Social Engineering

December 25, 2016:

Kinsey Sheridan meets Kelly Smith. They are both engineers. And they both have the initials K.S.

COINCIDENCE?

Micky MacReady's Mechanical Emporium

It's a junkyard, aka: machinist-nerd's paradise.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Matthew Murdock

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

'Micky MacReady's Mechanical Emporium' is a grand title that suggests this particular institution is more than it is: a sprawling labyrinth of piled-up objects that range the gamut from half-dismantled, eviscerated cars to fragments of electronics, parts from construction equipment, and everything in between. It's enclosed in not just two concentric chain link fences but also a high wall, and every last inch of it, no matter how concealed within a warren of bric-a-brac, is monitored closely via a full fleet of cameras.

Even so, it's paradise for someone like Kinsey, and she's recently — in the time since her unexpected reintroduction to civilian life — become something of a regular.

Regular enough to argue with Micky, anyway.

Toward the center of the compound sits a cinderblock-and-rebar building with bars in the front window, and it's from this shabby throne that Micky oversees his empire. Kinsey's got her hip leaned up against the wall, an array of small objects on the check-out counter beneath the bullet-proof glass and bars. "C'mon Micky," she says. "You overcharged me last time for the nixie tubes, you owe me."

Micky's a two-pack-a-day smoker, and it shows. His vaguely Irish accent sounds like it's coming out of a belt-driven sanding machine. "Nobody made you pay fer it. No refunds."

"I don't want a refund! I'm buying in bulk! You know you didn't pay anywhere near that much for these."

"Didn't, but I charge what I like."

"You're a monster."

Micky? Just laughs.

—-

Stomping across the dirt outside comes the ominous pounding of heavy, clanking boots that grow louder as they approach the building. Stiff, geometric bootprints mark the approach of several hundred pounds until they pause near the doorway, sinking into the ground before a cacophonous din of collapsing and clanging steel ruins any hope of conversation within thirty meters.

"Oops…"

A few seconds later, a metal helm pokes into the room and its sculpted steel face looks unblinkingly, unexpressively towards the counter. She's another of the yard's regulars, whether Micky likes it or not. "Uh… hey Micky," a young woman's voice advises gingerly, echoing from inside her metal casing, "you might not want to try opening the side door for like… five minutes? Don't worry though, I missed the building!"

—-

Well, that's hard to miss, isn't it?

Kinsey pivots away from her thus-far unsuccessful negotiations with the man behind the barred window, and finds herself face to face with a walking suit of armor. One brow goes up, mild surprise and undisguised interest playing across her open expression.

She gathers that the armored woman must be more of a regular than herself, because Micky just rolls his eyes and flaps his hand, waving off the advice. The sense is that he doesn't even want to /know/ what happened.

"What did you miss the building /with/?" It's just curiosity, plain and simple. Kinsey hooks her thumbs into her back pockets, pale hazel eyes still wandering the contours of the suit, dissecting what she can of its engineering based on the way the pieces move in concert with one another. "Nice suit, by the way. Never seen one quite like it."

—-

"Aaaaa few hundred pounds of raw materials. Old block from the '74 Corolla in the back, weight plates from two of the dryers, hydraulic pump from the front loader…" the metal-clad woman counts off on her fingers until Kinsey's complement interrupts her. Stepping fully into the doorway, she stands perkily straight, bouncing a tiny bit on the pistons bracing the balls of her feet to her shins. There's a distinct cat influence to the design of her armor and a slenderness that's offset by hydraulic lines that support major joints. Missing is a bulky motor, backpack fuel source, or in fact anything to suggest the extra kibble aren't just there for aesthetics. Given the season, it might be a little cold in there.

"You think so?" The young woman chirps, sounding a little closer to her teenage years. Her tail flicks behind her as the smith thumps her breastplate with a gauntlet, producing a resounding *clang*. "You won't anywhere else. It's a custom model - made it myself!"

—-

The lack of any driving mechanism isn't something Kinsey would fail to notice. She /does/ notice, and it /is/ interesting, though for reasons that would not be clear just to look at Kinsey herself.

It's just…

…familiar.

"Yeah," she says with absolute sincerity, some amusement left over in her voice from the silent laugh tacked onto the end of that list she's given. "Yeah, I do think so. I can probably count on one hand the number of people I know who've tried putting something like this together without backing from Stark. And I don't think I'd have to use all of my fingers."

She sets one elbow on the small ledge of a counter behind her, leaning back into it and loosely lacing her hands, one arm crossed over her ribs. "Mind if I ask what compelled you to do it?"

—-

"Oh!" Kelly blurts as she casually cartwheels forward, landing briskly after a series of clanks. Why yes, she is showing off a little now. "Well first it started as a way to make a little mechanic helper, then I decided to build one for me and, well… it kind of became my project car."

The suit raises a hand to brush off a piece of bronze inlay along her shoulder. "This isn't anything like Stark though; no crazy rockets or plasma confinement, just a lot of good old-fashioned elbow grease. I could make one in your size!" Kelly pauses to look between herself and Kinsey. "Yeah… I'd need to make a few alterations."

—-

Kinsey watches the suit's mobility with professional interest, but also obvious personal enjoyment. It's good to be amongst like-minded people — even if the man behind the counter is probably going to cheat her out of thirty dollars.

"These days, all of my money is sunk into a new business, so I don't think I can afford one. I'll keep the offer in mind, though. You know…you sound pretty young. Unless you're a lot older than you sound, this kind of thing is a significant accomplishment. Do you work for one of the bigger labs? Cadmus? Lexcorp?"

