The Master's Thesis

June 05, 2017:

In which Isa Reichert visits Rusalka Stojespal, and is shown the girl's cherished automotive project while the two dance around a discussion of business.

East Side - New York City

Sutton Place, Turtle Bay, Tudor City… all of these recognizable neighborhoods help define the eastern side of Midtown Manhattan. From 6th Avenue to the East River, from 40th St. to 59th St., the East Side contains such notable landmarks as Sotheby's headquarters, the UN building, and the unmistakable Chrysler Building, (at 4nd and Lexington) is THE art deco structure, easily the most identifiable with the deco movement. It is the tallest brick building in the world (1,046 feet). The offices are mostly given over to private organizations such as Bank Rome and InterMedia Partners.

Grand Central Station, located at Park and 42nd Street, properly known as Grand Central Terminal, is the intersection of 67 separate rail and subway tracks serviced on 2 levels. There's a Dining Concourse featuring restaurants and fast food below the Main Concourse.

East Side is home to some of the city's brightest luminaries, since it's far enough away from the bustling city center to afford some privacy, but close enough to the action to make it one of the more in-demand areas outside of the Upper East Side.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Phil Coulson, Sloane Albright

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

June in New York. While it's a great time for tourism, a great time to see the sights of New York, to visit the Avengers tower and see the monuments and memorials, it's also occasionally brutally humid with the atlantic air flow. The fact that the entire city is built like a solar oven doesn't help much at all. It gets hot, it gets muggy, and it does it in ways only the Big Apple can.

And in the oppressive heat, one particular denizen of the city needs to clear her head. A cold fear has been growing in her stomach over the rapid events of the last two weeks, knowing that even more is going on that she's kept from. Sally's kept the proverbial candle soaked in high-test fuel and burning from both ends and the middle, and she needs a break – a hard one. For some people, it's Central Park. For Sally, it was somewhere else – a special place she'd told Isa to find her at if she was needed.

Specifically, a storage space she had rented on campus. A project resides within, a long-term school project, and one she has no better place for. Considering that the Sokovian girl lives on-campus, for the time being at least, it also means that the contents were relatively close at hand and, by Columbia University's measures, relatively well protected.

That doesn't mean she hasn't installed a deadbolt or two as well as a private alarm in the room, considering both the value of the items inside and their price. The tools were the latter, and the components the former, as far as Rusalka cares. She has respect for the tools, but they can be expensively replaced. What's started taking shape, however, is the result of months of work, bit by bit, and its loss would be a devastating blow.

Most of it, at least, could be replaced. Some bits haven't been made in nearly fifty years, originals sourced from the factory. A lot of metal pieces, much of it wrapped in oilcloth only showing the rough shape of what lies within, laid out in careful array all around the centerpiece of the storage bay, while a fairly heavy-duty fan propped up is at least keeping the June humid heat at bay. Mostly.

A framework of tubing, stretched and bent and attaching to itself back and forth. X-shaped connections would hold it together, though it isn't welded – instead supported by a series of stands, boxes, books, and other such things. All of them curiously lined up, spaced just so with stacks of paper to precisely align it all. On either side are two large metal boxes, almost the size of a person – and clearly riveted; Isa's eye would pick that detail out as well.

So would the pair of legs sticking out from under one of the metal boxes, wearing the thick canvas of a work overall and sturdy but loose leather boots. More normal wear can be found hanging on a rack – black designer jeans and a tank top, with a bright red hairband next to a pair of leather mary janes sitting atop a tool chest. Meanwhile, the only sound is the fan – unless Isa happens to make a noise, at which point four things will happen almost simultaneously.

The first is a deeply unladlylike snort. The second a rather metallic thump followed by a very ladylike shriek. The fourth runs right back around to deeply unladylike, a stream of muttered cursing quite impressive even for the former pilot – but Sally had grown up around an Air Force base. Of course she'd learned to swear properly.

"Who is there," she manages to finally bite out, beginning to wriggle carefully to extricate herself from under the metallic nest.

"Was going to see if you were busy. Can always come back later."

