I sat in Jared's car balancing a coffee and a bagel that we'd gotten at a coffee shop on the way to the Triskelion. I was still refusing to call it work yet. My first day. I was a mixture of feeling pissed off about being a newbie all over again and nervous as hell about it.
After unpacking half of my stuff Jared had come back with pizza and explained what would be happening tomorrow and until people get themselves sorted with my training. At least my first day would be straightforward I'd be expected to show up for PT every morning for the time being. After PT I'd go and get my uniforms, then spend the rest of the day with a flight instructor learning to fly a Quinjet. A SHIELD piece of technology unlike anything in the air. With the speed and manoeuvrability of an F-22, it could seat up to 20 people. Not only that it packed a small arsenal that would put a B2 bomber to shame. And it could be cloaked. Not just anti-radar technology, but actual real cloaking like something from a sci-fi movie. Beyond today, that's all he knew about my schedule. Apparently, someone from Hill's office would email me more details.
"So you look all fit and muscly." Jared broke my thoughts glancing over at me. He was dressed in his workout gear with his uniform hung up in the back. Or so he told me. The expensive looking suit couldn't possibly be a standard uniform. "I don't think this morning will be a problem. It's a mile and a half run, 20 push ups, 20 sit ups and 10 chin ups. This is mostly aimed at the office workers to get them ready to pass a fitness assessment and all the rookies."
"Yeah piece of cake." At least that was something I could be confident about. Being a fighter pilot made me very aware of my own fitness. Flying was hard on your body, so you had to be as fit as possible. Like most of the guys in my squadron I spent a lot of my spare time in the gym. While I couldn't be crazy and lift the kind of weights some of the guys could, I was fit enough to breeze through a basic fitness assessment. At 5'10 and weighing in at 135lbs I was kind of skinny. I was one of those annoying people who could eat what they wanted and not gain weight. I hated it. It made my body look like a prepubescent boy.
"Am I going to get more words out of you today then I did last night?" Jared asked with a flicker of annoyance crossing his face. "Come on Kari, it won't be that bad. You're fucking insane, you'll fit right in with STRIKE."
"Just because I was a fighter pilot doesn't mean I'm insane." I rolled my eyes at Jared. It was a very bad habit I had. Jared kind of deserved the sass though, even if he was trying to be vaguely helpful. "Besides, all my psych tests came back as normal so you can't use that excuse. How are yours?"
"Mine says I'm the most perfect person on the planet," Jared said as he smirked at me.
I rolled my eyes at him again. I hated that smug look on his face. It made me want to slap it off him when he did that. But then again I had the same problem as he did. That smug look of confidence that seemed to creep onto my face at the worst times possible. We might live completely separate lives but Jared and I were twins through and through. We looked near identical and often acted like it too. When someone told me I couldn't do something, it was like they were daring me to. Even if I couldn't do it that very second I'd work my ass off to make sure I could eventually. It's why I had ended up flying Raptors. The recruiter scoffed at me when I told him it was what I wanted to do. He smugly informed me no female had done it yet. So I worked myself half to death to prove him wrong. It had been worth it in the end, or so I thought.
"You know I'm almost a bit scared to see what you're going to do here," Jared laughed suddenly, the smug smirk gone. "I expect nothing but perfection from you, little sister."
I wrinkled my nose a bit at that small show of affection. Jared was the oldest by 25 minutes.
"I half expect you to be so good you'll end up with STRIKE Team Delta." Jared was still laughing lightly. "I pity Coulson if that happens."
"Sorry?" I asked having no idea what Jared was talking about.
"STRIKE Team Delta is Hawkeye and Black Widow, I've worked with them a bit." Jared looked at me while he explained patiently. "Natasha Romanoff and Clint Barton, you would have heard the stories. Coulson is their handler."
"Ah," I said simply. I had heard the stories. Probably things my family shouldn't be talking about in my presence because of clearance levels and all that shit that came with SHIELD. Missions going into places that I had to google to even find. Things that would make your toes curl about the stories that agents had done to complete missions. That's where I really didn't want to be. But I was treading down the path of doing exactly that.
