The First Lesson

June 03, 2017:

Rusalka Stojespal delivers a summary of the enemy's capabilities to Phil Coulson, is officially made a SHIELD agent, and receives her punishment for touching Lola.

SHIELD headquarters, the Triskelion


NPCs: SHIELD Agent Jasper Sitwell


Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

For the record, she knows that Tony Stark does sleep. In small fits and starts, it seems, but it does actually happen. He'd been awake when Rusalka Stojespal had visited, fortunately - and had been hard at work, as well. She'd seen a small portion of his work in the hologram, and a few scattered components-in-progress, but the hardware was beyond her. Still, after the shock of the last few days…maybe it was comforting to see what might as well be Hephaestus himself on their side.

Her job, meanwhile, is to be Mercury and get elsewhere fast. Making her way through SHIELD's offices, she'd been guided to Phil's own sanctum by a rather polite agent. There is, of course, a mild hubbub as she makes her way there - the legend of Phil shooting Tony with an ICER has made its way around as fast as business gossip. Even the agent guiding her was in on the betting, it seemed. Fortunately, he'd bid well.

"Well, this is it," the bald agent adds, finally stopping in front of an office only slightly more nondescript and generic looking than everything else around it. He slips his glasses off, polishing them a moment before resting them back where they were. "So, you came all this way, to…?"

"Ah, it's…sort of personal business, Agent Sitwell. But I thank you for your assistance," Sally adds. He's a kind man, certainly helpful. "I was delivering some things from Tony Stark, and I wanted to talk to him about something else as well. But, please do not let me keep you, really. Thank you."

The agent chuckles, getting one last good look at Rusalka. "So is he letting us all have our own Iron Suits now? Or just Phil?" At her shocked face, he waves, then makes his leave. "Darn, I was hoping! Good luck, Miss Stojespal."

So she settles in to wait, dressed rather professionally - a dark blue suit, with a bright yellow shirt peeping out from the collar. Knee length skirt, dark stockings, and matching pumps finish the outfit, though she's hardly any taller - an inch of heel is all she permits. Hopefully Agent Coulson won't be long, she thinks, but she can wait. What sits in the small purse clinging to her shoulder is enough to wait for the end of the world for.

If it got out…that wait would be very short.

Phil Coulson needs only to push a button to admit Sally into his inner sanctum. It is a testament to how much he has impressed her with her skills that the woman who is not even a recruit yet has been allowed this far, even with an escort. Granted, she might not know it, but she was taken via the scenic route on his orders. He is grimly listening to something on the other end of a phone call, his face falling into grim, tight lines. "Thanks for letting me know, Clay," he says quietly. "I have another meeting I have to get to, but keep me posted."

His office is, of course, a riot of historical gear, most of it various spy and war gear from the WWII era. There are a few other odds and ends from other eras. It's all carefully displayed and labeled, enough to turn the place into a sort of miniature museum. The desk and the chairs before and behind it manage to slip seamlessly into all of this, perhaps because they, too, are antiques. He has a little table with a coffee maker— here in the office it's an old school 1960s percolator, the type that can store up to 100 cups of the stuff, make it on a schedule, and brew it as fresh as if the beans were plucked off the tree that morning. He has a Keurig for the apartment, because if he was going to choose where he was going to brew this kind of coffee with this kind of rare artifact of earlier decades— well, rare functioning artifact, anyway— then it was going to be the office, the place where he spends most of his time.

There's a very comfy sofa in here that is thoroughly modern, the 'cot' he jokes about having in his office. It's plush and leather, covered with a neatly folded pillow and SHIELD themed blanket.

It's a clean, orderly place, as orderly as Phil himself is. "Please come in, Sally," Phil says, quiet and gentle as always, though something of that grimness still hovers about his eyes. As much as he can joke around, as much as he can seem fatherly, he nevertheless is a man with a great deal weighing on him. Today, the weight seems a little heavier than it does most days. "May I offer you a cup of coffee?"

