Down to Brass Tacks

June 22, 2017:

In which Isa Reichert meets with Tony Stark to discuss the prototype, which is given an appropriate and somewhat ironic name, and to ask of Stark a personal favour – a place for her wayward husband to work.

New York City - The Triskelion

The Headquarters, Armory and Fortress of the Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics division is, for the most part, an unassailable tower in the midst of the diplomatic sprawl that is Midtown East. The primary intelligence clearing houses and most of SHIELD's senior leadership are all housed hear, along with a veritable army of agents and staff to keep the place running, the world spinning and the weirdness at bay.

Characters

NPCs: Mikhail Nikolayevich Makarov

Mentions: Phil Coulson, Rusalka Stojespal

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

A short audio message had been left for Tony Stark some time earlier this afternoon. It had come from Isa Reichert, asking for the inventor to come to the SHIELD medical facilities to meet with her, in that gruff, terse tone of hers. There's someone she wants him to meet, she'd explained, and that person might be able to shed some light on the current project.

She'd left nothing else except for the specific room number.

Stark knows exactly who it was he hauled back from Murmansk, so it's probably no surprise that the red-headed pilot has all but disappeared for the last few days — spending every spare moment she can in the hospital, when she isn't working on various aspects of countermeasures for the Tchernobog, or consulting with both Stark and Stojespal on Project SIRIN.

It's there that Stark will find her, kicked back in the chair beside the bed, slumped until her chin nearly touches her chest. She's still wearing the beat-up old bomber jacket with its Russian service patches, a size or two too big, which had presumably belonged to the man she'd come to visit. Her eye is closed, suggesting she's getting some much-needed sleep.

The other occupant of the room, however, is awake.

Under normal circumstances, Mikhail Nikolayevich Makarov is a handsome sort of fellow, with an affable and easygoing nature, but he doesn't look so good. Not a whole lot better than he had when Stark had dragged him out of Murmansk, but somewhat better. He still looks like he's in a great deal of moderate discomfort. The gauntness hasn't quite left his features, and his complexion is still a little pale. He's got a bit of a five o'clock shadow, which is really more of a six or seven o'clock shadow by this point, and he's staring intently at something in his hands.

It's a pocket watch, enamelled. The front depicts a jet, a Mikoyan, and four stars adorn its case. It looks old, battered; but still whole and — going by the soft ticking, which is still audible over the medical equipment — running just fine.

Tony Stark can never make a quiet entrence.

Its just physically impossible for him too. He's usually doing like sixteen things at once and none of those things involve being quiet. None of them. Most of them involve being loud or thinking loud or in general being aggressivly Stark in someones direction.

So when he opens the door he's talking animatedly on the phone to someone. Who knows who. "Yeah! Yeah. No not that one! The grap—… Yeah the one we use for the satalite." His staccato voice cuts though the silence like a knife before he realises just what he walked into.

A pause.

"I'll. Uh. Call you back." His voice dropped to a hurried and very rought aproximation of a whisper.

A mouthed 'Sorry!' towards the man on the bed as he winces in Isa's direction.

…she hasn't been aleep in as long as he has he's betting.

Makarov blinks somewhat owlishly as the door busts open, looking up a half-second later as the room is suddenly descended upon by Tony Stark in full business mode. Going by how his brow furrows, he hadn't gotten the memo that his wife had invited Stark over to have an impromptu meeting.

He sighs and reaches up to cover his face with his free hand when Stark mouths his hurried 'sorry!' to him, as though to say, too late.

Meanwhile, Isa startles so hard in her chair that she drops the lapful of clipboards, notes, and obsessively tidy handwritten notes that she'd been balancing in her lap. If the noise of the phone call hadn't been enough to wake her up, spilling everything off her lap certainly does the trick.

Well. She at least looks like she'd gone home and showered at some point, and put on some kind of fresh clothing. She's still wearing that beat-up old bomber jacket, though, growling something under her breath as she straightens and bends over to gather up her things.

"<You can't do anything quietly, can you?>" she mutters in Russian, eyeing Stark somewhat murderously.

