Not Exactly Chess

May 24, 2017:

Peggy meets with Isa on recommendation from Agent Coulson and the two discuss her past.

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:

Mentions: Phil Coulson

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

It's spring in the city. Thunderstorms aren't uncommon this time of the year. Lightning flashes and thunder rolls over the silent buildings, rain lashing the tallest of the high-rises. Some of it reaches the streets below, a curtain of leaden grey over the Big Apple's skyline. The Triskelion is also caught in its path, the smooth planes of its tower obscured by the rain.

Even so, there are places to go to get some fresh air. A small park-like area outside the front entrance provides a place for agents to get some air and light, and maybe a place to smoke a cigarette in peace.

There is exactly one person in the small park detour outside the Triskelion's entrance, seated on a bench, beneath an overhang to keep the rain away. Records indicate one Isa Reichert, although that isn't her real name. The longer story, available to agents of a certain security clearance, is that she's actually Raisa Ivanovna Yakovleva, a former phenom of a Russian test pilot.

The file says suffered some kind of accident, and flags on her file suggest possible sabotage, and after that she was disfigured in an accident that also claimed her right eye. Further notes suggest she's still very good at what she does, having rehabilitated herself during the five years since her fall.

It seems at least Phillip Coulson has a high degree of trust in her skills — her file suggests she's currently in service as his personal pilot, albeit on enforced medical leave after an operation in St. Petersburg went south. The short version is that she left piloting a quinjet, came back without a quinjet, and was immediately rushed to the Triskelion for treatment of a leg broken in four places, an arm broken in three, abrasions and lacerations, other minor fractures, a concussion, and various lesser blunt trauma. Not a pretty picture… but the medical technology available to SHIELD is nothing short of astonishing. After all that damage, here she is in on her feet (mostly) able to function like a normal person (except for operating heavy machinery or piloting aircraft).

Right now she looks pretty happy to be able to do something as simple as get around on her own, or smoke a cigarette. Her blue eye is half-closed in an expression of absolute contentment.

Hers isn't a face soon forgotten, though. The whole right side of her face is ravaged by burn scarring; a dove-grey patch covers where her right eye should be. Those are old and long healed, but still a little imposing — the damage gives her almost something of a slight scowl, even when her expression is neutral.

*

It's quite possible that the Peggy that lived through her years as she was supposed to would know the face of Raisa Ivanovna Yakovleva from yards away. She most likely had documents and updates on the other woman. However, this Peggy - the one that looks like she could have stepped right off the propaganda pictures of the War - is missing a significant chunk of that kind of knowledge. She knows what most people with a good amount of clearance would know about herself and the spygame world she is now in. However, there are good chunks that only an old Peggy Carter would know and while she is Peggy Carter, she is not old and she does not know Isa Reichert just yet.

Having been referred to the pilot known as Isa by a man she trusts - Phil Coulson - she is not quite sure what to expect. At first she was told she could find the woman in the medical bay and then was redirected here. It truly is a master of SHIELD science that the other woman is out of bed as quickly as she is.

As she is with all spies and people she knows to be longterm members of SHIELD, she is not quiet about her approach. There is no need for games here, she was directed here and hopefully Isa knows to expect her. Grass crunches, branches snap, heels click on pavement and soon Peggy Carter is mere feet away from the other woman. "Good afternoon," she greets, British accent crisp and proper. While Isa might expect victory rolls and an SSR suit, her hair is straight today. Her suit is a dark blue pantsuit. What does remain, however, is that bright red lipstick. "Do you happen to be Agent Reichert?"

*

At the sound of a distant footstep, that blue eye immediately snaps open and flicks toward the source. It watches warily as grass crunches underfoot, twigs snap, and finally heels click on the pavement; it studies the woman creating all that noise with a certain wariness.

Like a deer that watches but doesn't fully trust, the red-headed woman watches Peggy Carter's approach up until the moment she walks up close enough to be heard. Carter stops at an appropriate distance, not close enough to cause any alarm, but close enough to be seen and heard clearly.

Isa Reichert puffs on her cigarette and considers. She has not been given a physical description of Peggy Carter, and she can't think of anybody who would have business to seek her out.

"Da." The voice speaks in Russian. It's low for a woman's, grizzled by alcohol and tobacco, although that hardly seems to stop her from indulging, as she puffs a wreath of smoke. "Yes," she corrects herself. Her words are strongly Russian-accented, but mostly coherent. "I am Agent Reichert."

That blue eye studies Peggy, wary, but also curious. Interested. Who would seek her out that has such a crisp appearance? That usually speaks of authority, or at least of somebody important. Why would somebody important need anything to do with her…?