The door opens after the long walk with Agent Sitwell, the beckon obvious - especially when she turns to glance in, and meets his gaze for an instant. Alright…it is time. Sally stands, heels clicking against the floor as she makes her way in - and blinks in surprise as she sees the minor museum set up there. It's not the kind of thing she'd expected, despite knowing of Phil's taste for antique cars at least.

It's that the place is almost curated, as if an organized exhibit. That virtually everything is a comfortable piece, such as the chairs or the sofa, says a lot - but as unassumedly charming and 'faceless' as Agent Coulson presents himself, she'd have expected his office to maintain that same generic, selfless quality.

Instead her eyes rove over the man's collection, recognizing a few things, and so immensely curious about others. Such fascinating depth she'd only suspected…and Sally smiles a little inside. He loves history, she realizes, and finds it fascinating.

"Thank you, sir," she answers. English for now, of course. And in an instant she recognizes a few signs, significant work going on that she cannot ask about. Dark secrets in a shadowed world, and an inability to discuss them. Only the weight they put on his soul. She's seen it in her mother before, from time to time, when bad times happened.

The offer of coffee gets a moment where she's about to ask for tea instead, but she changes her mind. It wouldn't do to make a separate request after admitting her dislike for the beverage, so she takes the polite option. "No, thank you, I was going to stop for lunch after this. But I appreciate the offer," she adds with a smile.

A glance back at the door, before Sally takes a step back and closes it. Dark secrets, after all. Reaching into her purse, she draws out an oversized USB drive, hard metal with the Stark Industries logo on it. The drive is placed on Coulson's desk, Rusalka's fingers just a little nervous holding the thing. "Is it…alright to speak, about that, Agent Coulson?"

"This is one of the most secure rooms in the Triskelion, and the Triskelion is one of the most secure facilities on the planet," Phil says gently. "It's not only okay to speak…I want you to. I specifically want you to, because I'm hoping you can help me boil it down into the bits where there is something actionable I can work on. Tony will engineer-babble at me, Raisa Ivanovna plane babbles at me. I hope you have more of a knack for taking this down to English than they do."

He takes up the thumb drive and pushes a panel aside in the desk. He plugs the drive directly into a USB port there, the better to bring up its contents on the holographic screen in front of him. He scrolls slowly through for a second, but finally returns his attention to Sally.

"Make yourself at home, I'm sorry, my hospitality is lacking today." The apologetic nod to his distracted nature is genuine enough. If he's still angry about the car, well…it's certainly not showing now. If anything, he's simply eager to move forward with this Icarus case.

Phil's reassurance helps. It also cracks a facade for a moment, as Sally slips out a nervous giggle. "I see…ah, though, not that I'd expect there to be anyone listening, but well…" Her reaction is understandable, and there's more to it - she's actually a little scared of this. It shows in her voice, her stance; despite the training of protocol and the girl's moderately arisocratic nature it's easily read by someone as skilled as Phil.

This plane frightens her. So does everything it represents.

"I sometimes feel the same way; I think I will be able to get the basics covered at least…simply because I am afraid I do not understand it nearly as thoroughly as they can. So I will give you my best," she adds with a little bit of a grin - and then watches as the hologram appears.

His invitation to sit is accepted, and she settles in on one of the chairs before his desk, legs crossing and hands resting on her knee - for a moment, at least, before one lifts to begin gesturing to different things. "One of the first things we noticed is that, in all honesty, it's far too small for any modern technology. The engines have huge intakes, for a lot of air…but if they were large enough to use it, then it has no room for fuel and computers. If it had those, it has no engines or weapons. It's like trying to put five gallons of gas in a three gallon tank, yet…"

She shrugs. "Somehow they did. The power density is amazing, the estimate is that the engines produce over two and a half times the amount of thrust that conventional jets of that size do - it's the only way to leave enough room for everything else. They have to be small…and Mr. Stark doesn't believe that, ah…he thinks they come from another planet."

