Blind Spot

July 12, 2017:

In which Isa Reichert quite literally bumps into Michael Carter in the lobby of Stark Industries, and earmarks the charmingly British intelligence man as a potential ally in her war against Icarus Dynamics.

Stark Industries - New York City

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: Mikhail Nikolayevich Makarov

Mentions: Rusalka Stojespal

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

Rain has come to the city. It pelts down from leaden clouds, hitting the pavement so hard the drops bounce. For a few short hours the downpour offers relief from the summer's relentless humidity. Lightning flickers ominously in the clouds; thunder reduced to a distant growl.

Although the drops hammer a staccato rhythm against the sleek glass panes of Stark Industries' windows, the inside is pleasantly dry and climate-controlled. It's a typical day within the bounds of Tony Stark's empire, and employees go about their daily business the same as they do any other day of the week.

Stark Industries' front door opens to admit a man and a woman, both of them stopping at the reception desk for visitors' passes. The man is a tall, clean-shaven blonde with affable features, dressed in a button-down shirt and slacks. The woman beside him is shorter, with strikingly red hair and one blue eye – the other is covered by a grey patch, evidenced by healed burn scarring that ravages the right side of her face and vanishes beneath her collar. She's wearing a cream-coloured business suit and skirt, both a SHIELD and Stark Industries badges clipped to her lapel. Tucked under one arm is a slightly rain-streaked briefcase.

After a few moments she leaves the man at the reception desk, waving to him and striking off towards the elevator with her briefcase. Her stride is surprisingly long and quick for her height; she can't be any taller than five feet and seven inches.

It's just the kind of stride that occasionally sends her plowing right into individuals coming up on her blind side. Most of the time she pays attention, but this afternoon she looks like she's on a mission. Possibly an important one! Or perhaps something just involved enough that she's not paying any attention whatsoever to where she's going. At least, not any attention on what's coming at her frorm her blind side, looking straight ahead instead of the slight cant towards the right she usually favours.

Michael Carter is not a man who skulks about, lurks, or otherwise lingers suspiciously where he doesn't belong. Instead, he does recon and gets the lay of the land. That's why he finds himself in the Stark Industries lobby. It also means his superhuman reflexes are out and at the ready. He's aware of his surroundings in a way that even a highly trained, fully human spy might be. He certainly looks like he belongs there, in the pale cream suit with a crisp cotton shirt.

He actually finished his scope-out a short time ago. Now, honestly, he's just lingering and enjoying the air conditioning. He's a Brit. No matter how many missions he gets sent on to Nigeria, or Thailand or Brazil, no matter how many designer drugs are in his system, no matter how many cybernetic parts, he's still a gooddamned Englishman. And that means his idea of hot is 19 degrees celsius.

He's just turning away from the lobby coffee shop, some sort of iced coffee abomination with whipped cream in his hand. His defenses are momentarily down as he pokes at the sugar-filled cloud. His reflexes react before he fully has a chance to process what he's doing. A hand comes out to guard against Isa's trajectory, and to guard the slushy caffeinated abomination from toppling onto the floor.

No sooner is a hand in her path than the one-eyed woman walks straight into it, as expected. Isa reacts with something of a muffled yelp as something unexpected blocks her path; Michael is entirely out of her field of view.

Most of the time she's at peace with having lost an eye, and some of the time she curses it. Like now, which she does, virulently, in Russian.

She shies away from the man expressly so she can see him, turning to face him in the same instant that she puts herself a half-step outside of his personal space – or removes him from hers.

"<Shit! I'm so sorry!>" Her initial commentary is stammered in Russian, with a dialect that places her squarely as a Moscow resident, once upon a time, and after a half-second's delay she tries again in English, so strongly accented it almost trips up the words themselves. "Sorry! Did not see."

At first it seems like the briefcase is clutched in a white-knuckled grip, but that's just the knuckles of her right hand. The same scarring that disfigures her face apparently continues all the way down her neck, her shoulder, her arm, and through to her fingertips. They're whitened and gnarled, but not quite crooked or disfigured, in such a way that suggests that whenever it happened, she had access to very good medical technology.

Her mouth twists, more out of annoyance at her own mistake than anything else. "Are alright? Coffee; not spilled?" Isa's words are oddly accented, and seem to follow an equally odd sort of grammar. At least she seems concerned rather than actually angry; immediately taking fault instead of snapping at him like any other resident of this city might otherwise do.