The familiar grizzled tones of the one-eyed pilot are what greets the mechanic. If she looks up, she'll find that Isa is leaning against the doorframe, arms crossed. Her cane is balanced neatly in the crook of an elbow, weight resting mainly against her right side.

Isa's clothing is suitable to the absurd heat and humidity of summer in the city. Her hair's been drawn back into a fiery red braid, the shorter lengths near her face hanging free from it to frame the scarring. She's wearing a white top without sleeves, and over that a thin, almost billowy open top that keeps her arms from sunburning. Or being visible, really. Isa seems to be a woman to shy away from baring the damage any more than she has to. Below that she wears a pair of beige slacks, which the undershirt is tucked into, and the old combat boots she seems to find so comfortable.

Jeans would have been nice. She's taken a shine to the uniquely American garment. Unfortunatey, they're just too hot on a day like this.

Blandly, Isa raises a red brow. "Have been almost as busy as me."

It's not much of an exaggeration. The pilot has been more or less locked away on the Bus, slaving almost feverishly over the specifications for the Tchernobog for days while Stark works on his countermeasures. Apparently she's finally reached the end of her rope with it, and all she can do is wait until Stark manages to build something she can look at.

Until then, there's nothing she can do. She can't even return to her duties as a quinjet pilot. There's still another week or two of physical therapy and regular follow-up appointments to be sure the bones in her left arm and leg are staying properly knit.

Bereft of her current project, her mind keeps flitting to other things, too; half-remembered conversations from the hospital when she had been half out of her mind on sedatives and painkillers. She'd spoken to Stark, and she'd also spoken to Coulson. What had she told them? No matter how much she tries to think back, she just can't remember much more than fragments.

Maybe this will be a nice distraction from the Tchernobog and the flaming wreckage of her personal life, if Sally doesn't toss her out.

From where Rusalka is, rubbing a hand to her forehead, she can see the boots and the cane. Just as Isa speaks, the recognition dawns, and Sally begins to squirm her way out from under the riveted sheet-metal segment. To reveal, it seems, a nasty cut on her forehead that's starting to trickle around her finger. "Oh good lord, I fell asleep…where's my towel, where…"

There. It's pressed to her head, sopping up what there was and held to help the injury. "Apparently I had…oh." She sets the tool in her other hand down, a micrometer for measuring the tiniest of dimensions. "Uh, fallen asleep. It isn't all that hot with the fan," she adds, "but I suppose I was more tired than I thought. Ugh."

Gingerly she lifts the towel – OW – and presses it right back. She glances around, spotting her cellphone, and sighing. "For at least an hour, apparently; I slept right through Preludes. Uh…here, one moment." She drags a stool over and offers it to the other woman, then settles herself back on the ground, sitting crosslegged. Pleasantly, her posterior's parking place and Isa's stool are both placed in the cooling breeze of the fan. The heavy leather boots, unneeded now, get kicked off and she stretches her toes in the airflow.

There's not a chance she'd toss her friend out. That, Isa can take to her grave. Among the friends she has made in New York, none rank higher than Sloane – but the former Russian pilot is close. Damn close. There's a slightly loopy grin on Sally's face as she glances back at the strange pile of metal tubing, and gestures with her free hand. It's clearly the skeleton of something – and between the box shape, central section looking curiously like an aircraft's cockpit shape, and the girl's mildly concussed enthusiasm for it?

"It's a race car. Or…will be, eventually. I started it soon after my classes began; I spoke to my engineering professors about it. I was focusing on aerodynamics, in my first year, and well." It's quite low, clearly, and if it had skin on it Isa would recognize instantly the conceits given to airflow. Instead, Sally's hand traces loosely where it would be covered in a body.

"I have been calling it the Masters Thesis. Originally, I was just going to build a proper replica, by hand…sort of, a demonstration of the use of all the tools to create it. But." She can't help a more earnest grin, despite the pinching of her eyebrow stabbing a sharp bit of pain through her forehead. "Agh…ah, anyways."