There was a reason she was worried about it being safe to talk, and this is it. "He was going to speak to…ah, to 'Asgardians' and see if perhaps they knew of anything." It's an unfamiliar word, but well…she's run into that a lot lately. "The other major thing we determined is that it has to be able to change its shape, at least somewhat. Like this," she reaches out, gesturing to the hologram, "it is an efficient dogfighter. But it cannot travel at the speeds you saw, without tearing its wingtips off. It has to change, to…something like this."

There's another picture of the thing, a rough holographic "sketch" of what's mostly clearly the same aircraft, but even more sleek. Where the previous one was a sword, sharp edged and razor-thin, this one is a rapier built purely for speed. "It has what I think might be ah…a stretchable body, over a frame, so that it can shape itself without mechanical gaps. There were no flaps, no control surfaces, so somehow it has to reshape its wings like a bird, to be able to do things. If it can achieve that shape," Sally adds, looking at the thing, "then Tchernobog can perhaps achieve four times the speed of sound. More, at high altitude."

Speed enough even to outrun the vaunted SR-71.

"Great. We're fighting the Transformers," Phil opines, just dropping that bit of dry dorkiness without missing a beat. He turns the hologram this way and that with a finger, frowning.

"It doesn't feel Asgardian. My gut says Chitauri. Some of the intel I've picked up offers hints in that direction as well. I didn't know what it meant till you showed me this, however."

That is the way of his work…absorbing seemingly disparate pieces of information and then pulling them together when he finally hears the right bits.

"Tchernobog? Is that what we're calling it?" He smiles, very faintly. And stands to pour himself a cup of coffee. "Anything else, Sally?"

He's listening closely, even as he dumps a mess of cream and sugar into his cup that would put a ten year old to shame. Today he wears his absolutely sharpest suit, and looks every inch the authority he is. Today, he does not look like a forgettable functionary. He looks, today, with his hand on the rudder of a ship, stone cold as he navigates over stormy seas.

Transformers? Ah, she'd seen one of those movies, and laughs - for just a moment. "They're…that's only a movie, right? I mean…I suppose I've heard a lot of impossible things lately, but." hey, you never know - between aliens, gods, monsters, and now the rise of nazis again? She's quit refusing ideas on their face. Maybe a little reassurance will help.

"Chitauri…ah, that's right, you once mentioned the Kree had visited earth as well. The things that happened to Sloane; I…I think I had managed to forget such a thing. Or at least pretend it was, ah…not contemporary, I think." There's a difference between hearing that 'yes, aliens exist' and finding out 'and people are using their machines to rule the world.'

To the question of the rest, she nods. "I sort of called it that, it's…it scares me. I thought the name was appropriate, the Black God of my ancestors." A literal translation, though one steeped in obvious symbolism. "Isa liked it, so…I think it might stick, unless…ah, that's right, the rest. The next file, Mr. Stark is working on countermeasures now."

She'll wait while he gets the next hologram, showing a quinjet - only this is not an assault transport, not anymore. A number of changes made, including new engines, a moderately reshaped body, and a series of new missiles. "He said he is working on a new quinjet, specifically to fight, ah…that. EMP-warhead missiles," she adds, a slight distaste in her mouth. Sally has never liked guns, after all. "They would be enough to disable the aircraft, even for just a few seconds. As well as damage communication with its drones. Possibly, if it were a hit, to destroy the drone itself."

And then she realizes what it is that has struck her about Phil Coulson - he reminds her so very much of her mother right now. Severe, taciturn, and absolutely determined to resolve this situation in the way he decides will be acceptable. Major Baroness Irja Stojespal is a glacier made of iron, implacable - and, in this at least, so is Phillip Coulson. It's comforting, just a little bit, despite being almost frightening to see.