She really needed that sleep. There's a deep shadow under her good eye that suggests she really hasn't been sleeping much lately, probably because she's been splitting her time between obsessing over the Tchernobog and worrying over her husband. It's probably a fair bet that the things Icarus could do with a thing like the Tchernobog have been giving her nightmares, too.

Sorting out her things, the red-headed pilot gestures for Stark to have a seat in the second chair. She still looks unhappy, but any bear is sufficiently cranky when awoken from its nap, right? "<Thank you for coming. I would have gone to Stark Industries, but I can't take him with me.>" She jerks her chin to indicate Makarov. "<I've got some extra information for you about the Tchernobog.>"

"<Project Heliosphere,>" Makarov corrects, in a thin tone. "<That's what they were calling it. Really? You guys are calling it the Tchernobog? That's awful. Whose idea was that?>"

"<Sally Petrovna's.>" Her eye settles on Stark. "<Anyway. We finally have some answers as to how the stupid thing can do the things it can do, and it might shed some light on countermeasures. Has yours got a name yet, or am I going to have to keep calling it 'the thing?' I'd like to know what kind of progress we're looking at in terms of a physical prototype, too, if you've got any kind of estimates available.>" Her smile is cold. "<I've been away from the sky for too long, Tony Stark.>"

"<Nope! Not really!>" Starks reply comes in the same language as he closes the door and plops into a chair. He looks back and forth between the pair of them there with a supressed smile.

Oh yeah. They are so married.

MOVING ON!

"Well I've got the preliminary body built and the skeleton, I'm just waiting to fab the skin and the armor. Which is a special treat for you there Isa. Went to a friend, and the armor should be proof verses anything other than a direct missile strike. Armor piercing rounds under about 40 milimeter should just be like flying though the rain. It'll make a lot of noise but not much else."

See. This is the problem when going up against Stark. He knows people.

"Anyway, a week give or take and I should have at least a basic prototype. The engines are built already, just have to build the body that can actually survive the stress."

A glance towards the man on the bed.

"Speaking of stress, we totally aren't using chemicals to prevent peoples innerds from going squish." A glance back towards Isa. "Just saying. I can replicate what you need via a suit, shouldn't be that hard to work out." A pause. "And what a name? You're gonna fly it don't you get to name it? I thought pilots named things? I was just calling it Sirin, like the co-pilot."

"<I didn't think so.>" Isa's reply is given in a surly growl. Sounds like somebody might need a little bit more sleep. Then again, considering she's been running on full throttle for weeks, it's a wonder she can still drag herself out of bed in the morning. "<Well, there's no mistaking when you're involved in anything, anyway.>"

It's a grudging sort of compliment. Extremely grudging. Stark does get things done, though, and he's a master at what he does.

Stark is also a master at being a man-child, but she likes to selectively ignore that part as much as she can.

They are totally married. Even though they've been apart for five years, there's still something about Isa that suggests a peace of mind that hadn't been there before. She's at ease.

"<If you don't mind, I would also prefer to speak Russian. My husband isn't as good with English as I am,>" Isa explains, sorting through her papers as though hunting for something specific. "<We're going to be talking about highly technical details, and I'd rather not leave any room for ambiguity.>"

Makarov only shrugs apologetically, glancing down at the watch again. It's popped open to show its artfully embossed face; inside the cover, there's a small, faded photograph that seems to show both pilots on their wedding day. Makarov is holding her; she's laughing at something, head thrown back in her delight. Certainly not the kind of light-heartedness she's ever shown in the Big Apple.