"Actually you'll like Nat." Jared had a small smile creep onto his face which made me look at him curiously. I knew that soft smile of his. It was usually reserved for me, or someone he really liked. "I'll introduce you to her. You guys are very much alike."
"How so?" I asked trying to keep the conversation going. Part of me wanted to sigh and turn to look out the window and ignore Jared's conversation. But he really was trying to make things as smooth as possible. I still had to ask him the real reason he was stuck with me.
"She's confident, very smug of her own ability and doesn't take shit from anyone," Jared explained. "Very competitive too, you'll have fun together. We'll have dinner together one night or something. I've told her all about you. She's dying to meet you."
"Well, making some friends would be nice" I mused quietly. "Or at least someone who has an XX chromosome. Working with guys all the time gets old after a while."
"Unfortunately that's not going to change much." Jared shot me a sympathetic smile. "Just don't sleep with STRIKE guys, no matter how much you enjoy their big muscles. Most of them are sluts and complete assholes about it too."
"No shit?, That doesn't sound like any type of special forces that I know." There was no hiding the sarcasm in my voice. My sass made Jared grin in response. "Like I wouldn't have guessed that for myself? Come on Jared, I worked in an all-male environment for years. Trust me, I know that very well."
"Just checking," Jared said with an amused chuckle. "There is the occasional nice guy, but yeah you'd know the type pretty well."
Yep, I did. Very well. Not only with pilots who tended to think they were a gift to women everywhere, but the numerous Special Forces I'd come across in my USAF career. I knew those types very well and tended to avoid them. I'd been lucky the few I'd slept with tended to be nicer guys who were in the same boat as me. Single and lonely but found it too hard with our careers to hold any type of relationship down. It always worked well for me.
We'd made it to the Triskelion. I took in a deep breath as we joined the small line up of cars to get into the garage. When it was our turn, Jared scanned his ID and the boom gates opened. He found a park in the already crowded garage, muttering under his breath the entire time about driving like a normal person was bullshit. It was a long walk to the training grounds, my nerves growing with every single step. I didn't take in any sights around me as I walked there. I was too nervous for about how much my life was about to change.
"Calm down," Jared murmured under his breath as we stepped into the warm late summer sun. "I can feel your nerves, trust me you'll be fine. You've got this all wrapped up. You always do."
"Calming down," I said automatically, forcing myself to take a few deep breaths. That was weird, we hadn't spent enough time together for that to happen since we both left school. Jared and I were very close as kids, we could sense each other's emotions, feel pain when the other was hurting and when Jared teleporting skills grew he could teleport straight to me if I needed him. That had grown weaker over the years as we never practised it like we did when we were younger.
"Rumlow," Jared called out breaking my concentration. He shot me a brief, but reassuring smile.
I followed him as he strode over to the person he called out to. Rumlow was a big guy, not only tall but muscle wise. His shirt seemed to have a hard time covering his bulging muscles. I tried not to stare at his chest and clearly defined abs against his tight shirt. Damn Jared was right, I did have a thing for big muscles. His dark hair was cut in a typical short back and sides. He had grey eyes which were now watching me intently. High cheekbones and a strong jaw that looked like it had a permanent 5 o'clock shadow. He was good looking. This might be harder than I thought to stay away from STRIKE guys if he was going to be the norm around here.
"Lyngley," Rumlow said gruffly, but not before he very obviously looked me up and down. "And?"
"My sister, stop staring at her like you've never seen a pair of tits before," Jared said simply without missing a beat. "Kari, this is Brock Rumlow, he's in charge of PT at the moment so do as he says."
"Hi," I said, sticking my hand out. Rumlow gripped my hand hard and I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. I just adjusted my grip as hard as he was. A knowing smirk started to play over his face and he held on for a few moments longer than necessary. I just held his grip and gaze firmly. No matter how nervous I was feeling at the moment, I wasn't going to be that easily intimidated. I'd played this game plenty of times before with guys like him.