Across the lobby, the blonde man that had been with her has found himself a chair, and seems to be reading a newspaper, face hidden. Apparently he hasn't noticed the altercation at all.

Michael is more concerned that his coffee slush would make a terrible mess than he is with preserving it for his own consumption. Its purchase was clearly a horrible mistake. Still, it was novel and he does like to try novel things.

He moves more into her field of view now that he notices the eyepatch. He gives her a look someone might give a far-distant acquaintance in a new setting. He takes a moment, then, "<It's all right. It's like a busy train station in here."> His own Russian is immaculate, if a tad generic. It's clearly the accent of a non-native, though a fluent one. He can put on regional accents, but that's hardly necessary in this situation.

While he's speaking, his ocular implant engages and scans Isa's face. After a few seconds, it finds a match and the very basic details of her bio are projected.

There's a slow, somewhat owlish blink from the woman as the man she'd almost caromed right into rattles off a response in flawless, if somewhat generic, Russian.

…Does everybody in this Godforsaken city speak the language?

"<Oh. You speak Russian.>" She seems both nonplussed and somewhat surprised by this, mainly because it keeps happening. Isa blinks a few more times as that fact processes, and then shifts her weight, tilting her head a little to the right to place him more squarely in her field of view.

He doesn't look like anybody she knows. At least, she's fairly certain she's never seen this man before. There is a little bit of familiarity about him, but he has a passing resemblance to…

Isa frowns a little. "<Worse. I don't think Grand Central Station is this bad, except at rush hour. Even Moscow wasn't this bad, but I didn't take the train much.>" The perks of living in the city itself included, but was not necessarily limited to, 'not needing to use the train from the collective farms.' Also, 'not having to live and work on a collective farm.' "<Sorry. Again. I might have been a bit lost in my thoughts.>"

The databases find a match.

There are, strangely enough, two of them.

The first name that comes up is Isa Reichert. Although the information on her is sparse, it's a start. She's a pilot working for SHIELD, security clearance unknown, but low enough on the totem pole to suggest that she either isn't important or they don't trust her.

The second name, however, is far more intresting: Raisa Ivanovna Yakovleva, former test pilot of the Russian Air Force, with a sterling record and flight hours logged in some of the most cutting-edge, top-secret aircraft. That record abruptly stops at 2012, and from there it's hard to find any trace of her. Curiously, the records imply that she had perished in an accident, but they don't outright state it. The older photographs show the same woman as the one standing in front of Michael, but the woman in the photographs has two eyes, no scarring, and a great deal less in the way of stress lines and shadows under her eyes as this woman has under her single good eye.

Curiously, the first record – the one for Isa Reichert – seems almost incomplete. There are made-up details, to be sure, but something about it just doesn't seem like it'd ring true to a man so thoroughly versed in intelligence.

It's fake, and only somebody with Michael's connections could make that connection.

The woman in front of him, however, attempts a faint half-smile. Only half of her face responds; the scarred half immobile. "<Let me start over, for the sake of politeness. My name is Isa Reichert.>" That's an odd name, for a Russian, and it's missing a patronymic. She even offers her hand to shake – the left hand, deliberately. "<Are you new to the city?>"

A fake. And very particularly, a SHIELD fake. He may not have all of the information in front of him, but he has a keen mind. An asset turned employee, perhaps? Or someone who did SHIELD a solid and now lives under their protection. Either is possible. And it is interesting that she's lingering in the lobby of Stark Industries.

Despite his keen mind and his experience, it is still hard to talk to someone and read something on a HUD at the same time. He looks distant for a moment, like he's lost in thought, or perhaps badly in need of caffeine - in slush form or otherwise. He snaps back when she speaks, then reaches to shake with the appropriate hand.

<"I am, yes. Michael Carter."> And then, well, his presence here isn't exactly clandestine, he adds, <"I'm with British Intelligence. Hence the Russian."> And the name Michael Carter is a generic enough name that it's unlikely anyone would connect him to his time travelling sister. Then he switches to English. Very. English. "I'm hoping to speak with Mr. Stark, but I understand he's a very difficult man to see."

It's a very good fake, but it's a fake nonetheless. It would only be recognisable to a man of Carter's connections, talents, training, and most importantly, instincts, when faced with the data in front of him. Whatever happened to Raisa Ivanovna, her life in Russia has been over since the early months of 2012. It seems to coincide closely with the date of birth on her record.

