case. Something twisted like Icarus was born of her."

With some help and some good luck, she can drive that Icarus nightmare straight into the sun where it belongs.

It's clear you have faith in Coulson, he says, and her expression looks torn for a moment, as though she were considering what to say. After a few seconds she must decide it's better to say nothing, but she smiles; a smile by far warmer and softer than any she's shown so far. "Da. And I like to think that he has some trust in me, as well, or he would not have asked me to fly to St. Petersburg, knowing I am wanted as a traitor in Russia."

It takes some kind of trust to ride in a burning quinjet as it makes its final descent toward the earth. Never mind that Coulson wasn't in it when gravity finally won over it – he would have, if she hadn't made sure he wouldn't be, and it's very much the thought that counts.

That, she suspects, is part of why he had been so angry. He had trusted her deeply enough to stay to the end, even if it meant both of their deaths.

She had decided his life was worth much more than that. Worth saving. Worth enough that, despite her grasping fear of being alone, it was worth it to her to die alone if it meant he survived. "I owe much to Agent Phillip Coulson," she murmurs, solemn. "Da, I believe that he is a good man. I trust in that."

As Steve rises, she looks up, studying him in earnest with her single eye. It's the look of someone who desperately does want something; someone with the inner strength and resolve to do the work needed to repair the wreckage of her life and her psyche.

She is strong, this broken-winged red bird. She will heal, that look seems to say. She will find her strength. No one can take that away from her, or that strength would have been gone many years ago.

At his cautionary statements, at his offered hand, she only smiles.

The drip machine takes this exact moment to ruin the moment, beeping as it delivers another dosage of painkiller and sedative. Isa pauses just long enough to give it a dark look, but her attention turns back to Steve, serious once more.

"I thank you, Steve Rogers," she says, softly; with gravity. Isa takes the hand offered her, though her grip is weak, and her fingers twitch slightly. She's still unsteady after the crash, which is probably not a surprise, considering the shape she was hauled back to the Triskelion in.

"That is what I wanted to hear."

She releases his hand, lying back with a grunt of pain. "I will not take any more of your time. It seems I have just had another dosage, so I will not be awake for much longer, I think." Already her eye looks a little glassy; a little unfocused. "Spasibo. Thank you."

"Dobroy nochi. Good night," she corrects herself, using the English phrase. Her eye is already beginning to droop; this time, she doesn't fight the sedatives. Sleep is the best thing she can do for the moment. "I look forward… to working with you… Steve Rogers…"

If he should look around, she's already drifted off.

Listening at the door is only for the bad kids. That's why a certain blue-eyed slavic girl totally was not doing just that. Nor was she mumbling silent Ukrainian prayers to certain ancient demideities that may or may not have deep fondnesses for apples that she may do nothing foolish in front of him. Instead, Rusalka Stojespal simply lets Isa have her Star Spangled Visitor, and it's Cap's problem if he talks too loud.

Entirely understandable that he'd have to, considering the kind of medication Isa's on.

No, this time the Sokovian heiress is just going to bide her time…staring out a window that just happens to be unreasonably close to Isa's room, clearly forgetting whatever they're talking about - until she hears Steve's heartwarming words at the end. Granted, it may have been a wandering and somewhat disjointed conversation, from the woman pouring her heart out to possibly the single human being in the world that anyone can call trustworthy…

But it's still something that Sally can't help overhear - unintentionally! - and it's something that speaks so much about SHIELD. About the man who wears the heart of America on his sleeve, about those whom Rusalka herself has started to trust - and to ally herself with. There's a hard swallow from the girl, and a thankful sigh as the beep of the IV machine announces it's night-night-time for the Russian redhead. It's at that point that she'll knock gently on the door, knowing Isa won't respond - and knowing he will. At least she's had a moment to compose herself.

"Sir? I came to watch over her…but, I can come back another time, if…"

…She probably should have realized he'd have heard her there the entire time. Combat senses, super-senses, etc.

Hope is a delicate artform. It breathes life, inspires greatness, but when cut short it withers the soul. It's why Rogers takes the virtue so seriously and to see it restored, if only for a time, is enough to cause him to smile as Isa/Raisa moves to sleep.

"It's fine," Steve admits as he turns to take in Rusalka. He seems confused, not seeing her before, but he figures if she's here, she must have clearance. SHIELD is pretty darn good with their security, after all. "It's fine, I was just leaving and I'm sure it'll be good for her to have people around her," he states, moving paste the girl, resting his hand on her shoulder and offering her a winning smile. "Have a good day," he offers before he takes the hand back and makes his way toward the elevator.

She actually has a SHIELD badge, surprisingly enough. It may only admit her into a few areas, but it opens one more door than a mere 'visitor' badge - she hasn't fully signed on with the agency yet, but Phil's grooming his new candidate technical agent well. She's just got to graduate from Stark's internship program first.

Mudryy Khoro i yeye khvost, luchshiye v mire, he patted my shoulder. "I will be good around her, yes." Okay, so she's a little tongue tied, the Sokovian-accented English not helping matters. At least it's not a very thick accent. "Thank you…" For talking to her? For saying hello? For…being himself? Good question. She's not sure what to add to it, so following the diplomatic method, she shuts the hell up.

A nod as Steve passes, before she settles back in to Isa's room to watch over her friend. Sally knows she's been through worse and come back from it…and that time, she didn't have Captain America watching her back. Nor did she have one Rusalka Stojespal, whose trust is just as hard to gain - and whose loyalty is equally hard to break. But for now, with the patient asleep, Sally turns back to her work for Stark - trying once more to tackle some advanced superscience question.

Sloane is going to freak out when she hears this.

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