"Pleasure to finally meet Jared's twin, you were a Raptor pilot?" Rumlow asked dropping his hand first. It took a lot of self control not to wince as the blood came rushing back to my fingers. Rumlow had a killer grip.
"That's me, I'm sure Jared has told you all about how awesome I am." My brain to mouth filter shut off as the words just dropped from my mouth before I could stop them. I just kept a look of indifference plastered on my face. Like I didn't have a care in the world about what he thought of me.
"Yeah, he didn't mention the part where you were hot though," Rumlow's smirk grew a little wider. "Let's go though. We can talk later."
It took every bit of self control I had this morning not to roll my eyes at him. I'd half expected a comment like that, even though I didn't think I was hot by any means. I was tall, skinny with no curves to speak of. My hair was so blonde it was nearly white, at the moment it was pulled back in a messy braid. It'd grown out to just below my shoulder blades and was fast becoming a pain to keep in check. Being so blonde, I had very fair skin that never tanned with blue eyes that I always thought looked too blue for my skin tone and too big for my head. My high cheekbones and full lips were the only things I thought to be my saving grace when it came to my looks.
"Lead the way." I quickly glanced back at Jared as I went to follow Rumlow. Jared smiled reassuringly once more and waved at me. He was gone before I could do anything else. No doubt to do his own morning routine, whatever that might be.
"So," Rumlow voice made me turn my attention back to him. "SHIELD finally caught your eye did it? Needed some more excitement in your life?"
"Something like that," I lied lamely. I was a terrible liar. "Fury thought I'd be a good asset, so here I am."
"Nothing to do with an incident at a bar where it mysteriously had a winter wonderland happen inside?" Rumlow glanced sideways at me. I sighed. Dammit, everyone had probably heard of that. If the gossip here was anything like being in the Air Force I wondered how many people I'd be sleeping with by the end of the day.
"Maybe." I shrugged. I couldn't think of anything to say to that. It was another reminder how much my life had been turned upside down over the last few days. I tried not to let my defeat show through my posture at least. "I thought that would have been so classified no one would be allowed to speak about it."
"It's no secret." Rumlow's expression turned curious as he watched me. "Everyone heard about it."
"Of course they did," I fought back the urge to sigh but I couldn't get the grumble from my voice. I was hoping I'd have a fresh start. I'd prefer not have to start this job with something like that hanging over my head. Rumlow looked like he was going to reply, but whatever he was going to say died in his throat. We'd walked over to a large group of people waiting by the running track. It looked like a mix of white-collar workers and other agents. I had to remember there was a lot of different fields and jobs in SHIELD. It was a huge workforce, with over 12,000 people employed just in the US alone. I hadn't started to read the SHIELD manuals Hill had sent home with me to begin to describe all the different positions. I only had a vague clue between Specialists, STRIKE and all the different fields that made up SHIELD. But that didn't even begin to scratch the surface on the jobs. I had a feeling I'd be emailing Mom a lot of questions in these first few weeks.
"See that guy over there?" Rumlow pointed to another guy who was dressed in long compression pants with shorts over them and a baggy t-shirt. He was turned away from me so I couldn't see anything more about him. "His name is Riley, he'll show you through the motions this morning. Keep up and no complaining is all I ask for."
"Thanks," I said simply so I didn't make any smart ass remarks to Rumlow. I didn't need to be told to keep up. I could do that on my own very easily. Best not to start offending people on my first day. Otherwise, my year at SHIELD was going to be a very long one. I walked up to the guy Rumlow had pointed to and tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around and looked ready to snap at me, but whatever he said died on his lips as he saw me standing there.
My own brain switched off standing there staring at him. I mentally smacked myself in the head. Dammit, I was only here five minutes and already running into all these very fit and hot guys. I was going to find it hard to keep my hands to myself. Riley was another good looking guy. His eyes were the first thing I noticed. I had never seen anyone with such gorgeous green eyes before. He didn't have the typical short back and sides, his brown hair just lay in what could only be described as bed hair. He was muscly, but not huge like Rumlow. He hadn't shaved leaving a light stubble across his face.