Isa Reichert considers the man in front of her, and something seems to dim in her countenance when he reveals himself as a man of the global intelligence scene.

"<The pleasure is mine, Michael Carter.>" The name is used, but not out of any sense of irony or the like; rather, it seems more a cultural thing. He has no patronymic, being British, and so she uses his full name instead. "<Then, welcome to New York City.>"

"<Unfortunately I can't say that I have been here long, myself. A few months, at best. I am still finding my way around… in some ways, these American cities, they are confusing.>" Well, she's definitely not lying about that. The culture shock is real.

She glances back to where the man on the other side of the lobby is reading his newspaper. He still hasn't looked up to take note of her, it seems. Her single eye flicks back to Michael, studying him.

Carter… Carter. Yes, she knows that name. But she doesn't know it well, and has no reason to make that connection. As far as she's aware, from her limited exposure to this country, or even the country Michael Carter himself comes from, it's a reasonably, believably common surname.

Isa's grip is strong, stronger than it looks like it should be, but there's nothing superhuman about it. She keeps herself in better physical shape than she seems. "<This sems like an unlikely place for you to be. Shouldn't you be at the Embassy or something?>" He's here, though, and there's no changing that. She shrugs and lets the incongruency go.

And he switches to English. She tries not to look disappointed, taking up again with what seems to be the less familiar language.

"Would make sense to know Russian, then. Tony Stark? Da, is difficult to see." She shifts her grip on her briefcase. "Have appointment…?" Probably, but it never hurts to ask.

<"I can speak Russian if you prefer. If you can stand my classroom accent,"> Michael smiles in a gently charming manner. Or, what is meant to be gently charming in any case. <"If you are familiar at all with the intelligence community, you know that we don't tend to use official channels."> And there are of course, any number of reasons why a British Intelligence agent might want to speak to a man like Tony Stark. Many of them benign.

<"I do not have an appointment. From what I understand of Mr. Stark, that is one of the worst ways to get to see him. If he knows you're coming, then he can avoid you."> Wry, that.

"Prefer English, will use English." Even so, the gruff statement is a little resigned, as though to suggest she could use the practise. Yet, despite all the clumsiness, Isa seems to have no difficulty in understanding his words. She needs no second encouragement to swap back to Russian. "<If you don't mind.>"

Even so, speaking with someone from the intelligence community is setting something to crawling at the back of her neck. Reflexive, maybe. Some people are just made uncofmortable by intelligence. Anybody from Russia probably satisfies that qualifier. At least he's English; if he were actually Russian, and didn't speak it like an obvious foreigner, she'd be looking for the exit.

No appointment? "<No? Too bad. I hear that he actually shows up for them, once in a while, if he's bored.>" Her half-smile is good-natured. "<Of course, he always knows you're coming.>" A hand is waved around to indicate the building. "<The building has an AI,>" she adds. "<In fact, I'd guess that he already knows you're here, if he's not eyeballs-deep in a project.>"

There's a short pause; little mroe than a beat.

"<Actually, he's probably eyeballs-deep in a project,>" she sighs, shaking her head. "<In which case, it's not going to matter; he doesn't know that anybody's here. The man has a habit of burying himself so deep into work that there's no use even trying. He's… eccentric, I'll grant him that.>"

<"So, he either knows when everyone is here, or he knows of no one?"> asks Michael with a curl of amusement. He either senses her discomfort and is doing his best to be disarming, or that's his default setting.

He looks down at his strange blended coffee and idly gives it a sip. He smacks his lips, lifts his brows, then sips again.

<"The larger question is, if Tony Stark knows I'm here, does he care?"> He grins and shoots a look up at the nearest visible security camera.