"Am afraid you have advantage over me." She smiles a wary smile, plucking her cigarette from her mouth, holding it delicately in her burn-scarred right hand. She's dressed nicely, albeit not for work — black slacks and a black button-down shirt, hair straight, the right side left to fall over the scarring and the eyepatch as though in an effort to conceal it. "Am on medical leave," she continues, bringing the cigarette up again for a draw. "If you are here on official SHIELD business, am afraid will have to wait. Two, three weeks, the doctor tell me; should be piloting again."

She tilts her head, eyeing Carter and frowning very slightly. It's not hard with the scarring on her face; an expression that comes easily to her. "Or, something else, maybe, I can do for you…?"

*

The sudden turn of Isa's attention and the wariness she sees there is the exact reason why she felt it necessary to make all that noise. She has no desire to ambush the pilot on medical leave. Instead, she smiles and nods at the other woman. While not a smoker herself, perhaps a rarity from her time period, she certainly does not care if the other woman does.

Peggy's been given a little information on Isa, but perhaps not a full run down on the woman. Instead, she gives a polite smile. "Agent Carter," she introduces herself. "I believe we have a mutual acquaintance? Agent Coulson." She allows those credentials to seep in before she approaches a few steps forward. "May I?" it's truly a question. She doesn't wish to intrude on the woman while she's recovering. A hand is gestured at the bench that she intends to sit on.

"Yes, I've been told you were. I have no official business with you, Agent. However, Agent Coulson thought it might be a good idea for us to meet face to face." The woman smiles. The entire time she's talked, her voice has been calm, her posture straight. She does not seem to be hiding anything - but then what person who is professionally hiding something does? Instead, she seems at least genial.

*

There's a blink when a name is given to associate with the face; a faint flicker of recognition. That name is at the top of the list of people whom he'd told her she could trust without question. It's a vanishingly short list, but that makes it all the more meaningful to her.

Just like that, the one-eyed pilot seems to lighten, wariness traded for curiosity. Clearly someone has told her about that name.

"Yes, we do." Just like that, her English seems to be orders of magnitude better than it was a moment before. The accent is much less severe, now more an exotic flavouring to her words instead of mangling them. Even the quality of her voice seems less harsh. "Please. Any friend of Agent Phillip Coulson is a friend of mine."

The nod she gives is a gesture of gravity; a token of just how far she trusts and regards Coulson's professional opinion. Whatever he's done for this broken pilot, he earned an ally straight up to the gates of Hell itself.

Isa even pats the bench beside her, stubbing out her cigarette in the standing ashtray next to the bench. It's only polite.

"Yes, he has suggested to me it would be good to seek you out, and to talk. I do not know why, but if he says it is good to do something, then I will do it. I am…" Isa trails off, her single eye flicking across the commons. There's nobody else here, and it's still technically within SHIELD's territory. She should be safe here. Clearly this woman is skittish if she's checking even the park for the potentiality of eavesdroppers.

Her voice lowers, but she offers a welcoming half-smile — half, because the scarred side of her face doesn't move as much, aside from a slight twitch. "Thank you for coming. But let us start this right. Isa Reichert is not my name. I am Raisa Ivanovna Yakovleva." The files would have said that much. The reputation staked on that name is that she had once upon a time been one hell of a test pilot, gifted in the realm of analysis and engineering know-how; someone who could push an aircraft beyond its limits and then describe exactly what went wrong if something breaks.

"I am glad to meet you in person."

*

There's a subtle raised eyebrow at the sudden shift of accents. Peggy can't help it or the smirk that crosses her face as she closes the distance between herself and the injured pilot in front of her. Without waiting for another opening, she settles herself in a seat next to Isa.

"I am not exactly sure if Agent Coulson and I are friends, but I believe him a good person and a good agent." However, the knowledge that Isa holds that trust in the man is something she will certainly save for another day. It's good to know who trusts who and why. As for why Agent Coulson would wish them to speak, she smiles and shrugs her shoulders just slightly. "I believe he has heard of me through reputation." The two of them have met as well, which may also be why he trusts her. He may believe she lives up to her reputation.

The voices lower, but Peggy's posture does not change. This is a general meet and greet in a park, nothing unusual about that! It's a story she is very used to enacting. "I have read," she says softly. "It is good to meet you, as well. I only know outlines, to be truthful. Pilot, Russian, different name." Her expression is serious as she continues.