"Hi, I'm Kari," I felt like an awkward teenager as I managed to get the words out without stammering. "This is my first day. Rumlow told me to keep up with you and not complain."
Riley looked me up and down, taking a moment longer than necessary to reply. He was trying his best to cover the fact he was just checking me out.
"Umm, Hi," Riley finally managed to say. He quickly scrubbed his hand over his face as if he was feeling his stubble and visibly winced. "Sorry, I'm not normally this scruffy looking."
"Suits you," I smiled but inwardly I cringed and wanted to go and bash my head against a wall for my stupidity. Could I be any more embarrassing?
"Smooth man, real smooth," the guy Riley had been talking to laughed behind him.
Riley's ears started to turn red. Both of us were saved any further embarrassment by Rumlow calling out for everyone to start. I turned and started to follow the group, falling into an easy jogging rhythm. Riley fell into step beside me and didn't say anything else to me. The entire run was boring, I was barely winded by the time I was done. I liked running, it gave me a sense of freedom and the ultimate high afterwards. I'd be glad to be able to run by myself again, whenever that was going to be. I felt the now familiar stab of regret and disappointment of my life not being my own at the moment. I already missed the two-mile jog I used to do around Langley base. With my earphones blasting whatever music I was enjoying at the time, it was always good fun. That was all gone now.
One year. I was already having to remind myself of the fact this morning. I only had to deal with this for one year. Like Jared said earlier, it might not be that bad. I just had to stay positive and work through whatever SHIELD threw at me.
The chin-up bars were free so I decided to bite the bullet and get it done first. I hated chin-ups with a passion I had no upper body strength and the only reason I could do them was because I didn't have that much body weight to actually pull up. When I got there I looked around for a box or something similar to get myself onto it. I frowned seeing there wasn't one. I could easily jump up but knowing my luck right now I'd miss and fall on my ass.
"Need a hand up?" Riley's voice behind me surprised me enough to make me jump.
"Please," I said, not having anything clever or cute to say.
Riley grabbed my hips and effortlessly lifted me up. I had to stop myself from blushing like crazy. Goddammit, I needed to get laid badly the way I was carrying on. I quickly gripped the bar, hanging there for a second before starting. I couldn't help but watch Riley out of the corner of my eye. He'd jumped up and grabbed the bar with both hands, but now was doing chin-ups with one arm. I eyed him enviously, I'd break my neck falling off the bar attempting to do something like that.
"Two hands for beginners." Rumlow had walked over and was watching Riley intently. "Come on, you won't get past your medical if you don't work that arm."
Riley grunted but grabbed the bar with both arms this time. I quickly finished my ten and went to drop off the bar. Rumlow stopped me before I could.
"No, you can keep going." Rumlow stood there with his arms crossed looking serious. "Until I say stop."
"Yes, Sir." If that wasn't a challenge, then I don't know what was. I knew I was being tested and I just like the Air Force, I wasn't going to back down because of some male ego.
By the time I hit 20 my arms felt like jelly. By 40, my shoulders wanted to rip themselves out of their sockets and beat me over the head for being so stupid. When 50 rolled around I didn't think my arms were going to hold me for one more chin up.
"All right down," Rumlow commanded.
As soon as the words left his mouth I dropped from the bar. With the smart smirk on his face, I resisted the urge to rub my aching arms. That was going to be a bitch later on tonight. I was calling dibs on using all the hot water and soaking in the bath with half a box of epsom salts tonight.
"Anything else Sir?" I said smartly covering my panting breaths.
Rumlow cocked an eyebrow at me. I wondered if my sass was about to get me into even more pain than before. Rumlow glanced down at his watch, pursing his lips as if he was thinking deeply.
"Go and do push-ups until I tell you to stop. Proper push-ups. No on your knees bullshit."
Yep. I was going to die by tonight. For once I was thankful for my skinny body. I didn't have too much weight to work against me.