"Mr. Stark also spoke of, ah…of Hydra. That they are interested, and thought of bringing in the Avengers, but decided against it. He was worried too many would escape, and recommended perhaps…Captain America and a few others, for infiltration? I believe." The details are in the report, and they're speaking of people Sally hardly knows.

And then she sits a little straighter, looking up at him. "I have also decided, that…that I would like to officially join SHIELD. If there are things such as this…" She shrugs. "My family has always been in our military, to protect our homeland. This…Tchernobog could wipe out our entire Air Force in less than an hour, on its own. The Sokovian Air Force…" Is for a small, post-Soviet republic, made of leftover hardware. "I admit I wanted to break with tradition, to find my own path…but I cannot ignore this. So I will do both."

She finally looks up at him, as he sips his coffee. "My family has served to protect our people and our home. I wish to join to protect them from things they cannot fight. That is what SHIELD is for, is it not? To protect, to defend. Against…that," she finally adds.

"So far, as far as I know, they are only a movie," Phil confirms, in tones that say that he will quickly and effortlessly rewrite and adjust his worldview to include Optimus Prime if he has to, later on.

"Cap?" Phil asks, incredulously. "Cap is terrible at infiltration. He's far too honest. He's far too good. But I'll work up infiltration efforts."

Having had the opportunity to stand side by side with Captain America on an infiltration mission, he can now say that with absolute certainty. He'd thought his heart was going to stop on that moment where Captain America looked surprised at exactly the wrong moment.

He quiets down after that, and listens to the rest of what she has to say. A faint smile crosses over his lips.

"Ah. Good. I'm glad."

He touches a button. Opens a drawer. Slides an ID across the desk. It has her name on her. And a clearance level. Level 3.

"That is the minimum level you'd really need to be working on this anyway. You are officially assigned to liason between here and Stark's office, which means feel free to keep interning. Welcome to SHIELD. You'll be trained here, with me, as we have time. I'm afraid you'll miss the Academy experience, which is a shame. You can finish your degree, I still want you to do that. I was going to wait. But I would have been a fool to ignore your capabilities at the exact moment we need something just like them. And I've been accused of many things, but…never foolishness."

He points to the hologram as if he hadn't just dropped a bomb. "Anything else I should know that you want to highlight before I read the report? About this thing?"

She blinks, a bit surprised. "I see…ah, perhaps I misremembered then, but I suppose perhaps he meant a smaller force sneaking in, to deal with it, rather than, ah…approaching noisily and giving them warning. I would double-check…" Of course. Maybe Stark was thinking of a small combat team, rather than a spy mission. She's just giving the basics, after all; Tony didn't specify to her.

"He is a good man, Captain America. I got a moment to meet him, a little while ago, actually…" She smiles a little nervously, glancing back at Phil as he delivers his assessment. Honest, definitely; good…certainly. She can understand why there's a little trading-card of the man behind Phil's desk.

And then there is a badge slid across to her - one that Sally stares at in shock for a few seconds, before swelling up with pride. She reaches out, tenderly, touching the badge and her identification as if it were a dream that could evaporate at the slightest whim. "This…y-you knew? That I would…" Well…of course he would, she decides.

Tony Stark is a master when it comes to seeing a machine and understanding it intuitively. Now, she realizes, Phil is his equal when it comes to people. "I will do that. Training, ah, and - well…I am glad. I do not want this, this…thing to exist. To threaten." She finally scoops up the badge, still treating it as if it were made of Swarovski crystal, and carefully tucks it into her purse.

She'll check later through the day just to make sure this isn't a dream and that it still exists.

"Ah, the rest…? Oh. Yes." Focus! "There were two things that concern Mr. Stark. The first is the fuel supply. There's simply no way it uses regular aviation fuel, but something much more powerful. Unique, perhaps. The other is that it has to be able to cool itself to exceptional levels. Just at our estimates, at those speeds it's reaching past two hundred fifty degrees celsius. The air friction, I mean."