As Isa sweeps the park for listeners, Peggy keeps her attention mostly on Isa. She flicks her eyes to the periphery vision every now and again and is listening about them, but she doesn't wish to owl her head about and draw undue attention to herself. Instead, she nods her head. "Is there something in particular with which you might need my help?"

*

"He did not tell me why it would be good to meet you," Isa finally concedes, "but I trust that his reasons are sound. If he wanted me to talk to you, it was for a reason; that much I believe."

She's not exactly sure what that reason is, but presumably there's a reason somewhere in there. Coulson behaves in somewhat non-sequitur ways, sometimes, but he usually has a good reason for doing the things that he does. Or so he's proven, thus far.

That blue eye turns back to regard Peggy, solemnly. "I am also a fugitive. It is a long story. But the short version is that when I left Moscow, I took with me a great deal of intelligence. The Kremlin is somewhat angry with me," she says, blandly. "I gave the intelligence to SHIELD in exchange for the opportunity to fly. With this, I would not even be able to touch a civil aircraft." One hand is flicked toward the eyepatch. "And at the time, I had little else to live for. Foolish, maybe. Risky. But I was desperate."

And in fairness, it was pretty good intel. SHIELD's eggheads have probably been able to put pieces of it to good use. Hopefully.

"That is the short version, as I have said. But it has to do with why, I think, Agent Phillip Coulson would want me to speak with you." Rather than of stiff formality, her use of the agent's full name seems to be a token of respect; a fill-in for the missing patronymic that she might otherwise use. "It is complicated. And I do not know if there is anything that you can do, with practicality, to help me. But advice…"

A flicker of a smile, and for a brief instant she looks vulnerable and tired. It passes quickly, hidden behind a veil of quiet determination. "I would appreciate that."

"Before I lost my eye, I was piloting a prototype over Siberia. Its engine failed. Burst into flame. One week before that, my husband had the same happen to him, only he was not piloting a prototype; he was a combat pilot." Despite the tragedy, her face and voice remain absolutely level. Her blue eye is calm. "That was five years ago. I found out a month ago that he is still alive. Mikhail Nikolayevich Makarov. I had known him for eight years; had married him for two weeks before his accident. At the time I thought him dead. I grieved for him for five years."

She thins her lips. "Not only is he alive, he has been flying for a private corporation called Icarus Dynamics. I do not know what rotten log they have crawled up from, but they have facilities around Russia, I think. They are tampering with things that should not be tampered with. Developing a fighter aircraft that can function without a human pilot. Refining the AI so it can think, and learn, and fight. And their propulsion system is like nothing I have ever seen. He was able to outrun a quinjet at a dead sprint, trivially."

"Mikhail Nikolayevich wants me to join them. Wants to take me into custody by force if he must. He is insane, Agent Carter. He believes what he was telling me. That he can 'fix' me." Now there's a flicker of pain. "Everything I thought I knew about him, it is a lie. The man I thought I knew for eight years — the man I married, for God's sake; he is a complete stranger. A madman."

"I am convinced he will not listen to reason. Twice now he has left me to die; when I was shot in Barcelona, a month ago, and on…" Isa pauses, thinking. When was that? SHIELD had had her on the good stuff, and her sense of time is a little suspect. "Friday?" she offers, tentatively. "He is a pilot, Agent Peggy Carter, and he knows the risks of using live weapons. Even if you aim a shot as carefully as you can, there is no knowing what may happen. Perhaps the wind pushes it off its trajectory. Perhaps it hits something it was not supposed to hit. But if you are firing live ordinance, you are firing to kill someone. He shot my quinjet twice." She gestures to her crutches. Hence the reason for those, the gesture seems to say.

Her face falls, just a little, and she shakes her head, taking a draw on her cigarette as though to soothe her nerves. "The first priority should be to find out what information can be had on Icarus Dyanmics, because I do not trust what they are doing. But the second… I do not think he will stop trying to drag me in. I do not know why, but I suspect it has to do with their 'research.' They are looking into highly advanced artificial intelligence; something sophisticated enough to pilot a fighter seamlessly."

"I have a reputation, in Russia, of having been a very good pilot. Even in combat situations, for that is what my original training was. But… I cannot think that anything Mikhail Nikolayevich has in mind is good," she finishes, helplessly. "Or safe for me. I am not fool enough to think he will not kill me if he thinks he cannot use my skills somehow."

"I… do not know what to do, Agent Carter."

*

There is a lot of information for Peggy to process all at once. A testament to her information and spy skills, she does so. There are no questions, no interjections. Instead, the woman allows the pilot to tell the story in her own words and at her own pace. This is no interrogation and she has no need to press the woman for inconsistencies.