I was up to 70 when Rumlow called an end to PT. If I thought my arms were sore before, it had nothing on how much they ached now. Even my legs felt like jelly. Jared was waiting for me on the sidelines, already showered and dressed in his suit. I sighed enviously at how he could pull off something as simple as a black suit, Armani if I wasn't mistaken. Nothing but the best for my twin. He had an expensive taste even as a kid. But even I couldn't find a fault in his appearance. He was speaking to a curvy redhead who had her back turned to me. At seeing me walk up, Jared excused himself and came over to meet me. He had my gym bag in his hand which he handed to me.
"You look fucked," Jared laughed as my arms shook taking the gym bag. I dropped it back on the ground just as quick.
"Bath is all mine tonight." I finally let myself rub my aching arms. "Holy fuck, I did not expect that."
"You'll just have to find someone to rub you down," Jared laughed again. "Poor baby. Go have a quick shower and then I'll take you to get your uniforms then introduce you to your flight instructor."
The slightly familiar voice made my glance over to who spoke. It was Riley who'd come up behind us. He lingered, obviously feeling unsure of what to do.
"Hey, hows the arm feeling?" Jared flashed an easy smile.
"Better now there isn't a hole in it," Riley said with a quiet laugh. "Do you two know each other?"
I looked at Riley curiously. I wanted to know the story behind why his arm was sore now. The fact he was doing one-armed chin-ups must have meant an interesting injury.
"My twin sister Kari," Jared introduced me, rather unnecessarily. "Be nice otherwise she'll have your balls as a trophy."
If Riley wasn't standing right here, I might have punched Jared for being obnoxious.
"Ah," Riley said and shot me an unsure smile. "No wonder you look alike. I better head in anyway, I'm still stuck on light office duties."
"So am I." Jared pulled a disgusted face. "I'll see you in there after I drop Kari off."
"Have fun," Riley's statement was aimed at me. I could only give me a quick smile before he was turning away and walked off. I watched his retreating back, admiring the view of a perfectly toned ass. Damn, that man was a hottie. Jared turned to me with a smug smirk on his face. I quickly averted my eyes away from Riley's ass.
"If you're going to go for a STRIKE guy, him I don't have a problem with," Jared teased me. I had no reply except to give Jared a hard shove. It was enough to throw him off balance and take a few steps back. It didn't wipe the smugness off his face though.
"I'm going to have a shower." I didn't dignify my twin with an answer. Great, Jared would tease me about this for the next year now. I breezed past him, picking up my gym bag as I went.
As I breezed off in my slight huff at Jared, I was very grateful for the group of people already walking towards the showers. Otherwise, I would have gotten lost within about two seconds. Huge didn't even begin to describe the Triskelion. It was going to take me months to learn to get around here. The shower was barely warm so I didn't bother to linger. I was in, out and dressed within five minutes. Last night Jared had thrown me in a basic SHIELD t-shirt and told me just to wear jeans with it for the moment. Jared was waiting outside the locker room, flicking on his phone looking bored. As soon as he saw me walked out, he started to walk off without waiting for me to catch up.
"So uniforms first, then I'm taking you straight to the hanger and introducing you to Ian McNaught who'll be your pilot instructor," Jared explained as I matched his long strides. "Once you're done with him, which could be a few hours knowing Ian and the way he talks, your free for the rest of the day. Text me and I'll tell you where I am."
"So what did you do wrong to get stuck on office duties?" I asked curiously. Jared cleared his throat uncomfortably and scratched the side of his head. It took him a few seconds to reply. I enjoyed seeing him look so uncomfortable. Whatever Jared was about to say was going to be really good.
"I kind of got pissed off on my last mission and…" Jared trailed off, chewing on his lip looking embarrassed. "Kinda burnt a building down in Helsinki, along with my target that I was meant to bring in for questioning. So I'm in deep shit at the moment."
I stared at Jared not sure whether I was horrified or I wanted to burst out laughing at how uncomfortable he looked about it. Here I was thinking I screwed up majorly with what happened to me. Let alone doing a complete fuck up on the job like that.
