Nuts and Bolts

June 03, 2017:

In which Isa Reichert and Tony Stark puzzle over their advanced prototype, and Melinda May makes sure they take care of basic necessities like "food" and "sleep."

New York City - Stark Industries

Rising high into the skyline with the name of it's Lord and Master for all to see, the Stark Industries Tower is the most visible component of the Stark Industries complex centered in Midtown Manhattan. Manufacturing, office space, power generation and even some inventory is housed in the tower and its associated subelevels. It also contains guest housing and, at the top, the penthouse suite that is the domain of the Main Man himself, at least, when he's not at his Malibu home.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Pepper Potts, Phil Coulson, Rusalka Stojespal

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

Although the sun has long since set over the city, the night brings with it no relief from the soaring summer temperatures. Humidity is the cause to blame, and there are once again thunderstorms slowly building and following along the Hudson River. Lightning flickers across the sky, while thunder chases its own echoes around the skyscrapers of New York City's skyline.

Isa Reichert has come calling to Stark Industries once more. It means that it must relate to Tchernobog, as Rusalka Stojespal has taken to calling the sinister aircraft that had shot Isa down over St. Petersburg.

For the days she's since taken to sleeping on the Bus, she's been working feverishly at a desperate attempt to recreate the bizarre-looking warbird. She's drawn on all her years of experience with aerodynamics and aviation engineering. She's even pooled her resources with Rusalka Stojespal and Tony Stark.

While it isn't top secret, she's been guarding her work jealously, sharing it only with a select few. Melinda May is part of that short list – in fact, she'd asked the other pilot to meet her at Stark Industries, for Isa to deliver her latest iteration to Stark.

She's also been reporting directly to Agent Coulson on this thing. Whatever she's been slaving away at, it's big, and it has her deeply disturbed. It's important, that much is obvious.

In spite of her cane and her wounds, Isa has the stride of a woman on a mission as she makes her way into the lobby of Stark Industries, crossing into the elevator and glancing up toward the ceiling.

…Artificial intelligences are still a little bit creepy to her. Where do you even look when you talk to the thing? Stare at a wall?

"JARVIS," she snaps, switching into rapid-fire Russian. "<I want to see Stark, right now. I have data for him that he is going to want to see. Will you tell him Raisa Ivanovna is here?>"

She isn't sure if May's here yet – she may well have missed the other agent in her determined power-walk through the lobby – but she'll wait on the elevator for JARVIS to respond.

At least JARVIS is tolerable.

For a rare change, Isa arrived before May. But the elder SHIELD agent could honestly not care less. This isn't a race. She just got back into NYC ahead of that storm front, having been given a 'quick' piloting mission.

Having received the request to meet at Stark Tower, May didn't even bother to change out of her flight gear – which looks just like her usual SHIELD tac gear – before catching a ride over.

May wordlessly crosses to the elevators, figuring that the AI running the building would either recognize her and make sure she ended up where she's supposed to be, or will stop her before she gets into an elevator.

"Oh Miss Ivanovna! He was not…well…he is awake. And yes I shall tell him. Oh. He said to send you up." JARVIS sounds unsure about this but the elevator opens and the swift movement takes Isa towards the top of the building where Stark himself awaits.

"Please miss, if you can manage it. Suggest that he sleep sometime soon. He seems to be…" JARVIS pauses a moment. "…well. You shall see miss."

And then May is there too.

"Ah! Miss May!" JARVIS greets as she steps up to the elevator and the doors whisk open. "Mister Stark was wanting to see you as well, so this works out. Just. Be gentle."

With that ominous warning the doors slide closed and shoot the pair of SHIELD agents towards the top of the building.

When the doors open its into one of Stark's lab complexes. There is some kind of heavy metal band blaring and way too many live and sparking electrical connections lying around to be safe. At first there is no sign of Stark himself but over the din of the music someone can be heard banging about on…something in the back.

Then Stark's voice.

"Alright JARVIS turn her on!"

"…sir I am not sure this is safe…"

"Its fine! Start it up!"

"…yes sir."

The music is drowned out by the high pitched whine of what can only be a jet engine of some kind. Not full scale enough to melt the lab or explode anyones eardrums. But still, a loud screaming drone that fills the whole space.

"YES!" The exaultant shout from the inventor. "IT DIDN'T MELT THIS TIME!"

…oh yes. This is already going well.