A surface temperature twice that of boiling water, all from air friction. "There are very few things that can take that temperature for a long time, and fewer still that can stretch and bend. Mr. Stark said he will be searching for them, and for anyone trading in them. If he is lucky, he can at least track down the source, and precisely perhaps what it is made of. And, perhaps, where. He gave a list of possibilities; they are in the full report, but…he hasn't found anything as of this morning."

She frowns a little, "Other than that, we're speculating a lot…but the new quinjet will be able to beat it, Stark thinks. I know he is working on it now. Isa is…ready." The word is stated mildly. Very mildly. The truth is that the one-eyed pilot is debating ripping her bandages off and headbutting her way through the gates of Hell itself to go after Makarov. So it's probably Tuesday.

"I've got faith in Stark." Despite shooting him.

He doesn't say anything at all about Isa's mental state or readiness, or anything else about her. He plays any and all cards about the redhead firmly to himself, his hazel eyes betraying nothing as Sally reports on her mental state.

He merely smiles a little as Sally treats her badge so reverently. It's the Cheshire Cat smile, prompted, in part, by her stammering 'you knew?' question.

The next time she checks her email she'll find a secure communication directing her to log in and do all her employment paperwork too. But that's the un-fun part, and the benefit of rank is he gets to do the fun part of presenting the new Agent with her badge and seeing her face while he does it. It's the little things.

With the grim rundown on their opposition's technology finished, however, he nods, and stands. "Excellent. Keep me posted on what you all find. I'm working a new angle on Monday that might lead us to the fuel source, or some of this other nonsense. In the meantime, Agent Stojespal, I'd like you to get back over there to Stark Industries. Allow me to walk you to your car?"

Faith goes many ways. Tony and Phil get along about as well as Tony and Isa do, but Rusalka finds it easier. Perhaps she's a little bit used to intemperate technical genius, having gone to classes around more than a few people like that. Maybe it'll help provide a cleaner, easier conduit between SHIELD and Stark business. Or maybe Rusalka will merely end up in a small padded room after losing her sanity from being the go-between.

Plenty of time for the future to play itself out.

There's almost a mistiness in her eyes as she finds herself accepted, looking over the badge. That it proclaims "ENGINEER" is a tremendous honor. She's whispering softly in Ukrainian, not realizing it's slightly audible. <So that is what it looks like…that word, and my name. A title. I never realized…>

When Phil stands, Sally hurriedly climbs out of her chair, and nods. "I will do so. We will keep researching, and see what else there is to come up with. And…I will absolutely continue my education. I swear that I will not disappoint you, sir. Agent Coulson." She smiles, though, and nods at his question.

"I will be most honored." Are her feet bouncing? Maybe. Just a tiny bit. Good thing those are such low heels or else she'd have trouble walking…

He understands the Ukranian, of course, but he merely lets the Cheshire Cat smile remain. He doesn't even react, leaving his mastery of that language as a mystery for the moment. He takes her down via the elevator, equally aware of her excitement. It warms him. He remembers being excited himself, the day he became a level 1 data analyst. The few things he was allowed to see produced a lot of "wows," and "oh this is so swells," out of him. Sometimes it's hard to remember he was that young, ever, but…even he was.

He clasps his hands behind his back and says little as they make it to the parking garage. "I'm going to need you to come in later this week so we can get you to the firing range," he adds, even as he walks her to her car. He draws to a stop beside it, taking a few steps back, for all the world like the expected course of action would be for her to get in it…and drive off, per normal.

That Phil understand Ukrainian well, that shouldn't be a surprise. At this point she'd not be surprised if he spoke ancient Sanskrit, admittedly - but Sally's too distracted to care. Her world just got a lot bigger, and a lot cooler. She also remembers, she'll have to ask Coulson about the car collection that SHIELD has - the prototypes and other such things.