"Oops," I snorted trying to hold back my laughter. "Bet you got an ass reaming for that one."
"Understatement of the year." Jared shot me a pained look, though there was a smile playing on his lips. "So yeah, I'm kind of glad you're here otherwise I'd be stuck in a basement doing filing and never seeing daylight for the next month."
"Glad to be of service." I couldn't wipe the small grin off my face. At least some good was coming out of my shitty situation, for someone else at least. "Here I was thinking you'd be dying of boredom having me here."
"Quite the contrary." Jared returned the grin. "Don't get me wrong, what happened to you is bullshit. But I'm very happy to have you around."
We rounded a corner and came to an elevator. I followed Jared in and turned to look for the buttons. There were none. I looked at Jared in confusion. SHIELD was one of the most technologically advanced organisations on the planet. How did they not have buttons in the elevator?
"Logistics," Jared said sending me a smug look. A disembodied voice confirmed what he said. I shot him an irritated glare. He could have told me there were no buttons before I stood there making myself look like an idiot. At least the elevator was empty so no one else saw it.
"Any other surprises?" I asked dryly as the elevator moved upwards.
"Oh yeah heaps, it is SHIELD after all," Jared said easily. There was no lie in his tone. "Whatever you do, take the Recruit Survival Handbook really seriously."
I stared at him, wondering if he was being serious or not. With the smirk he was desperately trying to hide, my guess was he was pulling my leg about what he had just told me. I got the feeling that would be happening a lot over the next month. At least I wasn't stupid enough to go and try and find something like a left-handed screwdriver.
"What?" Jared turned to look at me when I didn't reply to his comment.
I shrugged and pretended to ignore him. It drove him insane when I did it. Two could play that game of being annoying. I didn't get to annoy him for too long because we arrived on the floor for Logistics. I followed Jared out and steeled myself for yet another form of SHIELD torture.
Fortunately getting my uniforms was a quick process. Everything was already waiting for me and all I had to do was sign for it and get changed into the flight suit provided. Whoever did the sizing got it pretty much spot on. Even the heavy combat boots they provided me with fit perfectly. No doubt SHIELD has some strange way of doing it to make everything easier. Full body scans as you walked in the door or something equally as Star Trek like.
"How do I look?" I asked walking out of the change room.
"Like a SHIELD pilot," Jared said smartly. "Come on Knuckles lets go."
The mention of my old callsign brought some mixed feelings back to the surface. The first reaction was always a smile thinking of the night I ended up being called that. But now I wanted to cry from it being my old life was over. A lump in my throat formed and I quickly blinked away any tears that wanted to form. I couldn't cry. Nothing was going to change the situation I was in now. Tears and tantrums would only be a hindrance. I had to put my big girl pants on and just deal with the cards I'd been dealt with.
There was even more walking in the opposite direction of the way we came. I'm sure Jared was feeling it just as badly as I was. I didn't miss the pair of Stefano Bemer dress shoes he had on. Here's hoping they'd be comfortable to walk in for the price they were. Jared would be used to teleporting everywhere to not ruin his obviously expensive clothes and shoes. Instead, he had me dragging my ass along behind him looking like a disgruntled teenager. This time when we went into the elevator on the opposite side of the building, I looked at Jared expectedly.
"Hanger." Jared couldn't stop the small snort of laughter from escaping him.
"If I say somewhere over the rainbow will I get taken someone interesting?" I asked arching an eyebrow at Jared.
"Probably to R&D that deals with experimental drugs," Jared said seriously. "Whatever you do, don't piss R&D off. You won't like the results."
"Dad works in R&D," I pointed out. "In New York."
Dad also had a bad habit of bringing work home with him. There'd been plenty of times over the years I'd find his blueprints for new weapon technology. Things I'm sure I was never meant to see.
"Yeah but here is where they do all the cool experimental stuff. Like really cool stuff. When you're a real agent you'll find out about it."
I didn't have a comeback to that at all. Even though he was being an annoying tease, Jared was right. I wouldn't find out about all these things until I was a full agent. Not just a recruit with a shitty paper ID that I was given yesterday.
