Digging a Little Deeper

June 09, 2017:

In which Isa Reichert brings Agent Melinda May up to speed on the situation with Icarus Dynamics, and resolves to abide by her path as an agent of SHIELD.

West Side - New York City

Midtown Center is the site of one of the most famous commercial districts in the US. This, right here, is the reason they say the city never sleeps. This area pretty much doesn't. It's also the site of a growing financial presence, already a major influence in across the nation. Times Square is here, along with notable businesses and landmarks such as Stark Tower, the Baxter Building, the Daily Bugle and St. Patrick's Cathedral.

42nd Street, also known as 'The Avenue of the Americas', is the major central north(ish)-south(ish) artery within the city itself. With 6 lanes, and stores lining each inch of its sides, it is a place where vehicle and pedestrian meet.

The Rockefeller Center is a 22 Acre commercial complex located between 48th and 51st Streets. It was declared a national historical landmark in 1987. Notable buildings in the 19 building complex include the Radio City Music Hall and the GE Building (formerly the RCA Building). Down in the plaza itself there are 200 flagpoles flying the flags of the UN Member Nations and the US States and territories, or sometimes decorative or seasonal motifs. A number of artistic objects and sculptures also adorn the plaza and are notable attractions.

A 103 story (1250 foot) Sky Scraper in Midtown Manhattan, the Empire State Building - named after New York, the Empire State - is the second tallest building in New York (One Freedom Tower surpassed it on it's completion) and, situated on Park Avenue, is an icon both in the city and beyond it. It is home to a number of government and private offices, including television and FM radio broadcast stations that utilize the broadcast tower at the top of the building.

At least 3 blocks in length and reachable by train, (Pennsylvania Station) by bus and by taxi, Madison Square Garden is where the largest venues can happen, from rock concerts to sporting events, seating anywhere from 18,000 to 20,000 spectators.

Times Square is possibly THE iconic image of New York. The pedestrian plaza stretches from the intersection of Broadway and Seventh Ave to West 42nd Street. It is one of the worlds most toured attractions, with some estimated 39 million visitors a year and of course one of the most famous New Years Countdown ceremonies in the United States.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Rusalka Stojespal, Tony Stark

Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

It's a meeting in a different place that's been called by Isa Reichert; requesting the assistance of both Phil Coulson and Melinda May. The former was more a courtesy than anything else, if he wanted to fill her in on any specific details at the time. May she wanted to see to fill the other pilot in on what's been going on, and solicit her professional opinion of a few details.

For the time being, the one-eyed pilot is at the top of the Empire State Building, which may or may not have SHIELD facilities within its real estate. She leans against the railing on the roof, which boasts an absolutely fantastic view of the city that deserves to be seen if it hasn't. In Isa's case, it was a worthy diversion, and offers a new view of the city she's come to call home.

It also means she can chain-smoke next to an ashtray. The closer Stark gets to completing that prototype, the louder the sky is calling her. Waiting is almost a physical effort, and the chain-smoking helps take the edge off her caged-tiger mood.

That's where they'll find her, since that's where she told them to meet her. She's holding a sheaf of papers contained in a folder under one arm, and wearing a nice professional ensemble today – white button-down shirt, beige jacket and slacks, nice shoes. She could be mistaken for (almost) any other salarywoman dressed like that. There's no sign of crutches or a cane. In fact, she looks like she's almost back to normal, aside from favouring her left leg slightly.

There would have to be SHIELD real estate up here in order for Phil to agree to make this the location of a briefing. Fortunately, there is, and the flick of a remote control switches on a white-noise generator that keeps the area secure. The touch of a button issues orders that will keep the rank and file out of this location due to elevator outages and whatnot. It will do – he can understand the need to get out of the Triskelion every now and then.

His eyes are tight with what May would recognize as the beginnings of a monster headache. The past several days have dropped a brand new problem into his lap, one that virtually blindsided him because he didn't see the reports fast enough. It happens.

To May, as they come up: "I want you to hear the full briefing, because at this point it's just getting over my head. The person in charge of this op needs to be someone who knows planes, and that's you. Agent Yakovleva," he greets. "Please bring Agent May up to speed on the Tchernobog."

May follow Phil without hesitation, familiar with the amount of security he can leverage in any given SHIELD location. This whole ordeal with the remotely piloted jets has been weighing on her mind, especially as she hasn't had much chance to contribute to it herself. WAND doesn't run itself, after all.