"<Really?>" Isa smiles a wolfish smile at mention of the armour. "<I'm going to like that, I think. I'm going to want detailed notes on that later, especially how aerodynamic that is.>"

Makarov scratches his jaw, even as he glances back to Tony. "<The Heliosphere uses a special ablative armour compound. I think your solution is most probably the better one. Of course, your solution is going to be better in most cases, I think.>" He pulls a face. "<You're not looking to burn through pilots like high-performance light bulbs; you're looking to preserve their lives.>"

One week, Stark says, and going by the way Isa's predatory smile widens, it's music to her ears. A full-feature symphony, even. "<That's sooner than I thought. I'd like to drop by and study those engines, if you don't mind. If I'm going to be flying this, I'd better be intimately familiar with what's under the hood, as the saying goes.>"

No chemicals. Isa glances back. "<I think I would throw you into the bay myself if you said you were. Especially after this.>" She gestures to indicate her husband. "<What kind of suit?>"

"<Wait, what?>" She gets to name it? Isa blinks, taken off her guard by that. "<I hadn't actually thought about it… I have a request, one that I think Sally Petrovna would approve of.>" The red-headed pilot shows a crooked half-smile. "<How about 'Khoro?'>"

Makarov arches a brow so hard at his wife that he must think she just checked her sanity at the door.

"Something of my own design," The inventor replies in near-to-flawless russian. "The suit at least. just an undersuit, something similar to what I need to wear when going hypersonic in one of my suits. It uses gravic tech and a few other little tweaks to do what the chemical do. Thats why I had to get your measurements." This towards Isa.

Yeah. Tony is just totally like that.

"Anyway the armor is a new microfiber composite, should have about 10 to 100 times the defelction of steel plate at 10 nanometers. So one or two milimeters should be about the equivelent of the armored cockpit of the Warthog." The inventor replies with a smirk. "Shouldn't even slow you down, and you'll be flying a tank."

Which she should like.

"Khoro? Your plane, your name. I'll make sure to have it engraved. And I'll tell Sirin. She'll be happy about it, she's happy about everything."

"<Your own design?>" Isa tilts her head, eyeing the inventor somewhat skepticailly. "<I guess I don't have any reason to doubt that. Ten times the deflection of steel plate? At ten nanometers?>" She can't help a low whistle. "<I am impressed.>"

"<I think if you had relied on a chemical system, I would be raising some strong objections right now.>" Makarov manages a bland smile, but it fades a little. "<Warthog. That is the American bomber, isn't it? Low altitude, high stability, ugly as sin, and built like a concrete bunker with wings. I have heard about those. And you say this new aircraft, this Khoro, is as armoured?>"

Of course, Makarov cheats. He'd seen the Iron Man suit in person, or at least a variant of them. He knows exactly what kind of tech Tony Stark can bring to bear, and exactly how well put together it is. It was able to pick up a truck and fly it from Murmansk to New York City without too much trouble, at speed. He'd needed to roll the windows up and huddle in the cab, half frozen, as soon as they'd reached the Atlantic Ocean.

"<No. It is not really my aircraft.>" Isa waves a hand, dismissively. "<It is the engineers who make it. You. Sally Petrovna. I am only the pilot. Not even the name is mine; it's simply something I thought Sally Petrovna would appreciate the slight irony of.>"

"<And there is a certain aesthetic pleasantness to it.>" The blonde pilot shows that flicker of a half-smile again. It fades a moment, and he looks over to Isa. The two study one another for a moment, exchanging a look; both of them seem almost apprehensive.

It's Isa who speaks first. "<Actually… there was another reason I asked you to come here, Tony Stark. Iwehave a favour to ask of you.>" Her blue eye settles on him, carefully blank. She reaches for Makarov's hand; their fingers lace, automatically, with neither of them needing to look down to see. "<It is a large favour, so I will understand if you do not agree to it.>"

A quirked eyebrow. "I flew to Russia, picked up your husband and a charming little firebrand of an engineer. Flew back to New York all in a little suit. You give me a whole plane to work with and I can work miracles." The inventor smirks slightly, entirely unabashed to toot his own horn.

All the time.

Because he can.

"It'll be as armored as the cockpit of a Warthog specificly. Which means it should be able to withstand up to 40 milimeter anti-aircraft rounds, and any known air-to-air projectile weapons. Missiles a direct hit is still gonna hurt, but a near miss will just rattle ya round a bit."

A smirk again.

"Its also energy resistant, so even if they have something special? It'll still dissipate the effect across the airframe instead of punching holes in you."

He's trying to think of everything. Like he does.