After she finishes, there's a breath of silence as Peggy gathers her thoughts and her words before she responds. This is clearly a delicate matter and charging forward with platitudes or half filled ideals certainly will not do. Instead, she nods once, twice. "I see." Her tone is clipped, but not short, nor is it a woman doing calculations in her head. She doesn't reach out to touch Isa, but she gives her a sympathetic look. "I'm sorry," is what she says first. It's not something she is saying for the sake of it. She truly is sympathetic to her plight.

"Advice I will attempt to give, but I'm not sure of what help I will be in that manner. It certainly sounds as if you have the intel in hand, as well as a grasp on the severity in the matter." The woman leans a back a little on the bench. "This is difficult question, but I must ask it. Do you feel as if your husband was always as such and deceived you? Or, do you think that there is something else at play here?" From what she knows about Russia and their assassins, brainwashing isn't exactly out of the wheelhouse. "This artificial intelligence?"

*

Peggy leans back on the bench, but Isa leans forward as best she's able, smoking as much to have something to do with her hands as anything else. Although she looks stoic, she's a mess inside — something she seems to be doing her level best to try and hide — and it takes her a few seconds of thought before she can come up with a nice, calm, rational answer.

Her eye lingers on the greenery before the bench, strategically placed for a nice view of something that isn't concrete. "Spasibo. Thank you," she corrects herself softly, in English. "Truly."

She can tell when she's being lied to. This woman is telling the truth with her sympathies.

"I do. Agent Phillip Coulson led a mission to one of the Icarus plants outside St. Petersburg. Where I was shot down," she adds a half-second later, gesturing to her crutches. "I did not see much, but I saw enough. What they are doing is suspicious, at best, maybe. Dangerous at worst, I think."

Her eye hardens; her mouth twists into a frown. She pulls out another cigarette; lights it with a swift and brutally-efficient flick of a lighter from her pocket, which gets dropped back into place just as efficiently. "Enough that they are willing to kill to keep it secret. I understand why they do that, if they think they are being visited by government officials. It would not do for the Motherland to be upstaged, not by a private corporation, da? But to attack SHIELD, even if we did not announce our presence — we are obviously not with the Kremlin. I do not know that Agent May can even speak Russian."

"I have a bad feeling, Agent Carter. A very bad feeling. The same kind of feeling I had before my aircraft engine exploded over Siberia. I just did not recognise it for what it was; I was busy grieving more than my husband's death at the time. My mind was not clear. But it is clear, now, and I see how things are, as best as I can in my situation." Her brow furrows; an expression of worry. "If they are able to complete their research, if they are doing what I think they are doing, it will be dangerous for many people. It will be especially dangerous if a group like Hydra gets hold of it."

She puffs another wreath of smoke. Does she feel her husband had always deceived her? Or, is something else at play?

"I wonder now if something else was at play," she offers, slowly. "He is completely different from the man that I kissed goodbye five years ago, when he reported to the airfield. It is clear he recognises me. He knows who I am, what I was to him. But I do not think he cares."

Chewing on the end of her cigarette, Isa screws her eye shut and scowls. "I think that Agent Phillip Coulson believes he is acting of his own accord. I am inclined to agree. There is something wrong with him. Like a disease. Like someone who believes they can walk on flame, even when they will burn like anyone else. I heard it in his voice."

"Perhaps the stress of it got to him. I think he was being held, for some time. Threatened. What is the word, in English… blackmailed," she finally says, snapping the fingers of her right hand decisively. "But he did not stay even after I was shot in Barcelona. I could have been hit lethally, da? But he did not stay. He did not even send word, and I know that there must have been some way he could. Then, he follow me to New York… but still he did not contact me."

She frowns around her cigarette, puffing smoke furiously. "I think he was watching me, now. Testing me. Seeing where I go, what I do. I remember old memories fondly, da. But even those… I wonder, now. I wonder, because that is not outside realm of politics, I think."

"And… you do something reasonably well, there is always someone who is your enemy." She shrugs, scowling again. "Da. There is always the possibility that I married a goddamned madman. I like to think I have better judgement in people, and maybe better taste in men, but… it is what it is." Isa looks up to the fading sky, watching as the first few stars glimmer on the still-cooling horizon. "Agent Phillip Coulson tells me that I should listen to my gut. And my gut, Agent Carter… it tells me I have been had. Lied to. Played. Used."

She glances sidelong at Peggy, frowning. "I do not like being played, Agent Carter. I want to find him. Take him away from Icarus. They obviously support him heavily. I wonder if he was maybe angling for someone with a skillset like mine from the beginning. Working with them from the beginning. They could not exactly advertise for test pilots, da? Not under the nose of the Kremlin. So they would have to play the long game, and find their own… clever, but convoluted, I think."