The elevator opened a few times on the way down. I got crowded to the back of the elevator, squished next to Jared. A few agents nodded in his direction and all did a double take looking at me. It made me shrink behind Jared as much as I could to get away from the prying eyes. The elevator cleared by the time we went down thirty floors.
The hanger was incredible. It was bigger than anything I had ever seen before, and all underground. There was no runway, just a short ramp leading out the side of the building.
"Whoa," I couldn't help myself as I gazed around. The fleet of Quinjets all sat in neat rows along the tarmac. The entire place was a massive hive of activity. Everything from technicians to fully armed STRIKE squads walked around. One Quinjet was backing out from its spot and I couldn't help but stop and just stare. The manoeuvrability even while moving out was incredible. The reason why there was no runway was that the damn things could hover. VTOL, or Vertical Takeoff and Landing was obviously well developed here. The excitement that I was about to fly one of these kicked in, chasing away all the shitty feelings of today.
"Here he is," Jared said brightly breaking me from my thoughts. I whirled around quickly and smiled, eager to meet my instructor.
"Yeah, go away teleporting boy," the man's thick Irish accent was hard to understand. "Give me your sister who is a real pilot. Ian McNaught."
Ian stuck his hand out in greeting. I quickly shook his head in hopes we could get the pleasantries out of the way so I could get my ass into a seat. Right now.
Ian looked to be in his late 50's. Like nearly everyone else I'd seen here at SHIELD, he was still in top physical condition. His receding brown hair sprinkled with grey was the only indication of his age. He'd pretty much pushed Jared aside to talk to me. I had a feeling we'd get on well.
"So let's get you settled into your new baby." Ian didn't bother with a goodbye to Jared. He started to walk down the stairs. I had to stop myself bouncing along beside him like an excited puppy. But damn, I seriously couldn't wait to fly again even though it had only been a few days. I hoped SHIELD would give me more than 20 flying hours a month. At least that would go towards making things better.
"I have two rules," Ian continued without waiting for a reply from me. "Don't fuck with me while I'm napping and do as your told. You're the first person I've had to teach who can actually fly so I expect to be able to get a lot of reading and napping done over the next few weeks. My wife snores like a lumberjack so I appreciate my nana naps during the day."
I laughed albeit nervously. Just because I could fly didn't mean I wasn't going to screw this up. My excitement started to bounce between nerves as we walked across the tarmac.
"This is us." Ian motioned to a Quinjet with the ramp open. "It's the last generation model, so it doesn't pack the firepower the new ones do. But it flies exactly the same. Let's get to it."
"Do I call you Sir?" I asked just to try and get some kind of word in. I had a feeling Ian would talk all day without any breaks if he could.
"Fuck no," Ian snorted in obvious displeasure. "Ian is fine. Agent McNaught if you really have to. However, you call me Lucky Charms or anything to do with Leprechaun's then we'll have an issue. In you go, Pilot is yours. Preflight is done so we can just get in the air straight away. We're flying to Dallas and back this afternoon."
"Right." I did as I was told and sat in the pilot seat. Looking around me everything looked familiar and nothing overly complicated. It wasn't a lot different from sitting in my usual cockpit. Except it was bigger, I didn't have to wear an anti-g-suit and I had a SHIELD patch on my arm instead of the bright yellow 27th Fighter Squadron patch.
Ian quickly pointed out a few things I'd need to know. Namely the VOTL function which I'd need for take off and landing. With some trepidation, I took the controls and let out a shaky breath.
"Go on love, you'll be fine." Ian's smile gave me some confidence. "Nothing you haven't done before. How many flight hours have you logged?"
"Umm, somewhere in the 600 hour range," I said honestly, hoping it didn't sound like I was bragging. "That's actual flight hours, not simulator training. It's only that high because I seemed to be the only idiot volunteering for missions and was always the idiot who got lumped with flying things places no one else wanted to."
"So let's go." Ian motioned to the controls in front of us. "Let's rack up another four hours to that total."