Babbling? Maybe. Tired? Certainly. Excited? Indubitably. Headache? A little. Having a friend to listen to? Unfortunately it's Isa. "I found out something cool. Did you know Agent Coulson has a flying car? It flies." Grin! "Apparently it's Mr. Stark's work, actually, but…Agent Coulson is protective." If Sally were to apply for British citizenship, the level of understatement alone would guarantee it.

"Don't know how you can sleep in this heat." Isa wrinkles her nose in an expression of disgust. The immobile scar tissue on the right side of her face makes the effect a little bizarre. "Probably only sleeping in Triskelion because of air conditioning."

She hobbles toward the stool and mutters something grateful in Russian, carefully easing herself down with a grimace and resting the cane across her lap. Her right hand crosses over to rub at her left knee in some consternation. Shouldn't the persistent ache be receding by now? Then again, the left side of her body had been shattered, so she's probably lucky that a few weeks later all she's got to complain about are aches and pain.

It's still an inconvenience, though, and until it heals up completely, it's standing between her and her work.

Isa glances toward the unfinished chassis, and her experienced eye can pick out the resemblances to an aircraft's cockpit. The basic design is made for streamlined speed. She can see that much. Her guess is confirmed when Sally says it's a race car, or will be.

"Replica? Of what? Sit down, you are still bleeding." Isa tosses the cane away with a clatter, lurching to her feet and authoritatively pushing down on Sally's shoulders. The towel is snatched up and dabbed at the girl's forehead. "You have first aid kit in here? I hope so. Stupid, not having one."

Agent Coulson has a flying car. "Da, I know." Her voice doesn't give much away. She has seen the treasured Corvette, and even had the opportunity to ride in it. It's one of Coulson's most prized possessions. "Is very protective. Rode in it once. Promised not to touch anything." Dab, dab. "Now. First aid kit. Where?"

"It certainly isn't this warm back home. Much more mountains, much less buildings. Higher up, certainly." New York's elevation, or lack thereof, certainly has something to do with it. The thick, humid air doesn't make it easy at all. "I suppose it's comfortable lying down." She rubs one hand against the floor – plastic mats covering much of it, including where she's sitting. But the polished concrete underneath gives not a whit about the soggy air, and as long as it stays out of the sun is quite cool to the touch.

There's a frown that crosses her face when Isa settles in. "Your knee? Perhaps it's simply the humidity, if it dries out a little…" Shrug. She's hopeful, at least. "I do hope it gets better, it would not be good to be permanent." Hopefully that's all it is, just a temporary inconvenience. Something that SHIELD's vaunted medical technology can handle…it just might take a little longer.

"Y-yes ma'am," Sally can't help but add – she's pushed down to the ground and acquiesces, enjoying the cool floor as she sits barefoot. And then there's a cringe and perhaps a little bit of a whimper as Isa dabs the towel against what's not all that bad of an injury on closer inspection – simply one that looks it. Forehead cuts tend that way, after all.

Rusalka, like a good girl, stays right where she is. Her hand, now free from the towel, points up to the tool chest behind where Isa was sitting. "Third drawer down, on the left. It should be; it is the last place I put it. I can get it, please don't worry on my account. You don't need to make yourself worse, Isa Reichert."

She'll try to stand, if permitted, to find the first aid kit herself. If, that is, that stern hand moves away from her shoulder. Otherwise she is content to cringe a little bit and advise. "There is rubbing alcohol and bandages, some other things for cleaning wounds as well. Gauze…owww…ah, it's not that bad is it?" There's actually a spot of worry in her eyes; she's not dedicated to her looks – but knows she has them, and doesn't want a scar.

In answer to Isa's question, she grins again. The little-girl engineer, showing off a new creation to someone whose opinion she values. "A Ferrari racing car, from 1970. The Five-Twelve 'Coda Lunga,'" she adds. "Dlinnyy khvost" – long tail. "It's the most beautiful race car ever made, I think. And I was going to improve on it."

And then between cringed-eyeblinks as Isa dabs at her forehead, there's a look of shock – something inutterably cool has happened, and she did not get to see it. "You were permitted to ride in it? To really sit in it and be driven around?" Petulantly, she gathers her legs in front of her and sits with her arms around her knees now, sulking. "I am…do you know how wonderful that would be? Of course you do," she adds quietly. Hmpf.