"A waste of resources. He could have been honest, and not played with my heart like that," she sighs.

"I cannot ignore eight years of being with him… and it hurts, Agent Carter, to throw that away. But you did not hear his voice. The conviction. He is not who I once knew." Her mouth tightens even more around her cigarette. "He is Icarus, now. And it does not look like he thinks well of my association with SHIELD." Isa smiles, puffing smoke. It's not a pretty expression. "Good. I hope it does."

*

Again, Peggy listens as her questions bring up more emotion and understandable vitriol from Isa. "If you prefer to speak in Russian, we can," Peggy tells the other woman as she is thanked in that language. She's fluent in Russian, as well as in a handful of other languages.

"Agencies that attempt to shoot SHIELD down are generally suspicious in my book," she agrees. However, there seems to be more of it than that. Instead, she frowns. "So, you believe this is completely a private - perhaps - Russian agency? Not a branch of the government attempting to get a handle on someone who defected?" Again, these are all pointed questions, but ones that she doesn't ask without reason. "What do you think it is they are doing?"

If her gut feeling is that she was deceived, she will go with that until alerted otherwise. "I will not doubt that you were deceived, but I have seen it that people were brainwashed to believe or do certain things that did not wish to do. And most of that technology was Russian made. This is not to say your husband as a part of that program, but just a possibility I would wish to bring forward." There's a pursing of her lips. "It's possible those eight years were not a lie. However, it is also entirely possible that he is that good of an agent. He played a long game and decided you were the target of it."

Brushing her hair back from her forehead, her brow is still furrowed in thought. "SHIELD will protect you, of course. And it would be remiss if it did not look into Icarus. Do you wish to be free of your husband to remain here with SHIELD? Or do you wish to be rid of everything to return to your homeland?" This doesn't sound like a trap so much as a gauge.

*

"You speak Russian?" That seems to be a bit of a surprise for Isa, and she raises a brow in intrigue. "Does everybody in SHIELD speak Russian?" she grumbles, but it's affable grumbling. "<Thank you. My English is good, I hope, but it is not perfect.>" And she has, understandably, been under a little bit of strain lately.

"<I believe it is private, yes. I have no reason to believe that they would spend so much in resources to hunt down a defector. Not unless they were pursuing someone of the Winter Soldier's calibre.>" Oh, yes, she knows him. He still gives her the creeps in the worst way. "<Even then, I do not see thm put forth serious effort to recapture him. Why would they waste time on such small fry?>"

Isa frowns more deeply, puffing as though the smoke might give her an answer. "<I do not know. I know that on the surface, it is something to do with AI; very advanced AI. But there is such secrecy at the plant that we visited, I wonder if there is more to it than that. Something more illegal. More dangerous. But there is no way for me to know more than that, not until I am healed, and until I can ask a few favours. I am not good at gathering intelligence. And I am a terrible spy,>" she adds, with a self-depreciating half-smile. "<Aren't they supposed to have nerves of steel, or icewater, or something? I do not.>"

"<I have considered that possiblity, yes. But I do not think so.>" But it does not change the fact that he tried very seriously to kill me.>"

"<I do not think I have enough information to make that decision,>" she finishes with a sigh. "<But my gut tells me there is something wrong. That he is not the man I knew. That he is Icarus' creature, and perhaps has been for a long time, I think.>" She shakes her head, slowly. "<And…>"
She seems on the verge of saying something else, expression troubled, but only shakes her head mutely.

*

"<I do,>" Peggy tells Isa with a nod. A bit of a smirk is given to the question about everyone in SHIELD speaking Russian. "<A spy agency tends to learn the languages of those that might oppose them. Though, I fear my Russian is not as good as your English.>" She's sure that Isa already knows that, but she confirms it. "<I'm not sure if everyone does, but. I do.>"

The information is ingested and progressed. "<Good. If they are a private company, then they are not under the same sanctions and protections as a government agency. And if they are after you specifically and they deal in AI, I will assume they are hoping to make an incredibly skilled AI unarmed jet or the like to be sold. People beholden to money tend to be more willing to be bought out. True zealots tend to be the problem children.>"

The question as to what makes a spy is given a smile. Her words turn to English again. "Spy comes in levels. A person who brings any form intelligence to another camp is considered a spy. In that meaning, you are a very good spy! In terms of being embedded in an enemy camp and extracting information, that is not your duty so far." There's a smile to assure that this is not an assumed duty for her.