"Not entirely my design. Someone else discovered it, I just found other ways to use it." He adds with a grin as he leans back against the wall. "And the aircraft? Its yours. Bunny and I might have built it, but we built it to your specific specifications. Even the controls should be optimal to your reach and body type. If I get it right, she'll fly like a dream."

A glance at the man in the bed. "She shown ya pictures yet?"

But then Isa is asking him something else and the inventor raises an eyebrow. "You're not the first person to ask me a favor this week, so lay it on me. Lets hear what ya got."

"<Yes, yes, and it is still impressive.>" Isa waves a hand dismissively. "<I am not used to working with such things, so forgive my skepticism.>"

"<That's as close to an apology as you're going to get from her,>" Makarov observes serenely, ignoring the sharp look from his wife. His expression turns bland. "<Viktoria Dmitrievna is… focused. Do you really think she is charming? I could barely stand to get along with her. She is prickly as knives, that one.>"

Isa leans back in her chair a little, crossing one leg over the other at the ankle. She's wearing clothing of a more casual nature today; black jeans and an ash-coloured shirt tucked into them, with the bomber jacket over that. Normally she might eschew the jacket, but hospitals always manage to be freezing, no matter how miserable the weather outside. It's also something of a comfort to her — something of his that she's kept all these long years.

The redheaded pilot might be wearing something of a silly little smile, but Tony's continued explanations snap her out of it.

"<You are a master of your craft, Tony Stark.>" Isa inclines her head graciously, with a small half-smile; half, because the right side of her face hasn't moved correctly for five years. "<You think of every detail, as a good engineer should. Would that some of my associates in Moscow were as thorough as you are. Perhaps we would not have suffered so much misfortune, yes?>"

Makarov only shakes his head when Tony asks about pictures. "<No. I would like to see it in person, once I am healed, but I will understand if that is not possible.>" He's not really in a good position right now, caught between various rocks and hard places. He smiles, a little careworn. "<I would settle for a shave. And a shower. Maybe a nice week-long sleep.>"

"<My husband and I have been through a great deal of trauma, Tony Stark. I would like to think that our troubles are at an end, but I am not so naive as to believe that. Not truly. While it would be good for him to offer his skills to SHIELD, we have discussede this, and we do not think it is a good idea. It is better for him to maintain as low a profile as possible right now. Myself, as well.>" Isa idly turns her hand over, relacing her fingers with the blonde pilot's, dropping her eyes to her lap. "<What I am asking, Tony Stark, is whether Stark Industries would entertain the idea of hiring Mikhail Nikolayevich.>"

Makarov looks over to Tony as well, calmly. "<I will understand if you are not willing to take that risk, Comrade Tony. Right now, I am a liability—>"

"<Except to me,>" Isa corrects, quiet but fierce.

"<—to anyone whom I choose to associate with. While I appreciate all that SHIELD has done for me, for us,>" he adds, tightening his hand around Isa's, "<I think there are better ways that I can show them my gratitude, such as remaining safe. But I still believe that there are things I can do. Perhaps I am not so good a test pilot as Raisa Ivanovna is, but it is not something that I cannot do.>"

"<I will continue to serve as liaison between SHIELD and Stark Industries,>" Isa adds, to Tony. "<Right now, a more clerical role is better for me, at least in regards to SHIELD. I have decided to stay on in such a role, if you do not have any objections, even after we find and kill the Tchernobog and its brothers; even after, someday, we manage to dismantle Icarus Dynamics.>"

"<I feel I can do the best work there,>" she continues, "<helping to provide SHIELD with new technology… but I am no field agent. I cannot handle such situations as Agent Phillip Coulson.>" She allows herself a faint flicker of a half-smile, sardonic. "<I was never trained for such work, and speaking frankly, I am too broken. I have been shattered too many times and put back together again for that, not when lives are on the line. At least if I am choosing to step into a prototype, I choose to take my life into my hands in a much narrower sense.>"

Makarov frowns, but doesn't comment. Isa tilts her head, regarding Tony coolly through that single blue eye. "<Would you be willing to at least consider my request…? He does not have anywhere else to go. And we must do something.>"

Tony listens as his eyes flicker between the pair of them. A slight smile comes to his face as he shakes his head. "Man there is totally a international lawsuit of epic porportions waiting for me somewhere, but you know what. Don't care. Yeah, I'll entertain the idea. I'll talk with Pepper about it." The man replies with a sigh. "She'll give me that look that she gives me when she knows I'm having a really bad idea, but I think she might listen to me in this case."