"Is probably regrowth procedure." The pilot's comment is off-handed, and she keeps her eye on the unfinished chassis, coolly curious. Whether it's genuine interest in the car or a deflection, it's hard to say. Isa is a proud woman, sensitive almost to the point of paranoia about any perceived weakness in herself. "Will probably go away on its own."

Maybe. Maybe not. In the meantime, she has a cane she can hobble around with; she has work to do that isn't physically demanding. The sooner she can heal, though, the sooner she can go back where she belongs – in the air.

With a grunt of pain Isa pushes herself back to her feet, pushing down on Sally's shoulder with her free hand and a growled, "Vy ostayetes'." You stay. Hobbling toward the tool chest without the aid of her cane. Yanking open the door, she finds it exactly where it's described to be, even as Sally protests.

"Forehead wound, they are always worse than they look." She'd torn her scalp open when she'd crashed in St. Petersburg, which had probably given her allies a good scare. "Always bleed a lot. So long as you don't hit head, are probably fine." Isa half-turns, but it's the scarred side and eyepatch that greets the girl; listening, but not looking away from her task. "Did not hit head, did you?"

The whole lot of it is taken back; Isa drags her stool over with another grunt of pain, dropping onto it and balancing the first aid tin on her knee as she sifts through it. The requisite supplies are fished out.

"Ferrari? Have heard of those. Fast. Expensive. Western luxury," Isa grunts. "Is about as much as I know about them. Am not car enthusiast. Owned car in Moscow. Cheap piece of junk. Was well below pay grade, but got me from place to place." Ah, so she does know how to drive. She just chooses not to in New York City. Smart woman. The plans are taken in with a faint distracted nod as she cleans up the mess. "Be more careful," she chides instead.

To ride in Coulson's prized Corvette? "Da. Car is comfortable. But was distracted, at time." Isa leans close, dabbing the rubbing alcohol into the wound. "Might hurt," she cautions. "Was in Europe. French Riviera." It might sound like a great vacation in any other situation, but it really wasn't. "Chasing Mikhail Nikolayevich. Was right before Barcelona. Cordona." A small Spanish city northwest of Barcelona. "Was not really in position to admire it."

Part of her is a little regretful that she didn't get to enjoy it. Her mind had been somewhere else entirely, sick with worry, before she had realised where Makarov's true allegiances had lay.

Sally might notice there is a stress line under her good eye, but her hands are still steady as she applies a bandage, tamping it into place with a precise forefinger. "There. Good as new, dyevushka. Am maybe tempted to ask for another ride, some time, myself, but…" But it's behind the boundary line, and the faintest flicker of a smile flits across her face. It's melancholy. "Not worth trouble of asking. He is far too busy. I do not want to bother him."

"Have been working on other project." The one to do with the Tchernobog, but the paranoid redhead is not inclined to speak too openly of it here. "I will tell you later, when we are back to Triskelion. Have spoken with Tony Stark. But he is getting closer."

What rests on Rusalka's storage floor looks very different to an aircraft chassis. Where the airplane is built from a skeleton of spars and sandwiched ribs, making it easy to see the shape of things, this is just…a jumble of tubes. Most of them aren't connected yet, but they're all carefully supported and placed into very clear position for that job.

"Good. Even SHIELD cannot wave a magic wand, it seems." Well…not entirely. "Hopefully it will not take long." She gives Isa a grin, knowing how much it grates the other woman to be grounded. She belongs in the cockpit, of anything, and 'chafing' is definitely the feeling Sally suspects her friend feels. Normally she'd protest and get the first-aid box herself, but admittedly she's tired – and that cut on her head, the bruise getting ready to form around it, definitely hurts.

"Da, tetka Isa." Yes, aunt Isa. She giggles a little, thinking back to an early incident in her internship at Stark Industries. "I promise to be a good patient." Unlike her mentor, who protests often and loudly, and tends to ignore assistance. As to Isa's diagnosis, Sally nods. "Da, but not hard. I was re-speccing the fuel tanks on the sides, measuring things out when I suppose I nodded off. Some of the corners are a little sharp, I guess."