Under Ian's careful guidance the Quinjet roared to life underneath me. The throb of the engine and noise brought a genuine smile to my face. My nerves disappeared the second I started to taxi out of the hanger. The Quinjet handled like a dream on the ground. I flicked on the turbo rotors which served to make the aircraft vertical. It was a strange feeling being lifted off the ground, instead of hitting the stick hard to take off. Ian took care of the chatter from the control tower as I got us into the air. The coordinates were put in and I wheeling around the Triskelion into the gorgeous blue morning.
"See nothing to it, these things are designed to be completely idiotproof." Ian turned to me once we were flying. "If there's ever an emergency and the pilot is killed, then they can be flown with minimal problems with any kind of training. The autopilot even does the takeoff and landing sequence if it needs to. Hows your first day at SHIELD going?"
"Well, I haven't done anything to embarrass myself yet," I said honestly, glancing out the side window watching the landscape fall away further and further as I climbed. "But the day is young, anything can happen."
"My first week in SHIELD I was still in Dublin." Ian settled back in the co-pilot chair. "Director Carter had come over for some reason. I was so excited that I was running down the hallway to get to my jet and I ran straight into her. Unfortunately for me I had a full cup of coffee and spilt it all over her beautiful cream coloured suit. Let's just say I spent the rest of his visit hiding as far away as possible. I never lived it down either."
"Now I'm going to spend all week making sure I'm not carrying any coffee," I laughed at Ian. At least I knew who he was talking about. Director Peggy Carter was a friend of my Grams. She was one of my heroes growing up. "So what brought you to the US?"
"A woman." Ian grinned, making him look years younger. "Just couldn't resist her Southern charm and next thing I know, I'm posted here in DC, married and three kids happened. Can't for the fucking life of me remember how it all happened."
The way he said it and with his heavy Irish accent cracked me up. I could barely get a word in after that as Ian filled me in on his family. It wasn't until I'd hit Dallas Airport airspace that we turned around. Ian decided he was going to have a sleep in the back and told me to wake him up when we got to DC. I kept the jet on manual, not wanting to play with autopilot just yet and enjoyed the peace and quiet of being up in the air. The Quinjet flew like a dream, even at a higher altitude it had some serious cruising speed. This is where I was happiest. It might not be the F-22 Raptor I'd worked so hard to achieve it was still pretty awesome. I didn't even have to wake Ian up. He was back in the co-pilot seat just as soon as I hit the border.
Our landing was cleared right away. I managed to land and taxi the Quinjet back into its original position without any problems. When I powered down Ian turned to me again.
"Well, this has been fun Miss Lyngley, let's do it again tomorrow." Ian unbuckled himself from the chair. "You can pick somewhere to go, I'll bring coffee and we'll have a grand adventure. How do you have your coffee?"
"Thanks, Ian," I couldn't keep the giddy smile off my face. This had been a lot of fun. I followed suit, unbuckling myself and then walking out of the jet close behind him "I drink vanilla lattes."
"Done and done, much better than those idiot STRIKE boys who seem to think its cool drinking coffee black straight from the pot." Ian pulled a disgusted face. He gave my shoulder a small squeeze of encouragement. "The only time that's acceptable if when it's Irish coffee. I'll see you tomorrow."
With a wave, Ian walked off in the opposite direction of the stairs. I pulled my cell out of my pocket and sent Jared a text letting him know I was finished. As soon as the message came up as read, Jared teleported next to me.
"You're still in one piece, that means everything went well," Jared teased. "I have a fuckload of books for you by the way. But we're free to go."
"What kind of books?" I asked not liking the sound of this. I liked reading, even if it was something as boring as field manuals. But this sounded like a whole new level of torture.
"All the SHIELD manuals you will ever need," Jared explained with an evil glint in his eye. "Plus all my old textbooks from the Academy. Just some light nighttime reading for you."
I didn't believe a word that came out of his mouth. My happy little adrenaline high from flying was fast being taken over by dread for what else was about to come.
Edited and re uploaded 27th May, 2018