There are the usual questions - can she tell Sloane, can she tell her parents, can she tell Isa. …The last, probably obviously yes. And of course come the warnings of misuse, but she gets that - nodding almost absently. Rusalka is careful if nothing else! Mostly.

The mention of a firing range gets a frown. "I…I see. I do not like guns, but I suppose I will have to. Mr….please forgive me, I will do my best." But she'll tackle that problem when she comes to it, and decides that there's more than her dislike at stake. Honor Unyielding - even in the face of changing ones own beliefs. She respects the motto more now. "I will do nothing to dishonor you, sir. Though…I am sure I will need much training."

And then they're at the Lotus, and with one last smile she bids him farewell. The purse is settled in its usual spot, as Sally buckles in and gets ready - her spirits buoyant, the world suddenly so…so alive. With those thoughts, with everything that just happened, her fear of the demon fighter aircraft has abated. They can take on anything, and will. She looks up at Phil and gives him one last smile, then taps the gas pedal and with a turn of the key starts up the Lotus.

He does not know Sanskrit. Nobody on the international stage speaks Sanskrit. If he needs that, he'll call in an expert. But…he does speak a lot of languages. He's had thirty years to immerse himself in the need for them, all as the geopolitical stage shifts and changes. Fortunately he has a bit of a knack for them. It's the patterns…he has a knack for patterns as he does for people, and all languages fundamentally share various patterns.

Phil had answered each question with equinamity. He is fine with her telling Sloane, as long as she doesn't reveal details she should not. He warns that this might be hard, for there will be things she can no longer tell her best friend.

As for the guns? "You'll get used to them."

Nothing happens when she turns the key of her car. Nothing at all.

Innocently: "Something wrong with your car?"

One useful thing about SHIELD is their size - somewhere, an agent DOES speak it. Or know it. Or can provide some other piece of critical trivia to the world of spies that can save the world of humanity. Noone can do everything…but everyone can do something.

The caution gets a nod, but…she understands. Just as Isa had to keep certain things about her husband from Sally, until recently, she realizes there will be things she cannot share with Sloane. But that is something her family motto already covers - there will be no violation of her honor, under any circumstances.

A violation of her lips, much more likely. When she turns the key, and holds it down until the engine starts - and it doesn't? "Shcho t…yob tvoyu mat. No, not permitted." Sally glances over the dashboard for a second, before Phil's question. "Eh? This is nothing, I am sure. Everything is fine." She looks back at the dashboard - there' fuel, and she knows the gauge is correct because she can hear the pump when she first turned the key. There's battery power because the electrics work.

So why the hell…? Sally just settles back down, closing her eyes a moment, and listening to everything she can, turning the key again. This time adding in a little help from the gas pedal, to get a response. Preferably the cheerful growl of the motor running properly!

Nothing, again. Phil tilts his head to one side, birdlike. "I was under the impression you kept your car in perfect condition, Agent Stojespal."

He even allows a hint of avuncular sternness to mildly draw his brows downward. As if he's so disappointed in her. A fine car like this, and it's not running. Tsk. "What if you'd needed to make a quick getaway? What if you needed to be on the other side of town as of yesterday?"

He crosses his arms and lifts his eyebrows, demanding that she fix it. As of yesterday.

Sally's eyes narrow in worry when nothing happens again. The look on her face is one of shock and worry, as if finding out one's child was suddenly hospitalized. The Lotus means a lot to the girl, even if it is 'just a machine.' For an instant there's confusion and fear, before she takes a deep breath.

And then Phil makes his comment, and the racing enthusiast looks up at him - before glaring fiercely. "I do. This is the first time this has happened, and I do not permit this to stand." She looks down again at the dashboard, stops, and thinks. Alright. Fuel, she knows. The pump is working, and isn't drawing air. Battery power appears fine. There's nothing blocking it. Something electronic? Unlikely, but not impossible. Fuses?