Startled into wakefulness when her friend arrived, explaining the snort of air and the thump – and the yelp of pain.

"They are. Italian cars, sculpture on wheels. Designed to be very beautiful and very fast. This one…the original did the former very well. The latter not so much; it was a little too heavy to be competitive. So I wanted to make it better," she adds, grinning. And then raises an eyebrow as Isa mentions she does indeed drive.

Well…she gives the woman a wan smile. 'Cheap piece of junk' might be a bit cruel, even if Isa's old car was a Zil. "I suppose that's enough, to get around. Though it must have been troublesome; they are…" She waves a hand in the air hesitantly. "Not known for quality, I suppose. I just love driving so, myself. And, I am always careful! When I am awake." A hard flinch as the alcohol cleans the cut, and a mumbled whimper. It STINGS, but she focuses on Isa's story.

"That is a shame. Such a thing…such a place, it deserves better circumstances. A proper ride to enjoy it, like our trip upstate. Just…to go. To drive, to get away from everything for a little while, and to do it in a beautiful place with a fine automobile." She meets Isa's gaze, blue staring into blue for a moment and then nods, understanding. "Even in such circumstances…it is a special thing, and deserves a chance to be enjoyed on its own."

And then she smirks. "If you do not make good on it I will not forgive you out of jealousy. So there, you must get another ride in the future. …I want one too," she adds a bit wistfully. "Someday."

Sally's face relaxes, her expression frowning some. "I have been as well. Numbers, specifications, trying to think of what else…it may have hiding. Engine simulations. That sort of thing. It…I was scared, Isa." Even if they're alone, she's not using the other woman's name in public. "I wanted to throw everything out the window and run from it, but…there is no way I could do that. And I was tired. I just wanted to be here, perhaps…do a little side work, and ah…'get into a better headspace'" she adds, quoting her friend. "To just calm down a little, around the familiar."

"No, Sally Petrovna. Even Shield cannot wave magic wand." Isa's blue eye dulls a little as she looks over the chassis framing. Right now it doesn't look like much more than a jumble of haphazard piping, and it's amazing how this jumble of piping can turn into a sleek, beautiful machine made for speed. "Would still be in bad shape, if not for procedure."

"Would still probably be in bed," she muses. "Months before I would be on my feet. Would be months before I could fly again. Now, is more like few weeks, maybe more, maybe less. Will depend on what doctor say when I go to them. Have appointment Wednesday morning. They have had me in regularly. If not follow-up, then physical therapy." Her expression says about all she needs to about that.

The physical therapy is brutal. Most days, she's in need of help around the apartment when she's home. It's also necessary if she wants to regain the full use of her limbs, exercising regrown tissue and strengthening damaged muscle, sinew, and tendon.

I promise to be a good patient, Sally says, and the one-eyed woman arches her brow. "Will hold you to that."

Isa makes no such promises. She knows full well she's a terrible patient, driven by her own relentness need to go, to do. Hers is a troubled mind when at rest. Action is the balm that soothes her restless thoughts and brings peace to her restless mind.

"Da, might have seen one in Europe." In the French Riviera, when she was tagging along with Coulson to discover more about her stupid rabbit of a former husband, before she realised he was not so much a rabbit as a wolf. "Will be honest, Sally Petrovna; all car, they look alike to me. Give me a few aircraft, can probably tell you differences between them just fine." The woman allows herself a faint grin. "Sorry." It's almost sheepish, but not quite.

Really, despite the habit Sally's shown for floating off into the sentimental, she's right. The Corvette is a work of art and it deserves to be appreciated properly. Her gut reaction is not to hassle Coulson, though, no matter her feelings for the man. He is tremendously busy; the work he does is worth far more than some silly sentimentality on her part.

Part of her files a mental note to see if Stark's made any headway with the physical prototype. If anyone could do it, it's him.