The elevator is quiet, and more importantly, it is presumably a secure part of the building watched over by JARVIS. Isa is carrying no more than a metallic thumb drive. Her clothing today is less professional, if only because she hasn't been cleared for active duty, yet. She's wearing jeans and a black button-down shirt tucked into them; scuffed combat boots. None of it is rumpled, even though she looks like she hasn't slept. Her single eye is noticeably bloodshot, and she keeps blinking as though it's just as raw and irritated as it looks.

"Oh. You do not deal with very many Russians, do you?" she asks JARVIS, politely. "It is Raisa Ivanovna, or Raisa, or I suppose Miss Yakovleva. Ivanovna is my father's name," she explains. "We Russians, we always have our father's name in our own names. My father was Ivan Fyodorovich Yakovlev. His father was Fyodor Vailievich Yakovlev…"

Maybe she's sleep-deprived enough that a little conversation keeps her going. It does serve to pass the time until the elevator reaches the top, although that doesn't take very long.

Isa only shrugs in response to JARVIS' request to make Tony take care of himself. In all honesty, she doesn't look like she's done that herself, either. In that way they're kindred spirits. Once they've set their jaws onto a problem, they'll work to the exclusion of all else until they've solved it. Personal welfare doesn't even enter into the equation.

Still moving stiffly and carefully, Isa's cane announces her presence better than the tread of her combat boots do, with a click punctuating every other step.

Isa takes a look around when the doors open, frowning and flinching back at the noise.

She reaches up and rubs at the bridge of her nose with her right hand, contemplating whether she should take a deep breath and thunder over this din to get his attention, or whether he'll notice that she's there or not. Before she has the opportunity to choose, he notices, saving her the trouble.

No sooner does she hear the robo-butler than a turbine whining to life drowns out all other sound. Isa drops her cane in her haste to clap her hands over her ears, shouting and snarling a litany of truly virulent Russian curses.

"<—hell are you doing you goddamned…!>"

This time she does take a deep breath, thundering over the din as best as she can; the same voice that had once sent flight crews scrambling in terror to do her bidding.

"TONY STARK! SHUT THAT GODDAMNED NOISE OFF!"

Having been just a few moments behind Isa, she arrives just in time to hear Isa bellow to make the scariest drill sargeant ever hesitate. "JARVIS, cut the music," she adds in a normal tone of voice. She knows that the AI will be able to hear her no matter what. (And if he can't he's probably programmed to read lips via the video feeds.)

Regardless of whether or not any of the hideous noises stop, she gives the chaotic space a quick glance before crossing to a cabinet marked 'Safety Gear' and pulling two sets of ear muffs. She promptly covers her own ears, then carries the other set back to Isa.

Then, finally, she looks toward where Stark is presumably neck-deep in dangerous inventions.

"WHAT!" Comes the shout over the edge of the turbine's scream. "ISA IS THAT YOU? I CAN'T HEAR YOU BECAUSE OF ALL THIS NOISE! LET ME SHUT IT OFF!"

And with that the turbine putters to a stop. Along with the music at May's request. Out of the back of the workshop Tony Stark pokes his head. Yes. He is totally wearing ear protection.

"Oh and May too! Excellent excellent!" His tone of voice is slightly lower on the volume scale as he starts to stroll out of that back and towards where they happen to be. Carefully stepping over sparking bits of machinery with a careless negligence.

This is why no one is allowed up here with him. Not because they think the'll steal something, but because they might die.

"I built an engine." He seems way too proud of this fact. "Now I'm working on the frame. Well. I'm working on the frame at the same time as the engine. Because its just how I roll. I should have a working prototype done in a week or two, and then you two can fly it. And then we'll just see who makes the best fighter planes in the goddamn world."

Somewhat painfully, Isa stoops to retrieve her dropped cane, leaning heavily against it and glaring at the inventor. Even shouting like that was enough to take most of the wind out of her sails. Honestly, she looks pretty awful. That happens when one is healing from bones regrown to knit multiple severe fractures and also not sleeping while doing that.

Sleep can wait. This is too important.

The ear protection is taken, but Isa doesn't put it on yet. She squints as Tony casually picks his way through bits and pieces of turbine. She recognises a lot of the parts, although not all of them.

He built an engine.

"I can see that," the one-eyed pilot responds, with some annoyed sarcasm.

Now he's working on the frame.

"About that." Isa reaches into her pocket, withdrawing a thumb drive bearing SHIELD's logo, offering it to Tony. "I made a few changes based on the data you and Sally Petrovna had come up with. You are better informed with whatever power plant that nightmare is using, but I know aerodynamics, and I know them reasonably well. I have made a few changes that you may find helpful."

Looking from Isa to Tony and back, May can only shake her head slowly. WHy the hell does she always end up being the one to do this? Well, it's par for the course anymore it seems. "Jarvis, where is there a place to feed these two and get them to sleep?"

