How to Build an Airplane

December 31, 2016:

Fairchild goes looking for someone who can help her make a model plane. She finds an empty suit, but it's happy to help anyway.

Lower Manhattan - New York City


NPCs: None.



Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

The New York Craft Yard is an interesting concept. In a city big on regulation, it's an unusual subtle jab at the powers that be, allowing young and non-union welders, crafters, and metalworkers to get together and sell their wares and market their skills.

It's a mecca for hobbyists of all bends, and Caitlin travels to them quite frequently. The amazonian ginger wears flat, cozy Ugg boots, heavy wool leggings in grey, and a belted, long-sleeve tunic top in green, under a heavy skier's vest. A pink beanie is pulled down over her ears, making for an explosion of red hair under the brim. She moves eagerly from booth to booth, asking questions, playing with gadgets, examining metalworking with a keenly appreciative eye. The work ranges from artistic metal sculptures to complex machinery, with some of the amateur metalworkers hoping a local fabrication shop might bring them in as apprentices if their work meets muster.

One booth off to the side seems to have pulled out all the stops. Itself a work of steel and iron, posts for the walls have sunken into well-worn divots in the ground and a cityscape of bolts and hinges fasten them to railings and a sheet metal roof. Hanging across the front of the archway iw an ornate sign made of bent and polished iron and brass, a two-tone contrast of black and orange:


And sitting inside the booth is a menagerie of metals; nails, small blades, decoratively bookends fastened from bent and re-bent rebar, and most of all machines. Whirring, chugging little animatrons spinning and bouncing in place atop tables, all fed by a pulley system stretching down to a generator in the middle of the floor whose engine is hungrily gobbling fuel.

Minding the stand is a woman in a suit of armor, currently sitting on the bed of a trailer that's backed up to the rear of her booth - where it all came from no doubt. Her helmet turns from side to side as she gazes at potential customers as well as the other stalls around her, and the tail of her suit twitches; she wants to be shopping too.

"Woah…" Caitlin's jaw slacks a little as she looks around the interior of the booth, eyes going wide. "Jiminy… this is incredible! I love these little guys! They're like… like little action figures, but they don't suck!" She hunkers down in front of a rack of them, eyes on a level, and watches with wide-eyed appreciation as they turn and whir and click in perfect synchonicity. She glances at her watch, then at the engine, counting on her lips. "Wow, really efficient gear works," she remarks, straightening up. She walks up to the armor and peers at it, eyes narrowing in perplexed interest. "Cool mannequin," she mutters, after a moment, looking behind the armor to see if anyone's near the trailer. "Anyone back there?"

"Nope, just in here. What was it the Tin Man said, ''I need oil?''" A young woman answers cheekily from inside the suit as the helmet turns towards Caitlin and she pushes herself off the trailer, standing straight. "And thank you!" She chirps, holding out an arm to show some of the inlaid bronze. "I've spent more time on this suit than it's sane to. Have my armory caught your eye?"

Catilin yelps and jumps backwards, but mercifully avoids knocking anything over. "Gah! Sorry! Sorry!" She trips over a bucket and stumbles, and knocks it another few feet away as she tries to pick it up.

She /freezes/ in place, hands outstretched, and visibly counts to 'one, two' before she moves again. "Didn't break anything. Okay, good," she says, sotto voce.

"I'm— hi, yeah, I'm sorry! I didn't realize. That armor is really cool, I thought you were a sculpture or something. This is— I mean, this is all really neat clockwork stuff. /No one's/ doing clockwork anymore, I love it," Caitlin says, looking around again. "I'm actually looking for a gift for a friend, it's kind of a … well, like a miniature model airplane, but not one of the nasty plastic kits. Like a 1:6 scale model, a real flier."

Kelly laughs light-heartedly at the moment of clumsiness and rests a hand on her sculpted hip, the tail behind her swishing coyly. "I get that a lot, don't worry about it. Yeah the old arts are, well, old these days but you'd better believe everything in here is pinions and cogs. I don't mess with computers - too uppity and unpredictable."

Wandering over from the trailer, the smith rocks forward onto the balls of her feet as her greaves and boots smoothly transition to a digitigrade stance, aided by small pistons that criss-cross her major joints. It still leaves the suit a good few inches below Caitlin's pink beanie. "Huh… wow you're tall," Kelly blurts, distracted for a moment.