"Mm… da. Might maybe ask him again some time. Or get lucky, next time is mission in Europe that require it." Isa shrugs, and her expression is one of resignation. "But probably not. Will have to live with you never forgiving me, I guess. Agent Phillip Coulson, he is busy man. More busy than I am, and I have been busy. Very busy."

Her eye slides back to Sally, studying the girl as she confesses her fears. There is a sad sort of understanding in her single eye, a kind of weary resignation. Once upon a time she had felt such a thing, too, when she had seen what the things she helped to develop were used for.

Isa offers a smile, but it's a sad sort of smile.

"We are all afraid, sometime," she says, settling as comfortably as she can on her stool. "Someone tell you they are not afraid, they are probably lying. Is human. What matter is how we act, when we know we are afraid, da? That is what define whether someone has courage, or whether they are coward."

"Courage, I think, true courage… that is doing what is right, what is needed, even when you are maybe flat-ass scared," she adds, with a wan half-smile. "Working on this, doing all you are doing to help us, even knowing what you know about what it is and what it is used for… that is courage, Sally Petrovna, and I am proud of you for it."

Leaning over, Isa reaches out and pats Sally's hair, absently sorting a few strands away from the girl's face. A significant gesture, and a significant gesture of trust, from this skittish and wary woman. Yet, in spite of her self-imposed distance from other people, Raisa Ivanovna Yakovleva means every one of her stilted words.

Arguably, it's possible that SHIELD does have the equivalent of a magic wand, that was used on Isa. Considering the fact she'd been through a crash nearly as bad as what happened so many years ago that shattered and scarred her, and yet weeks later is walking around with a little help? Rusalka figures that might as well count.

The mention of an appointment gets her attention. "I'll drive you over and go with, if you like. Assuming I have time," she adds with an apologetic, honest tone. With everything going on, even over summertime and a lack of classes there's still demands. "Perhaps they will clear you, with just a little bit of work. You really have come a long way," she adds.

Not so long ago, Sally was sitting by Isa's bedside, wondering if her friend would even survive. Now? Now said friend is poking her forehead with an alcohol-soaked bit of gauze, cleaning a cut as if everything is normal. And that alcohol gets another flinch, toes, fingers, and face clenching in disapproval…but she holds to her promise.

Sally's guessing that the trip across Europe was related to Isa's husband, since the pilot had explained being shot in Barcelona. "It's quite alright. In all honesty…most aircraft are basically wings and engines, outside of a few. Quinjets, maybe a little more like a giant black chicken, but. I can see some differences, but they don't hold much meaning for me." It's the engineer in her; attention to details and precision are something she's always had.

Interest…maybe not so much. "Do not apologize. But I think…you would agree that this is a thing entirely unlike any car you have seen before." Once she has a moment, once Isa's bandaged her forehead, she'll stand and retrieve a photograph from atop one of the tool chests. "This, when it is done. Sculpture, as I said, isn't it? Only…" There's a bit of an excited giggle in her voice as she continues. "Only I think I will adopt what I have learned from Mr. Stark, and see if this too shall fly. At the very least…be as technologically marvelous as its design is."

The talk of fear and of courage gets her attention, and just as Sally is a good patient she is a good student as well. The caress of the woman's hand and care given to her hair, brushing it aside from her face, gets a smile – a serene one. "Thank you. I was afraid…that, ah, that trying to get away from that…that thing, even for a little bit, was the wrong thing. I was scared that you or the boys might be angry," she adds, referring to Coulson and Stark. Boys, eh. Certainly not inaccurate.

"But I couldn't keep staring at it, and…and I needed to clear my mind. Maybe not quite like this," she adds, raising a finger to the cut and laughing a little. "But I feel like I am ready to go back to work, now. Even if I am scared…I want to be worthy of it."

It?

"Please." There's a hint of apology in the scarred woman's tone, knowing she'll need to rely on the other girl's assistance for a little while. "Would appreciate help. Don't think they'll clear me yet, though. Another week. Maybe two. Still have pain."

"Doctor tell me, I can't fly until there is no more pain." This is given in as much of a grudging, leaden tone as she can manage. Although she doesn't mind weakness in others, she can't stand that quality in herself.