She doesn't wait for an answer from the AI, though, one hand snapping out to claim that thumb drive before Stark can. "You can both work on this new intel, AFTER you've eaten had at least eight hours of sleep." She's shed her own ear protection already, and if either of them protests, she will likely snag them by the ear like recalcitrant children. Or Barton. It's pretty much the same thing.

"Oh do you now?" Tony asks with a quirked eyeborw before he waves a hand. "Fine then! Take a look!" And a holoscreen blossoms to life near May and Isa. The details of the jet look vaguely like the Quinjet. A similar line, but where the Quinjet is built for versitility and transport this is built for only one thing.

Air supirority.

From the tip of its nose to the edge of its tail the plane screams agression. Variable feature wings. Repulsor systems instead of purely normal air-intake engines give it much more clean lines than the massive scoops of Isa's nemisis. The blade line wings are graceful as they are deadly, the ship built for speed and manuverability rather than other thing.

Where the mystery fighter is a brute force shoving itself though this air this is a work of art, slicing though the wind like the edge of a blade.

"Go on, tell me what you think. Both of you. Can't wait to hear what you have to say. Havn't even gotten to the weapons yet."

There will be weapons of course.

"Mostly internal I'm thinking, wing mount points would slow her down." He adds before he turns to blink slightly owlishly at May.

"Sleep? I sleep! JARVIS tell her I sleep!"

"He has slept at least…40 hours ago." JARVIS helpfully explains.

"See! I slept!" He points in a general up direction to indicate the AI.

"…and ate. Oooh I think I have some danishes left…"

Isa is about to protest the thumb drive being intercepted, but before she has the opportunity to put words together, there is a large holoprojection of a quinjet blooming into life alarmingly close to where she's standing. She startles back, having to catch herself on her cane, along with a curse in Russian. Holographic technology is great until it isn't.

Her eye settles on the aircraft, then, and one can see the light switch flicking. She is in that moment absorbed completely, totally ignoring May; not necessarily out of neglect or rudeness, but because that switch in her brain has been flipped. And then toggled a few dozen times in rapid succession. Her mind has at this point gone Somewhere Else, off into Engineering Land.

In fact, Tony might notice her jaw falls open as she stares at the quinjet's configuration. This is no longer a quinjet, but a sleek warbird, a statement; a work of art.

She doesn't answer May's question because she's busy gaping, even as her brain is running calculations, equations; whatever it is when her mind goes into that place where aircraft are formed.

May can't help but look at the holoimage as well, and inwardly marvel at how truly sleek and deadly that vehicle design is. Very much something she can believe Stark designed.

BUT, unlike Isa, she is able to not get completely absorbed by the potential visible in that image. Tearing her eyes away from the sleek little fighter, she reaches to snag Stark and Isa each by an arm. "Jarvis, shut everything down. Stark is taking a break for at least ten hours." By the tone of her voice, she fully expect the AI to comply.

Tony looks smug. As only Tony Stark can.

He knew he would have that effect on Isa. The only thing in the world that could actually shut her up. I mean really. It is a work of art. He knows it is. He is proud it is. And more importantly he is gonna totally show off that it is. Because he's Tony Stark.

"Yup. Totally gonna be better than that other plane. Looks better than it already doesn't it? And the speed should be comprible. I can tweak that, try to make it more manuverabile at the cost of speed…"

But then May cuts in. And the holoimage shuts down. And Tony just blinks towards her.

"Sleep? Break? But I'm nearly done with it!"

Although she looks at it with an engineer's eye, she also looks at it with a pilot's eye, imagining how it would handle based on its appearance alone. She had done her fair share of that in her home country, comparing how her estimates would hold up against reality. Sometimes the engineers would surprise her… but most of the time, her estimates had been reasonably close.

Something tells her that this thing is going to surprise her, if she's given the chance to fly it.

Then the holoprojection winks out of existence.

Isa looks around for a second in the manner of one lost; in the manner of one who hasn't worked with holograms for very long. Where'd it go?

"We were almost done," Isa reasons with May, drawing herself up. "Agent Phillip Coulson is waiting on these specs. It would be better to finish, so I can bring those to him. We are waiting only for a finished prototype."

Her eye flicks back to where it was, as though she could still see the echoes of the hologram. "It is important we finish this… before they finish theirs. Yours is better, Tony Stark; I see that clearly. I will not know how much better until I can hear its turbines, or feel its controls, if I am the one Agent Phillip Coulson chooses as its pilot. But we must destroy their prototype."