First thing to check. "If I needed to make a quick getaway, the car would be running. I do everything on the maintenance and replacement schedule! This is not…this is not proper. Here." She steps back out of the car, leaving the driver door open and the suit jacket inside. Now it's just the yellow silk shirt and the dark blue skirt, as she opens the rear trunk and engine lid. "I suppose, if you would like to see…though, it is hardly as unique." She'll gesture at the motor as she draws a towel and a few tools from the back.

"It cannot be part of the computer. It would give an error code, or act…strangely. More strange than this!" she adds in a protest. The first thing to check is the electrical control box. It takes just a few seconds; all the fuses are fine. Nothing here. Next step - digging deeper, and she reaches down to find…

A missing distributor cap. It's simply gone.

It was certainly there when she came this morning, of course, or she couldn't have made it here.

Phil Coulson just remains utterly silent, watching her panic over her car. Stern. Very stern, as she defends her maintenance schedule, tries frantically to figure out what's wrong with her baby. It's almost like it's a prized vehicle that she doesn't like other people touching! Something he absolutely would know something about.

He waits to see if she'll figure out the extent of it. Will she start to understand the reason why her route up took three times as long as her route down?

After she passes the fuse box, Sally gets a good look into the engine itself. And there it is, wires loose and dangling, the core of the electrical system - a pilfered component that she has no replacement for. "Chyort!" And her head settles, resting her face in one hand as she stands. Mumbling now, still in Ukrainian. "Meni tse treba yak zuby v dupi." A damnation, followed by a complaint of the situation comparing it to being bitten in the posterior.

"Someone has broken into my car and stolen something. Part of the engine, the distributor. It sends the electricity to the cylinders," she adds, before remembering that Phil already knows that - after all, he cherishes his car and maintains it too.

Cherishes and maintains.

Her feet swivel, the pumps grating softly against the concrete parking lot, as she turns to face Phil. "Someone who would know what it is to take, and not simply steal the whole car. Bozhe moy… You…you did not. You could not…" No, it was a rather fast trip downstairs after all. Plenty of time…and here she'd thought Agent Sitwell was just prying for his own sake.

"Agent Coulson, this was a terrible trick to play."

And now, Phil gives a smile. He reaches into his pocket and withdraws the offending part. He places it into her hand.

"Sometimes the solution is simple," he says quietly, shrugging his shoulder. "And now you know to question when things don't seem to add up. I half expected you to question the route up vs. the route down, and if you had, I'd have rewarded you with this just a little sooner."

Hazel eyes glimmer. "Besides, turnabout was fair play. I had to get a little of Lola's own back."

Or you know. His desire to make 'don't touch my car' into a hard and fast rule for every agent prompted this little lesson. Or he was just feeling like being kind of a vindictive jerk. Or he was hazing her a little. Or all of the above.

There's really no telling when he just stands there, the Cheshire Cat look back on his face.

She reaches up, taking the component and bending back down into the engine bay. Clipping the wires back into place is simple, but it does take a minute to synchronize - and double, triple check - that the device is lined up properly. Without that, the engine will try to start itself but never quite turn over. It gives her a minute to talk, voice bouncing out of the engine to Phil.

"I suppose I should have, yes. I merely thought you were busy, or…" No, that doesn't make sense. She'd have been led to his office anyway, and merely sat outside until he appeared. "No, if you had been, I'd just waited, not…been guided around by the inquisitive Agent Sitwell. He is a smart man, at least." It was decent enough conversation, despite being merely a decoy.

And then Rusalka laughs finally, the truth of the matte revealed. Not simply a prank…but a return of what had happened with Lola. "I suppose it is better than being shot," she adds, thinking back to the humiliating moment of turning the key for nothing. "Then again…perhaps it might have been better…" There, finished. She stands, finally, wiping her hands as clean as she can with just the towel.