She tilts her head faintly, expression souring as the vaunted quinjet is compared once more to a chicken. "Be careful what you call chicken," she grumbles. "Da, crashed one, but couldn't help being shot at. Was not my fault." She was able to bring the aircraft down without exploding, which was a feat in and of itself, and a testament to her skill. A lesser pilot probably would have died in the attempt. "Are sturdy, and move like helicopter. Fast, too. Could be dangerous, if made as fighter…"

Glancing up from her reverie, she stands back and lets Sally find her feet again, looking closely as the photograph is given to her. It's studied carefully before she hands it back, frowning a little. "Da. Doesn't look like much, now, though. Long road to follow." Much as the counter to the Tchernobog is, it's a long way between concept and completion.

Sally's description of 'the boys,' however, earns a snort. "Probably wouldn't let Agent Phillip Coulson hear you say that. Then again… probably he would not mind so much, maybe," Isa adds, thoughtfully. He's shockingly casual in some regards. It's something of an endearing trait; something wildly different from the kind of behaviour she's accustomed to of someone in a position of authority. Actually, he really is a dork, every bit as much as he describes himself as. It's strangely adorable.

It sure fits Stark, though.

Silently, she reminds herself to compile a report to bring to him in a few days. She's going to want to have something concrete to offer on the Tchernobog, even though she's reduced to waiting on a hot tin roof for Stark to finish that prototype.

Maybe she'll have some good news in the medical field between now and then; some bit of good news to offer him in the absence of any progress with Stark Industries' answer to the Tchernobog.

"Are ready to go back to work? Good. Have a thing or two to talk to you about, for that. Take me back to Triskelion, we can discuss it now, I think."

Yet as Isa prepares herself to get up, she tilts her head, somewhat distracted as she reaches for her cane.

"'It…?'"

"Happy to," Sally says. "You have been a good friend, and I appreciate it a lot. It would be wrong to not return favors, and help out. And yes." Sally nods gently, finally standing up and getting her bearings properly. She's actually fine now, and stretches her arms up over her head. Good to loosen up. "They have a point. It's like racing; you cannot have distractions…in some cases, you will not even have time to think and your instincts have to handle it. Steering around or through a crash ahead, or feeling the wheels start to slip…"

She shrugs; there's a thousand things. "Headaches or feeling poorly, or body pains," she adds with a gesture to Isa, "can kill you. Or someone else."

Well, in fairness, it is a definitively plump aircraft. Predatory, certainly, but. "It is a transport, and has a lot of room," Sally offers in her defense. "A very high performance one, certainly. Lots of weapons too. But…it is not the, ah…" Her voice trails off, leaving the name Tchernobog unspoken. It's obvious though, and the comparison is accurate. One is a pit bull, one a greyhound.

The question of which handles a fight best, however, is obvious.

The picture gets set back on the shelf. "Everything starts small. I was focusing on a lot of theory for my first year, gathering things in the meantime. The more hands-on, I was going to give a little longer. Welding, complex assembly. In time. Besides, it is good to have a project that lasts, yes?" Grin. "Something to look forward to."

She leans up against one of the chests, grinning a little as if the cat that ate the canary. "Boys. Perhaps I would not say it in front of Agent Coulson, but I took him for several laps around the race course. He…enjoyed it more than he would admit, I'm sure." She certainly did – and the genial agent did actually cheer partway through. "I suspect he has been to the track several times without me, beforehand; there was no skittishness. He was as giddy as a schoolboy," she adds with a grin.

"Da. I needed a break, a bit of rest. Something familiar, I suppose. I'm not used to everything. Gods, monsters, magic, aliens, all of that. They were movies and stories! Should have stayed there." And with that she starts undoing the coverall, slipping out of it and propping it up over the tool chest. It isn't as if she's completely undressed, and it doesn't take long to get covered back up – the jeans and tank top slide on quickly.