Switching back to Russian, she continues. "<If you wish to embed yourself, I could attempt to help train you, but that takes years. Otherwise, you could train us in an attempt to infiltrate.>" There's a raised eyebrow "<And…?>" She doesn't let the trail off just linger.

*

"<yes, that is true.>" Isa shows a fleeting half-smile, sardonic. "<I am too direct a personality for such things, I think. And your Russian is very good, Agent Carter. It is true you are not a native speaker, but it is still very good.>"

"<A skilled AI, designed to replace a human pilot. That is what I think, from what Mikhail Nikolayevich said to me. That is my inference.>" Isa nods, faintly. "<He sounded so sure of himself. Convinced. Like he had made the insane sane to himself. I am concerned that they are the problem children… but I will not know that until I know more of them, I think.>" She stares into the distance, watching the breeze rustle the tree's branches. "<A question whose answer must wait.>"

There's a moment where her face blanches at the possibility of being behind enemy lines, and she looks relieved when Peggy dissuades that notion. "<Oh. Good. I am not very good at that, either. And it is a hard thing to miss a face like this.>" She gestures toward the right side of her face. "<Also because of that, there are things I cannot do so well any more.>" Like her personal nemesis, stairs.

Isa frowns. Training? "<I am sorry, Agent Carter, but I have no training to share on that. I am no intelligence officer. I am only a pilot.>" Isa shakes her head, fiddling slowly with her cigarette. "<And I suppose not a very good one, with all the trouble I have gotten into lately.>"

and…?

"<There is… another… complication,>" the pilot finally offers, hesitantly, the left side of her face flushing. "I grieved. I… began to move on. There is someone else, in a manner of speaking…>"

Because her life just can't be simple, of course.

*

"<I practiced quite a bit,>" Peggy tells Isa with a smile, though the takes the compliment with a nod of her head. "<If I focus a bit more, I can disappear into the language a bit more. But, I figure a more upfront conversation was warranted.>"

The information is, again, processed with a nod. "<It's quite possible they wished to gain your knowledge to feed an AI. However, we can't be sure until we find their files. As from what I've seen of Soviet…Russian spygames, something we thought a victory was only fed to us so they could allow another program to pass us by. Chess at its finest.>"

The training is met with a shake of her head. "< I do not mean that you train us in spycraft, but in your knowledge. If we are to infiltrate Icarus, we will need your intel. That it he training you will be giving us. I believe with that, we might be able to embed someone and find out just what they might have planned for both you and their company.>"

The second complication is met with a raised eyebrow. There is no judgement there, instead a curiosity. "Yes?" Without realizing, she switches back to English. "Who is it?" Peggy is not a prude. She does not care about hearing people's backstories should it lend itself to a case.

"<You practised well, Agent Carter. I can understand you perfectly fine. Truth be told, I do not have many problems understanding English, but I am tired, and I have had a lot on my mind, of late.>" Isa's smile is apologetic. "<I thank you for making the effort, Agent Carter. Truly.>"

"<I am wondering that myself. Why else would they take such an interest in me? I did not have remarkable security clearance, for what I was. Nothing out of the ordinary.>" Exhaling a wreath of smoke, she glances up to the sky, toward the first stars of the night. "<I used to love watching the stars. I would go out of the city, sometimes — Moscow is very bright in places — and watch the heavens, sometimes,>" she murmurs. "<I should do that again, some time.>" Back to business. She closes her eye and puffs a smoky sigh. "<I do not know. But in that case, I will teach what little I know. I had not even heard of an 'Icarus Dynamics' before all of this.>"

"<Chess.>" The woman scowls. "<Maybe so. I am not so good at that sort of thing. I can tell you how to build an aircraft to do exactly what you want it to do, but I could not tell you what goes on in the minds of a politician. Not at all.>"

Who is it? the agent asks, so nonchalantly; so naturally. Without judgement. Yet the pilot still shifts uncomfortably in her seat. "<I am sorry. I do not know if I can tell you that, not just yet. I am… not sure I can say,>" she says, voice a mix of discomfort and apology. "<For his own protection—but he is not in any direct danger. He is… someone who can be trusted. I can tell you that much. Trusted absolutely,>" she adds, with a nod of equally absolute conviction. Whoever he is, she believes in him absolutely.

*

Why they were so intent on Isa? Peggy can't answer that. But, she can offer ways forward. That's generally what she does. The compliments on her Russian are met with a grin. "Thank you." That is in English for now. She can't help it.