"<Something like that. Right now, I'm going to guess that he doesn't know anybody's here, and probably hasn't come up for air for the last… oh, twenty-odd hours.>" Isa mimics checking a wristwatch, which it doesn't look like she even bothers to wear. The only concession to jewelry she has on is a gold wedding band, which looks somewhat twisted and misshapen, as though it had gone through the same fire that had disfigured her. "<Maybe thirty-odd.>"

Shifting her briefcase to her left hand, she eyes the coffee concoction. Great God, that looks even worse than Coulson's slurry of cream and sugar. How do hese westerners drink that sort of thing with a straight face? But she keeps her expression as even as she can. It'd be rude to point that out. "<Maybe. Maybe not. I'd guess that JARVIS knows you're here, and if JARVIS feels it's important, he'll say something to Tony Stark.>"

"<…Which Tony Stark would ignore,>" she sighs. "<So, no. I would guess he has no idea you're here. Or me. Hmm, I should ask Sally Petrovna if she has seen him lately… someone should check on him; make sure he hasn't dehydrated or starved in the midst of his inspired work.>" There's just a little bit of sarcasm there.

Not that she has any room to complain, being subject to the same bad habits. "<In any case… what are you doing here, if I might ask? What would British Intelligence have to do with Stark Industries? I do work for the latter, sometimes, although I am still new here as well.>" Well, that's interesting. "<Mostly as a consultant.>"

"<I've heard about Mr. Stark's…"> Michael pauses, then, "<…peculiarities.>" Whis is a kind way of describing it. "<In any case, I didn't quite expect to run into him today. I was more just…getting a feel for the operation.>" He looks around and motions with his cup-holding hand. To his credit, those look to have been his first sips.

As for the question? He clucks his tongue. "<I'm afraid I'm not at liberty to discuss that. But I will say that Mr. Stark isn't in any kind of trouble.>"

"<Eccentricities,>" Isa agrees, with a sigh somewhere between exasperation and resignation. Actually, she finds the man-child infuriating and tends to dread dealing with him, but it is what it is. "<He is very eccentric. When one has that much money and skill, one can afford to be that eccentric.>"

She watches him as he gestures with his coffee cup, and silently releases a breath that she hadn't quite been holding when Michael clarifies that Stark isn't in any trouble. It's a subtle gesture, but one that a man trained to read people would certainly notice.

"<Good.>" She can't afford to talk about why she's here, either. In fact, there's a lot she can't afford to talk about. "<Not that it would surprise me if he were, but good. So. You are in intelligence, so I can't very well ask you much about that. Instead, I will ask; how are you finding this city? You said you are new here. What do you think of it?>"

She can afford a few minutes' distraction, because she doesn't really want to talk to Stark, because talking to Stark almost always results in her blood pressure spiking and her experiencing a vivid urge to strangle the man. She's having a reasonably nice afternoon and would like to put that off for a little while.

Also he probably really is eyeballs-deep into a project and unaware of the outside world.

<"Loud. Why the devil do the drivers lay on the horn? There seems to be a distinct lack of patience. London has that, too, in a way. But not quite the same as here."> Michael puts a hand up to his ear, <"If you listen, you can almost hear the honking coming through the wall."> He chuckles and shakes his head.

He looks down at the cup, pushes air between his teeth, then sidles over to tuck it into a trash bin. Terrible, but oddly addicting. Better not to go down that route.

<"Well, since I've failed to happen upon Mr. Stark, I will try again at another time and hope he's bored enough to see me. For now, I must head off. A pleasure to meet you.">

"<Moscow also has its share of traffic, but not like this.>" Isa gestures vaguely, as though to encompass the streets beyond Stark Industries' glass and steel structure. "<And they are not always honking, honking. Just like they are always shouting, shouting, to make their point.>" The one-eyed woman wrinkles her nose. "<Americans are so loud.>"

She watches as he jettisons the cup of sugary sweetness, and maybe her respect for the other foreigner rises a few ticks. It'll really turn into proper respect if he decides to take his coffee properly black the next time she sees him.

Shrugging one shoulder, Isa lifts her free hand in a wave, the band on her finger glinting briefly in the light. "<Is that so? Pity. It was a pleasure to meet you, Michael Carter.>" The statement seems to be genuine, too. "<Good luck with an audience.>" She means that, too. Seeing Stark is not always a simple thing.

She lingers, though, watching him until he either disappears into the crowd or otherwise disengages and leaves. Absolutely worth tracking down again, she decides, if he's really what he says he is. She'll have to have a chat with some acquaintances.

Once she's sure Michael no longer pays any attention to her, she circles back to the other side of the lobby, back to the man with the newspaper she'd left behind. He snaps it closed, sets it aside, and rises to join her; they then file out through the front door through which they'd come, but not before she leaves the briefcase at the front desk.

And not without another backward glance over her left shoulder, wary and maybe just a little suspicious.

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