And then curtseys dramatically to Phil, holding the pose in submission for a few seconds. "I am terribly sorry about what I did to your Corvette, and I swear upon my family name that I will never let it happen again." She meets his smile with one of her own, before glancing to the side and affecting a disinterested demeanor. "Though, I suppose I will have to cancel my work with Mr. Stark, as it's based so heavily upon that machine…"

"I'm not that cruel," Phil says dryly. "Fortunately, Lola does have schematics. And they were in the SHIELD vaults. Copies of them might have mysteriously migrated to your dashboard, so that you might examine them to your heart's content without touching her." His eyes twinkle as he offers a little bow. "But now that we are nice and even, we shan't speak of it again. Do you suppose Tony's over being shot yet?"

Sheepishly. "It was really and truly a bit of an overreaction, not to mention a misuse of my weapon. I honestly shouldn't have done that. I should probably bring myself to apologize to him for it."

He looks like it might take him awhile, despite all the good work Tony is doing on the mutual projects between Stark Industries and SHIELD. "I was a poor example…well, both days really, but for this? I claim Agent 101 Lessons."

"Then I am glad, Agent Coulson. Sir." He's her boss now! Sally has a boss. And he's a bit of a joker. "I appreciate the schematics, actually, and…in honesty they will help significantly. Ah, I was only joking about canceling work with Mr. Stark; that project is something else entirely. But it did unintentionally lead to something that will help with, ah." They're in a parking garage. "Other things," she settles on, referring to the fighter jet they had discussed - specifically, Stark's counter to it, the A.R.C. Turbo-Repulsor that Sally had worked out.

The specifications are there, at least.

"We are and have always been even, sir. Everything else," she adds with a shrug, "was just the sound of the wind blowing. Ah, though…" She shrugs to Tony. "I would point out that he did suggest it in the first place, and even organized the bet. And the date with Agent Stahl, and the rest…I think he was testing to see if you would. I can only wonder what he would have done if I hadn't accidentally caught him in the ribs…" And Phil did get his cut of the betting pool anyway. It all came out good in the end.

Now it's time to put all the cards on the table, and Rusalka settles back into the open door, tucking her legs in carefully. "And if I were to need to escape quickly, I could." Such confidence! One hand smoothes out her skirt and stockings for a second as she takes a deep breath. "Time to wake up, Kometa." Sally reaches forward and turns the key once more, giving the gas pedal a push to coax the Lotus to life - and 99 percent sure she's got everything back the way it should be. It's just that one percent that worries her, as Phil looms.

She offers her opinions on Tony, and he inclines his head to her. That…is all true. It was maybe the Supernanny that was a bit of a nasty touch, but then again it was also a fine in-joke between him and Tony. If, indeed, Tony sees it as a joke. He's not entirely sure.

As for being concerned? That's a good impulse. That niggling 1% should always be a source of worry. Phil smiles and gives her a little wave of farewell, turning back towards the elevator. "I look forward to working with you, Agent Stojespal," he says, even as he taps his card against the card reader that will let him get back in the elevator at all.

"It wasn't so much that Supernanny was a terrible thing, but…" When Tony had flippantly (and semi-consciously) commented he could make an AI do, perhaps with a giant stuffed Suit…she'd realized it was time to change the channel. "He was placidly creative," she decides. She just doesn't tell Phil that his plan went quite so sideways.

That one percent will always be a worry, but it is good to double-check everything. Like her entrance exam with Mr. Stark, the one part of the problem that she had not seen…now this. Sometimes the solution is simple, so start at the beginning. Question what seems to be out of the place, so do not tell yourself to ignore simple things. And never go with blind confidence, so be sure to know all the ways something can go wrong.

A good first lesson, she thinks, as the motor snarls happily to life.

Sally gives a deep breath of relief and looks back up at him, cobalt-blue eyes practically glowing with excitement for the future. "As do I…Boss." Now that's a new word for him! Probably. She'll have to be sure to tease him about it later…but for now there is a wonderful day to finish. With a wave as he disappears into the elevator, Rusalka Stojespal, Agent of SHIELD, makes her way into the world.

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