"If what I have found is correct," Isa explains softly, face ashen, "they will be selling it to the highest bidder on the international market. And if that is the case, it will be war on an unthinkably gloabl scale. There is nothing fast enough to counter something such as that. Nations will fall before they have understood what has happened. Whatever they are using, it is so far ahead of the curve…"

Raisa Ivanovna Yakovleva looks honest-to-God frightened.

She looks to May, beseeching. "I will sleep when this is finished, Agent Melinda May. I promise you that. But I cannot stop. That thing, that monster; that Tchernobog – it is the death of nations if it is allowed to complete. We must finish it a quickly as we can. If you do not believe me, ask Agent Phillip Coulson."

Never mind that if he were here, he'd order her to take some time off to eat and sleep.

She doesn't mention that part.

Settling both hands on the head of her cane, she just shakes her head, faintly. "I say speed, unless Agent Phillip Coulson has told you otherwise," she says, to Tony. "Otherwise, they will simply outrun us, and store it somewhere else that we cannot find it while they work to finish the project." Now she really does look ashen, considering the possibilities. "Oh, God be good, we cannot afford to let them do that."

"Of course mine's better. Mine is always better." Tony's smug knows no bounds.

"What she said!" Tony points at Isa in the most gradeschool of moments before he coughs. "Look May! I'm a professional at this staying up and building things at all hours. I know I'll be fine. I mean I'm not gonna work until I collapse."

Again.

"Because then that causes all kinds of problems for me. But fine. Fine." He holds up his hands. "And if it'll get you to say something about my design…which I know know will be specced for speed…" He grins a little wildly as he looks at Isa. "…which I hope doens't cause you to black out." A smirk at that before he turns back to May. "Anyway! I'll get food sent up, JARVIS can do that. And then I can get back to work!"

By the time she's being steered towards the door, the red-headed woman realises someone is touching her arm, and jerks away from May in a motion that seems almost panicky. No matter Isa's opinion of May's skill, she is not on that list of people who are allowed to enter Isa's personal space unbidden.

She actually shudders as she pulls away from the older pilot.

May might well recognise it as a panic reaction; an unthinking reflex from someone as broken on the inside as the outside. It's not anything personal, and indeed Isa's made it clear she thinks the world of May's professional skill.

But neither of the other two people in this room are on that list.

"You are such a child, Tony Stark." The words are given with a grimace, and they have nothing to do with that fleeting moment of emotion a moment before. "It will not cause me to black out. I do not know if I will even be piloting this thing. That is Agent Phillip Coulson's decision. He is the one handling these operations. He has taken on the responsibilities for Icarus Dynamics."

She shudders again, reaching up and rubbing at her arm, as though disguising the motion as a reaction of coldness. "Da. I was her only to drop these, and to highlight the things I changed for you. I will go back to the Triskelion, then, and…"

And sleep, because there is a non-zero chance she hasn't done that for the last two days.

She sure doesn't look like it.

"I promise," she adds, holding her right hand up to May. Her left is finally out of that confounded sling, but she still moves stiffly and slowly with it, as though it pained her. "Try not to kill yourself working, Tony Stark. We need that prototype finished yesterday. I will ask Sally Petrovna to look in on you when she has the opportunity, and some time between now and your finishing this prototype, I will check in again and see if there is anything more I can contribute."

She is no engineer, sadly; not like Stark is. She has a limited knowledge of the things she needs to know as a test pilot, and she's very good at knowing those things, but she doesn't have the skillset required to build an entire aircraft from the ground up. Her talents lie more in the details.

And, of course, the operation of such a thing. Actually climbing in and seeing how it handles, now that's her wheelhouse. Improvising on the fly and adapting to the totally unknown quantities of its mechanical heartbeat, now that's where she truly shines.

Right now, though, she's not doing much of any shining. "Agent Melinda May." The full name is more a token of respect than anything else, a substitute for a missing patronymic. "I will go back to my apartment for tonight, at the Triskelion. Thank you for your concern." A formal statement, but a half-smile given with it, too. "I will order food as soon as I have returned."

Scout's honour. But for right now, she might need about sixteen hours of sleep, first.

Taking up her cane, she hobbles for the elevator door, inclining her head to both. "Dobroy nochi." Good night.

With that, provided neither stop her, she'll take her leave.

Yes, May recognizes that flinch, and for that reason amongst others she doesn't reach for the redhead's arm again. "I'll update you tomorrow, Reichert." She has to deal with the man-child over here, after all. "Stark, no offense, but I don't trust food delivery. Now show me where your kitchen is, and you'd better have stocked the pantry."

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