If we are to infiltrate a company that seems to have your number on quite a few things, we need to be sure we know what we are doing and who are doing these things with. If I am in the field and am supposed to have known in depth personal information of you, I will have to know it. Right now? You do not have to disclose that to me. However, if you wish to go through with this? Your life may become an open book of sorts. We will have to tear it apart and then piece it back together in order to ensure your safety as well as anyone who goes in."

While Peggy Carter is someone who is understanding, she is still a woman of SHIELD - a woman who founded SHIELD - and that sort of mentality tends to take over. Her tone isn't chiding or angry, more matter of the fact. "I have been told chess is quite a game for Russians." At least, it was when she was still the head of SHIELD.

"Whether he can be trusted absolutely or not, that isn't exactly something that we tend to take for granted on an operation that might take something down like Icarus. Just…know that if we are to move forward."

*

"Credit where credit is due." Isa allows her own grin and switches briefly to English, although there's an awkward earnestness to the expression, as though it were something she had half forgotten how to do. "<I would not say so if that were not the case.>"

She settles in her seat, balancing her elbows over her knees, spine hunched somewhat to lean forward. Her eye lingers on the far edge of the park, where the lights of the city skyline can be seen beyond. "Mm. Yes, I know." Isa switches back to English, maybe because the other uses it; she'd been kind enough to use Russian with Isa.

Now, perhaps Isa feels compelled to return the favour. Her expression shifts to one of concern. "I am not so sure that I like the idea of that, but it does not matter what I like or do not like. What matters is what will keep people safe," she adds, eyeing Peggy thoughtfully. "I am SHIELD now. I did not come here only because there was nowhere else left for me to go… although certain that is a true thing."

"I also came here because perhaps I thought it would right the wrongs of the Motheland. I was given that choice. So much pain, so much conflict on behalf of the people I once worked for." Her expression crumples, just a little. "So much blood. I have no doubt that some of that is on my hands, too, da? The things I helped refine, design, those were used, too, in battle. Used to take lives. To destroy lives."

She smiles softly down at her hands, as she fiddles with her cigarette. "Better late than never, if I am going to repent, da?" She glances sidelong toward Peggy. "I wish to go through with this. I have a bad feeling about this, Agent Carter. A very bad feeling. I think if I do not stand up and do the things I am duty-bound now to do, it will not end well."

"Chess? Yes. It is. I was never good at it. I am too impulsive, too impatient. I know this. It is good for what I do, but it is not good for much else." Isa's reply is almost embarrassed. "I have been trying to work on it, but a wolf is still a wolf, no matter how many sheepskins you put over it."

Her head lowers. For a moment the red-headed woman seems to struggle, really struggle; as though grappling with herself over whether or not she can trust this woman to tell all of the truth to. But he had told her that she was one of the few that could be trusted, absolutely.

And she's in this far. Having Carter know or not know might be the difference between success or disaster.

Having Carter know might give the other woman a better idea of advice, if such is necessary.

Once again Isa looks left, then right; checking to make sure that the part is indeed empty. She then leans over, and murmurs a name, so softly it's almost a whisper.

She straightens, and the look on her face is one of downright guilt, still scarlet. "Please do not tell anyone. Please, especially, do not tell him. I do not want it to harm his reputation." Isa looks away, unable to look Peggy in the eyes. "I know that he is my superior. I know that I am only his pilot, by his choice. But, Agent Carter…"

"I would like to say there are a thousand reasons for why, but I do not have any more than a few. They do not sound like much. He has shown me kindness, Agent Carter, and more loyalty than perhaps I deserve. He is charming, and he is also a man of integrity, and professionality, and a dozen other things." Her voice is so quiet her words could almost be missed. "We have… not done anything foolish, I would say. He came to see me, after the crash, on Saturday."

"I think it was morning," she muses. "I am not certain. SHIELD's painkillers and sedatives are strong. Very strong." She sighs, head bowing, elbows still braced against her knees, smoke drifting up and around where she still holdls her cigarette. "I have not seen him since. I presume he has other business he must look into; a thousand different things to do by an agent of his status."

She shows a faint flicker of a tentative, uncertain smile. "Which is why I am surprised he has noticed me at all, to be honest. But… I told you he could be trusted. Absolutely."

*

While good at professional advice and possibly good at dealing with things involving SHIELD, relationship advice is not exactly Peggy Carter's strong suit. One of her love interests boarded a plane that sank into the ice for decades. The other was left behind by time travel shenanigans. In the world of 'normal relationships' Peggy strikes zero.