"I am not; the world's just rendering at 80 scale," Caitlin says, flashing a smile. She's probably heard them all, from her expression. She examines the armor with extreme interest, walking around it in a circle as Kelly dismounts the suit, eyes flickering here and there. "This is really impressive," she tells Kelly. "I see your compression cylinders, and… this must be your pressure attenuation valve… must be heavy with all these hydraulics, without a power source," she says, sympathetically. "Still, I bet you could totally crush an Iron Man lookalike competition!" she beams. "I love the inlays though, it looks totally medieval. Like, good medieval, not… you know, 'I own a TIG welder and a hammer', fake medieval."

Kelly turns a little here and there and stretches herself out to pose for Caitlin's inspection, more than happy to let the red-head admire her suit from every angle she pleases. The compliment earns an excited giggle as the smith glances back over her shoulder. "Thanks, I based most of this on Lochner's work - the Nuremberg armorers were crazy. It's still going to take me years before I reach that level."

"And you're almost right," she chimes, slowly bending forward at the waist to let Caitlin watch the long but slender pistons behind her knees stretch. "Pneumatics all around; they're weaker than hydraulics but a lot faster, plus they give that nice air cushion; a filled hydraulic cylinder is like a solid rock. I've got a less pretty set I use for smithing work that has the hydraulics in it. That one's big and bulky."

"Oh, that makes sense," Caitlin says, batting at her forehead with the palm of her hand. "I guess if you're just going for a little extra compression then you don't really need full hydraulics, huh? Bet it's harder on your seals, though, what are you using? Silicone? Or like, PTFE or the like? What are you using for seal lubricant?" she asks, chattering quickly.

"Why does it have a tail?" she asks, blinking.

"It's enough to make a pretty big difference when I need it. I overspecced for pressure so given a few extra seconds I can cheat my way into hydraulic levels of force but get pneumatic response at lower pressure without spending for a bigger, bulkier pump to get both at the same time. That's… yeah that's exactly the problem it causes," Kelly admits with an embarrassed laugh as she glances aside, caught cutting corners. "Silicone with Uline but I'm still experimenting to find the right mix. The temperature changes really don't do them any favors."

The smith looks behind at her behind, as if noticing the limb for the first time. "Oh. Balance mostly. A stiff bar works better but maneuvering it fast enough was a big headache so I compromised; plus I just like the look. I get to have a little fun making things cat-themed."

"That makes sense. I could probably use a tail," Caitlin says, wistfully. "I'm always runnin' into stuff or falling over. I can barely walk and chew gum." She completes her circuit and comes around to the front of the armor, and smiles again. "It's really cool, though. You do brilliant work. Er— so I mentioned before, I'm looking for like a 1:6 scale airplane, for a kid. Something that'll actually fly, you know? I have the actuator components, engines, and remotes, but I need someone to actually build the skeleton and rivet the alumnium. Not to mention finish it and make it look good," she adds. "Is that something you've ever considered?"

"It does help with that. I used to be a little clumsy too - no left feet," Kelly jokes before humming thoughtfully and dropping both hands on her hips again. "I've never built something to fly honestly, but if all you need is for sheet aluminum to look like an airplane, I can do it," she affirms. "I'm not sure how much slack your motor will need to pick up to make it fly nicely, but shaping I can do. Do you have an airplane in mind? I'll need dimensions to start from."

"Color shouldn't be a problem either I don't think. I can powder coat tiny stuff as well as big," she adds after some more thought.

Cait digs in her pocket and comes up with several sheets of graph paper, coverd in impeccably precise handwriting from a mechanical pencil. Equations, thrust calculations, even a rough series of sketch designs. "I'm thinking that if we don't exceed this max weight threshold, and we fudge a little on the wingspan, we can make it fly pretty well. It's basically a P-40, it's an old WWII fighter craft. The Warhawk. I'm just not much of a welder," she admits.