She nods to Coulson when he says he wants her to hear the full briefing, glad that she's being brought in now instead of when it's too late to actually help. They step out onto the balcony where Isa is waiting, and May stops abruptly before stepping aside to make sure she's upwind of the cigarette smoke.

At the name Phil uses to address Isa, she raises an eyebrow, but doesn't otherwise comment.

Isa glances over to one side as she hears her fellow agents. She has a habit of looking too far over to her left to account for her blind spot, and as such she regards the other two at a slight angle.

Once she recognises it's them, she turns fully to face them, offering the folder to May. The name he calls her earns a smile of quiet pride. It's a mark of her achievements. In spite of her workaholic smoking, in spite of the shadow of sleeplessness under her good eye, she seems to be at peace. "Agent Coulson. Agent May. Thank you for coming."

"The Tchernobog. This is what attacked us in St. Petersburg. I do not have any schematics for the drones, but this was the thing controlling them." Isa's tone of voice is all business, all focus. "It has been designed to defeat manned aircraft."

"That means if Icarus Dynamics are allowed to complete this prototype, there is not an army in the world that will be able to stand up to their machinery." She lets May chew on that one for a while as she smokes, glancing back out over the city.

"I have been working with Tony Stark and Rusalka Stojespal to create a counter to this monstrosity." She gestures to indicate the folder and its strange, predatory-looking plane. It looks somehow wrong; oddly hunchbacked through the cockpit, with a pair of monstrously large air intakes below its engines. The lines of its fuselage and wings are too curved; too organic, to be normal. In fact, to a trained eye it looks like a design that shouldn't even be able to fly well.

It does. It flew well enough to put a quinjet at full throttle to shame.

She flicks her eye back to May. Something quirks at the corner of her mouth as May neatly side-steps the smoke. "Sorry."

"Early intel suggests it is meant to be a fusion between a talented pilot with a human's abilities and understanding fused with an AI. They run some sort of drip system directly into the brain of the manned craft, and then use it to control all the drones," Phil adds to Agent May. As well as: "I've blackmailed a few Russian officials to get them off of our Agent's back…she should be able to go by her own name now."

He pauses, then adds, "They're also running on Chitauri fuel cartridges. Agent Romanova and I recovered a sample of one such fuel cartridge from Ian Quinn several days ago, along with some intelligence that points to a stargate portal that the Chitauri are using to smuggle the cartridges in and sell them for whatever Quinn is using to buy them. This is part of the reason why the primary craft was able to go so damnably fast. This information may allow Stark to get a little further with his efforts to design a counter."

May accepts the folder from Isa and starts to look through the data there, her eyebrows drawing together slightly at the images of the odd-looking aircraft. But then Yakoleva says that she's been working with Stark on it and it makes complete sense. If anyone could flatly ignore the laws of aeordynamics and make a BETTER aircraft, it would of course be him.

"So he has a prototype of this already flight worthy." She doesn't phrase it as a question, she knows he does. "How do you think this will stand up against a group of drones like we saw?" One of these could make a difference, two or more would make those drones hopefully obsolete.

"Chitauri?" May mutters something in Mandarin that is particularly impolite. "So soon do we leave to deal with that portal, Coulson?" Ten minutes ago would not be too soon for her.

Isa listens very quietly to the intelligence that Phil's found. As he describes the way the project's pilots are manipulated, the colour slowly drains from her face, something tightening around her blue eye. That is absolutely horrible. Unacceptable.

Hoarsely, she mutters a curse in Russian, directed at Icarus Dynamics and whoever are behind them. It's the sort of shockingly coarse invective that she means every word of, with sincerity, because they have done the one thing she will absolutely not forgive them for.

They messed with what is hers. Now, as a result of their actions, she has determined that Icarus Dynamics and everyone who support them are her enemy. And Raisa Ivanovna Yakovleva is an extremely vengeful woman.

…Honestly, she feels terrible for ever doubting him. The pressure she's been under has called her judgement into question, but a conversation with Agent Coulson straightened out the snarls, and now her mind feels clear and focused, more so than ever.

So Isa pulls herself back into the game, back to her laser-like hyperfocus. "Tony Stark's prototype? Nyet. No," she corrects herself, with a thin smile. "I do not think it is flightworthy yet." The redhead shakes her head, considering the other question. How well would it handle being swarmed? "Would guess it would handle a swarm better than it looks like it could. The reinforcement here, and here; this means it has the ability to move even while the throttle is open."