A beatpause.

"Well less listen and more think this is a fairly decent idea. We need to stop Icarus, and I really like to tweak the nose of one of the investers. Talk to Phil, see if he'll set him up with a new ID and I'll more than consider it."

A glance between the pair of them a moment before he smirks.

"Besides. If I said no I'd be out one test pilot I'm betting, and then I have to redesign the whole plane. And I'll have no one left at the Tower to dissaprove of everything I do. Can't have that."

"<I would be surprised if there were not an international lawsuit of epic proportions waiting for you somewhere, Tony Stark.>" Despite what should be a disapproving statement, Isa smiles. It's an expression without malice or self-depreciation, almost gentle. "<Thank you. And please thank your chief of operations, as well. We would be most appreciative.>"

She inclines her head in a gesture of acquiesce. "<I will speak with him. Once my husband has given what intelligence he can give, perhaps he will be willing to help me. I am willing to ask as a favour to a friend, if nothing else. I am willing to grovel a bit if it means ensuring my husband's safety. It has been a long and difficult road, but I do not mind. There is nothing else that means more to me.>" She makes her assertion simply, calmly; no starry-eyed romantic, but a simple declaration of fact. Without him, she had been no more than a broken shell of herself. If she lost him again she has no doubt that she would self-destruct. It would be only a question of how. "<My life, it does not mean so much to me without him in it.>"

Makarov is silent through this, closing his eyes for a moment and lowering his face, puffing a quiet breath. "<And I feel the same. It is rare, Comrade Tony, to find someone whom you understand completely, or as close to that as you can come. Raisa Ivanovna is that, for me, just as I am that, for her. We will do our very best for you, if you give us the chance. I could do no less after what you have done for me — and I am to understand that you have also treated my wife well, too.>"

"<You have our gratitude,>" Isa states simply, inclining her head. "<I will let you know what Agent Phillip Coulson says on the matter, if he has not already arranged for a new identification.>"

Makarov lies back, eyes slowly drifting closed. The red-headed pilot glances over to watch, before looking back to Tony. She still looks exhausted. "<I think that is all that I have for today. If you are going back to Stark Industries, would you please let Sally Petrovna know that if she has need of me, she may find me here? And if you have the opportunity, will you please inform Pepper Potts that I would like to speak to her as well? I would like to thank her in person for all the work I am certain she has done behind the scenes to help Mikhail Nikolayevich and I.>"

"<For now, though, I think we will rest for a time. I am tired, and I do not doubt that Mikhail Nikolayevich is exhausted. It is proving to be a trial, removing the Heliosphere's influence from him.>" Isa smiles a nasty, wintry smile. "<They'll burn for that. I'll see to it personally if I must, with the help of Khoro and SIRIN. But right now… I am sorry. I must rest. I have been working a little too hard, I think.>"

Makarov cracks an eye open, and snorts softly. "<My wife is very focused,>" he explains to Tony, blandly. "<As you have no doubt noticed. Thank you, Comrade Tony. For everything you have done. We are grateful… but I am tired… so tired. I will just close my eyes for a little while…>"

"<Good night, Tony Stark,>" Isa murmurs, smiling faintly. She leans back more comfortably in her chair, lone eye already sliding closed. Her hand seeks out Makarov's, fingers lacing with his. The gold of her wedding band glints in the fluorescent lights, light momentarily showing how the fire that had taken Isa's eye had warped and twisted it. "<Best you should return to Stark Industries, I think… before Pepper Potts begins to wonder what trouble you have gotten yourself into…>"

She wants to say more, but her eye has slid closed, and it isn't very long at all before she's fast asleep. Makarov lasts a little longer, offering a faint smile to the inventor; a silent thank-you and good night all in one. It isn't long at all before he, too, closes his eyes and succumbs to his own exhaustion.

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