However, the whisper is met with a very surprised look and a a couple of blinks. "Really?" she asks, unsure of what else she could as at the moment. That seems very pointed. "Is that—oh." Is that why Isa trusted Peggy Carter? Okay, things are starting to settle into a more direct point of view.

There is a look to Isa, one of understanding but also wariness. "I will not say anything," she tells the other woman. She knows a little about the gender disparity when it comes to office romance. But, she also dealt with that when there were rumors with her and Captain Rogers. There were bullet rounds to quell that rumor. Of course, that was a different time. "Just be careful," she tells the woman. There is no lecture she can imagine that will hit home.

"I do trust Agent Coulson," She tells Isa. "Very much so. But, if we are to infiltrate Icarus, teams will have to know what they are getting themselves into. And that may involve the status of the commanding officers."

*

There is a noticeable wince when Peggy looks so surprised, calls that bit of fact out. Isa almost fumbles her cigarette, finally righting it and popping it back into her mouth, but not without an exasperated sound in the back of her throat. "Da," she sighs. "I did not want to say, but… it may be important, somehow."

But it might make a difference if this operation is to go through. It might mean lives are on the line, and if it came down to that, Isa Reichert is more than willing to eat her pride.

Of course, the unspoken motive is that if anything happens to Isa, whom life seems to love throwing curve balls at, someone knows. Someone can reassure Coulson if the worst come sto pass.

Isa is not a very optimistic person.

She settles for an uncomfortable sound in the back of her throat.

"Thank you," she says, very softly. For not saying anything, presumably. "I have every intention of being careful. For his sake, if nothing else. Ah… but still. Damn." She looks down at her cigarette, sighing. "I should not have said anything…"

"This is why I am a terrible spy, Agent Carter. When I am nervous, I talk. I cannot stop talking." Isa grimaces. "But… please. If there is any way to do this without letting that be known, I would prefer not to. For his sake," she murmurs, again. "I should not have said as much as I have."

She stands, snuffing out her second cigarette. "I have already taken enough of your time, I think. I am sorry for that. You do not even know who I am, da? Just another agent." Isa turns, though, glancing at Peggy from the corner of an eye. "Please do not tell anyone. Or him," she adds, one last time. She must be really nervous about it.

Then she offers a faint smile. "Thank you. If there is ever anything I can do for you, Agent Carter — please, you need only ask."

"Including a flight."

She lingers, though, just in case there's anything else Peggy might want to say before they part ways.

*

While Peggy is also not exactly an optimistic person, there are certain things she believes in. One of those is recon. The other is intelligence. She holds up a finger. "If a mission ever depends on knowing this, I will divulge this information," she tells Isa with no hesitation. She has no qualms about keeping a secret amongst coworkers. If it effects a mission? That is an entirely different story.

"One doesn't need to be a great spy to be a part of SHIELD," she tells the other woman with a bit of a smile. "It's good to have you aboard. We'll figure this out as we go along. I think assembling a team to get into Icarus is tantamount to our success moving forward." It can't be a coincidence that Bucky Barnes arrived and now this. There has to be some sort of connection as far as she's concerned.

However, Peggy pushes herself up from the bench and gives the other woman a smile. "I'm glad we've been introduced now, Agent Reichert," she says with a smile. "Please feel free to come to me should have any problem."

*

Isa hesitates for a moment, quirking a brow at the other woman in a fleeting expression of worry. She can't help a feeling that she should have kept it to herself, especially in light of this woman knowing him, but… as mentioned, if lives should depend on that knowledge, better somebody knows about it; someone of integrity.

And if Coulson vouches for her integrity, the pilot is inclined to trust in that.

"Thank you, Agent Carter." Her soft statement carries a thread of relief in it. "But if it becomes necessary… that is why I have told you. Only because Icarus is dangerous; only because there are many things that might go wrong. Only because I cannot know the future. And if it means that someone knowing might somehow save lives…" Isa's half-smile turns self-depreciating. "I think maybe I can stand to… what is the phrase? To eat my pride."

She shifts her weight on her crutches, still eyeing the other woman.

"I am glad. I hope that we can come to know one another outside of such danger and risk. I am trying to trust, more. I feel being with SHIELD… I feel that is helping me." Her smile is genuine, for a fleeting instant; the sun coming out from behind clouds. "And I thank you for your advice, Agent Carter. I feel I am on the right path after all."

She inclines her head; a gesture of politeness and respect. "Indeed. And I hope that if you ever feel you need help, perhaps I can help you, as you have helped me." Another fleeting half-smile. "Da svidania, Agent Carter. Be safe."

With that, she turns, limping away on her crutches, back into the Triskelion.

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