In the time it takes Cait to pull out her diagrams, Kelly zips beside her and peeks forward around her arm to pour over the notes. "Oh perfect you even have tolerances! You've done this before," she cheers. Her hands extend and invited or not she tries to take the sheets for herself to study them more closely. "Yeah… yeah I can make this. This won't be a problem at all… ah, might need to trade up for the landing gears. Martensite? Mmm… maybe too brittle. Pearlite should do it - maybe try a lamellar just for fun. I thiiink I have enough titanium too. I'll have to force test it." Slow to pull herself back to the present, Kelly giggles excitedly and hands the papers back. "You're almost in luck too. I've been working on designs for a cold welding chamber but that's still more idea than machine. Now that would really help."

"Well," Cait says, fretting her lower lip in thought. "You could do a chemical weld. Er, what about an evacuated chamber? Fill with an inert gas and then run a high current through the contact surfaces? You could probably sparkweld in a vacuum easily enough."

She hands the notes to Kelly. "You can keep those, I've got them all saved on my phone, too. I just like writing out math by hand so I can check my numbers," she says, a dimple appearing with her abashed smile. "I'm a systems engineer at Starr Labs," she explains. "Electrical engineering. So the motors, that's the easy part. Welding, though, I leave that to experts," she says, with an easy, honest laugh. "Um, how much would you bill for all of this?"

"Oh thank you," Kelly replies as she takes the notes back and drops them down the collar of her cuirass. She'll fish them back out later. "Yeah I could but that's not the same. You get melting and warping from the heat like with normal welding if you're not really careful. That's a long-term project though. For billing… geez I'm always bad at that part. When do you want it done? Tomorrow? Next month?"

"Three weeks?" Caitlin hazards. "It's a birthday present for a friend. That'd give me two weeks to get the motors installed, test fly it, and calibrate the wingflags and so on. "I mean, I'd offer to fix your computer but you don't really /need/ that, so uh… I guess cash?" she asks, digging in her pocket. "Willya take a check for the up front cost? I don't have a bunch of bills on me," she apolgizes.

"Oh that shouldn't be hard then," Kelly assures as she waves off the effort to pay. "You can drop me a Paypal later. I want to do a little shopping to see what replicas like this normally go for anyway, make sure I ask a fair price." Reaching into a small panel in the skirt of her armor, the smith pulls out a business card and offers it. "Give me a call any time tomorrow and we can talk details. That's all the time I'll need. The name is Kelly Smith by the way - and yes, like blacksmith. It's a distant family tradition."

"I'm Caitlin Fairchild," the big ginger says. She takes the card and offers Kelly a handshake, making no effort to do more than politely squeeze fingers. She aims her phone at the business card and snaps a photo of it, then tucks it away. "It's really nice to meet you, Kelly. I love the work you did here. It's cool to meet a real, live blacksmith!" she declares, with a boundless, honest enthusiasm that would probably be suspect on anyone who didn't have such an honest smile. "If you ever need computer help, let me know," she advises her. The name might provoke some correlation to media images from the Justice League— as tall as Caitlin is, most superheroes tend to verge on the 'larger than life' size, and she's not weearing a spandex leotard at the moment.

For better or worse, Kelly is a shut-in. If it's not in Metalworking Monthly, she might not hear about it. Giving Cait a gentle squeeze with her steel gauntlet, the tailed smith nods cheerfully. "You too, Caitlin. Not enough people appreciate metalworking these days. Let me know if you need anything else made up too - or repaired. Maybe you can even tour my shop sometime, as long as you don't mind noise."

"Not at all! I'd love to check the shop out," Caitlin tells Kelly, with that same bubbling enthusiasm. "If you don't think I'd be underfoot— I don't know much about metalworking," she admits. "We mostly outsource that to fab shops and the like. Motors I can do, but structural work… ehh," she says, with a wiggle of her hand. "Anyway, I'll not keep you, but— can I text you? We can see about finding a time to get together."

"Any time I'm not delivering work or out at a stall like this," Kelly offers readily. "That might actually work better. There's no hearing a cell phone ring in my workshop - no matter wh… actually you said electrical right, not just computers? you might be able to help me with that, but I'll need to think on it first."

"Great! I'll be in touch, then!" With another brilliant smile, Caitlin waves a short farewell, and turns to saunter out of the shop and continue her browsing, albeit with a new, exciting spring in her step at the idea of Kelly being able to build up Kit's present. "Thanks again!" she chirps, waving at Kelly before she disappears from sight.

"Happy to help! Good luck with the rest of your shopping," Kelly replies cheerfully as she offers the red-head a parting wave.

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