"Hm? Oh." She pauses, reaching for her purse and plucking out a black leather case before handing it over. It looks at first like a wallet, but it's embossed with the SHIELD logo – and within is an identification card, showing her picture and proclaiming her status as a level three agent. Below it is the steel SHIELD badge itself. Sally slips her shoes on, pulling them up to buckle the strap down on each while grinning as Isa takes in the badge.

"I am official, as of…uh, two days ago. Part of this whole thing we are doing, and…I made my decision. I will follow in my family's footsteps, and in my family's path…just, I will do it in my own way. In ways that they cannot." In fairness, joining the Sokovian military would be wiped out by the kind of threat that the Tchernobog represents.

Major Baroness Irja Stojespal stands in defense of her land against the threats she could see and understand. Rusalka has been exposed to even greater threats, and sees the world in a way her mother could not. And she stands in defense, just as her mother does – but in a way her mother could not.

"Thank you, Sally Petrovna." Something in the pilot's eye softens, a hint of a smile flickering across her face. Her words are sincere, with none of her customary gruff tone. "You have been good to me. I thank you for that."

"Da, I understand why they do what they do." Isa shrugs her uninjured shoulder, almost dismissive. "Don't fault them for that at all. Would be irresponsible to let me fly before ready. Would be irresponsible of me to try. Dangerous."

Even if Isa had the chance to climb into a cockpit, she wouldn't do it. It would be stupid and foolish; a danger to herself and others. Taking that risk would run counter to the responsibilities she has willingly taken onto her shoulders. The sobriety of her expression when she explains that might lend Sally an idea of the one-eyed woman's sense of responsibility.

She only shakes her head at the mention of the Tchernobog as compared to a quinjet. "Apple and orange. Can't compare two." The humble quinjet is built for transportation and speed. The other is built, presumably, to dominate the battlefield wherever it is brought to bear. The two aircraft are built for completely different purposes.

There's no real need to rub it in to Sally, which would win. The Tchernobog has already proven itself against quinjets. It was a hopelessly one-sided battle, and Makarov hadn't even been trying very hard. Of that she's certain. If he'd wanted to simply rip her quinjet out of the sky, he could have done it, and done it much more quickly and brutally than he had. She knows he has the technical skill to do so. He'd wanted to make a point. The realisation brings with it a fresh twinge of anger.

Isa blinks slowly. The sound of Sally's voice snaps her out of her thoughts before that anger can take hold. Instead, she tilts her head at the description of Coulson giddy as a schoolboy on the racetrack. She looks baffled at first, but eventually gives a resigned sort of smile. It's a fond expression, but there's a hint of something else; something almost approaching melancholy.

"Did something similar, first time he had me fly for him. Put me at control of experimental quinjet." She arcs a hand up into the air, mimicking a soaring jet, twisting her hand to demonstrate turning upside-down. "Did not even react when upside-down, except to say, maybe, 'Cool.' Have never seen someone so happy to be turned upside-down without warning them. Most time, someone look like him, you take their orientation away from them, they lose their mind."

In other words, he really does look like Phil From Accounting, and she fully expected him to start freaking out instead of observing how cool the city looked from that angle. She shrugs. It's novel when people defy her expectations like that. More than that, it told her that he was made of sterner stuff than the pencil-pushers he looks so much like.

Isa chuckles as she files past Sally, a caustic little almost-laugh. "Dyevushka, I am used to none of it. Have been working fourteen hour day to try and stop this thing before it turn into real monster. Will probably fall to pieces once finished. Have to put out fire now, and panic later, maybe, da?" In other words, Sally's doing pretty darned good considering she's been chucked into all of this head-first. The girl is handling it by far better than anyone would probably expect her to, and never mind the culture shock of being in a different country.

"Am barely managing, some days, just adjusting to culture here. Is so different…" She trails off, eyeing the thing Sally pulls from her purse.

Isa's brow furrows for a moment until she recognises what the thing is, and then the woman whistles, low; impressed. "Da? Good. I am proud, Sally Petrovna. I will support you in whatever way I can."

"Now… dinner, first, before we go back. And then we get to work," she says, with the finality of an order and the good-natured tone of a friend. "Or neither of us will eat until next morning."

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