There's a short pause as she eyes May, considering. "I will be testing Stark's aircraft. He is calling it SIRIN, for now. It is governed by an AI, like Tchernobog, but not chemically." Isa pulls a sour expression. "Safer. Much safer. I will be testing those control methods, too."

"I have only one request," she says, looking over to Phil. "When it is time to kill the Tchernobog, I would ask that whoever pilots SIRIN does not shoot to kill. If he is being manipulated… that is not who he is. And I think there is a very good chance that he would work for SHIELD, if he were freed of their influence." She shrugs, a bit blandly. "When he sees all they have done to help me, I do not think he would refuse."

Coulson pat-pats the air at May. "Soon. You'll be with me. I'm looking at a potential third. We'll talk."

There are things that are on a need-to-know basis, and the specifics of this portal mission definitely apply. It also seems to be the kind of thing that nope, he can't just launch as of 10 minutes ago. He needs a little more time than that. The gears of intelligence work can often grind incredibly slowly, and it's frustrating, but better to strike hard at the right time than to fail because the movement was premature.

"Stark is the world's foremost expert on AI technology," Phil agrees. "If anyone can outpace the Tchernobog without resorting to the same sorts of disgusting tactics, Stark can. As it is he and JARVIS have a sort of partnership that doesn't require any scrambling of the personality or twisting of the will. That might be the element that wins the day in the end."

The pilot makes her request. Phil moves to the edge of the balcony and looks over the city thoughtfully. "We both know there's no way to shoot at a plane at all without making it potentially lethal. But…we also know of a way to potentially pull a pilot out of a cockpit without hurting him. We might need to call in Darkedge again. Let's not worry about that right now. We're nowhere near that kind of a dogfight right now. One step at a time."

May takes a deep breath (well, relatively, around all this smoke) and nods to both Isa and Phil. "Then we give Stark the time he needs to get this SIRIN ready. Though you've probably already seen it, I'm going to give you a small warning. Stark's AIs tend to… have more personality that one would expect." She's seen a snarkfest before. It's amusing, when it's not annoying and distracting.

"If we can extract the pilot of those drones without having to use lethal force, I'm in favor of it." No matter who the pilot might or might not be to Isa. "And I'll contact Darkedge. Maybe we can work with him to practice pulling people from moving planes." It's really really risky, but if it works…

"I have seen him work, and I believe in his ability to find another way." It's high praise from Isa, considering she doesn't always get along with Stark. "I trust him enough to put my name forth to test pilot for him. He understands the significance of the Tchernobog, I think. He is in this for the right reasons, too."

She glances toward the city skyline, taking another long and thoughtful draw of her cigarette. "No," she agrees. "You are right. For now, we must focus on completing SIRIN, and ensuring it is completely flightworthy. Its ability to perform against Icarus will test it; and much harder than I ever could."

"Not much time," she adds, to May. "His name is Mikhail Nikolayevich Makarov, and he is my husband. I know that we are dealing with long odds, here. But if there is any way at all you can return him to me, Agent May…" Isa casts a long, level look at her fellow pilot. She offers a small smile that doesn't quite manage to cover the fact that Isa is very much putting on a brave face right now, and very probably flat-ass scared. "I'd be in your debt."

She clutches her mostly-empty briefcase, stubbing out her last cigarette in the ashtray. "I will go, if there is nothing else. The Tchernobog is as complete as I can make it, without intelligence. If you find anything else, Agent Phillip Coulson, then I would request that it be provided to me, to revise my estimates accordingly, and pass those estimates on to Tony Stark."

With a glance back down at her briefcase, Isa frowns, thoughtfully.

"I am going to need a lot of coffee for this," she says, heaving a sigh.

Turning back to the other two, she offers a fleeting smile to them both. "Thank you both for coming here. If that is all either of you have for me, I had best get back to work, da? The sooner we can complete SIRIN, the better; preferably before Icarus Dynamics completes the Tchernobog."

"There is no time like the present," Isa comments with a sour smile. "I had better get back to work. Dobroy nochi," she offers to them both, and a respectful and grateful dip of her head to each.

There is a murmured "Spasiba" for Phil, on her way past; a quiet thank-you for acting as her compass, and for reminding her to clear her mind, look past her reactionary emotions, and hold fast to what she really believes in.

She even manages a smile for both agents; the smile of someone who is at peace, and knows now what needs to be done. Isa is calmest when she has a path set before her – when she need only walk it, now.

"Good. Keep in touch," she offers to both, from the doors of the elevator already sliding closed.

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