"Just Vulcan Armory LLC, founder and CEO," Kelly jokes. "Don't let this impress you too much though, I still have a lot of kinks to iron out. Forming eutectics is a *pain*…" She turns her hand over to scratch her chin thoughtfully and paces back and forth a couple steps, tail swishing widely behind her. Its spiraled steel construction proves flexible as it bends fluidly around. "Honestly I never thought of joining a big group like that. I think there's too much science in there for me."

—-

"It depends on the outfit. I started my career in military, working on creating enhanced mobility systems for armored vehicles. Everybody starts somewhere. To be honest, I'm a little surprised that nobody's tried to recruit you. I started young, too. I had offers, but…" After a pause, she lifts her shoulders and eases up onto her feet, out of her lean. Her smile softens, sliding over to one side of her mouth, lopsided with memory. "I guess I was spoken for. Military family, and all."

She slides her hands into the pockets of her vest, weighing something to herself. "You know.." Head turned, she regards the young woman out of the corner of her eye, lashes flicked to narrow, hesitant, careful about how she chooses her words. "It's none of my business, you don't know me from anybody, and you've obviously been just fine until now. But since it sounds like you're not affiliated with any big groups…you might want to be careful about how many people know you've got something like that laying around. Or the ability to make more. Or at least be /really/ sure your shop is secure." This is more than just vague, generalized advice; there is something decidedly specific in her expression, a more immediate reason than best practices. "There are people around who'd love to take advantage of that."

—-

Kelly can't raise an eyebrow halfway to her hairline or frown suspiciously at Kinsey's direct advice, so instead she sets her hands on her hips, bends far forward, and cocks her helmet - apparently her neck's articulated too. "What, you think something like this is a state secret? I'm no Tony Stark; this suit still can't handle a 7.62 round… yet, figuring out cold-welding has also been a pain. And my security system is just fine, thankyouverymuch."

The suit's tail comes around to scratch behind the helmet's fake ear as Kelly scrutinizes the dark-haired veteran. "What's in your head? You sound like you can't decide between buying something and apprenticing — Oh! And if we're going to keep talking can we step outside? Five minutes will run out real fast like this."

—-

Kinsey extends one hand toward the open door in an invitation, and it only takes her a few strides to clear into the washed-out December sunlight, herself. She waits until she's rejoined before saying anything else, pale fingers raking back over her scalp, clearing loose strands from her face. "I'm not after anything, if that's what you think. I've just…been around, that's all. You know, until last year I was working with the NSA and Knightwatch, and we rubbed elbows with a lot of those big-fish corporations. I saw a lot of things done in the name of national security. Corporate espionage is just a fact of life. It's just friendly advice. I'd hate to see somebody promising get caught up in the games that people in places like that play, that's all."

—-

Kelly slips out ahead of Kinsey and turns a corner to begin cleaning up. The noisy mess is easy to recognize; a hip-high pile of scrap is entangled beside the building that wasn't there before and mixed in and under it is a utility trailer hitched to a bicycle. If the dark-haired woman pays attention, she might even notice where Kelly was standing when the noise started; there's a deep enough impression to compare shoe sizes.

Crouching down for support, metal talon-like piton spikes hinge out of the suit's toes and heels, biting into the ground as the suit grasps a hunk of steel and a small motor groans to life from somewhere in her frame. Metal creaks and grinds as her pistons stretch to wrench a piece free before discarding it to the side and reaching for another.

"You're awful paranoid; I'm just a mechanist. I blacksmith, I tinker, I sell things, I repeat. There's nothing incredible there. I've just spent more time and money than any sane person would on one suit of armor. No one really did want to apprentice with me so I had to make my own assistant… well except Jack Ashbury in high school, but I think he just liked watching me work or something." Kelly looks over with what might be intended as a hopeless tilt of her head. "Cute guy but he sat around too much to be helpful."

—-

Kinsey is /always/ paying attention — and so is Five, from its place traversing the neural net laid over her grey matter. He — she thinks of it as a he, anyway — has been curiously silent for most of the day, and remains that way while she watches the suit do what it does, assisting with the hauling of things otherwise too heavy to move.

"You know what they say," Kinsey says, smile widening in a flash of pearl, "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you. Nevermind, though. It was only a friendly suggestion. I'm sure you've got all of your bases covered." Not clear whether that's true or merely polite. She lets the matter go readily enough, smile returning for a quick encore around a silver laugh. "Some of them do that." She sighs, but it's small, good-humored, only self-deprecatingly tinged with rue. "Most especially the cute ones, in my experience."

—-

"Not the brightest bulb in the socket though," Kelly admits. "He tried forging with his shirt off at one point - burned some of his hair off. I think he just overheated but working white-hot iron is hot work. Two thousand, four hundred degrees plus." Moving enough of the metal away that the building's side door might be called clear, she turns her attention to restacking the mess onto her cart. "I'm sure you've got a crazy home security system with an attitude like that… and concealed carry," she considers absent-mindedly. "So what kind of fun guys have you met?"

—-

At the words 'concealed carry,' Kinsey's smile takes a turn toward something a little bit more like a grin, albeit a playful one. "Well. I /was/ a spook. Security becomes a habit. But no, I don't carry firearms around with me. I try not to go anywhere or do anything that would mean I'd need one." Her smile slips, just a little. "I'm basically retired."

Boys is an easier subject, albeit not one she expected to be talking to a young woman in a catlike suit of scratch-made armor about this afternoon. "The hard thing about my career path has been that it's almost always a bad idea to date colleagues, and when you spend all of your time working, eating, and sleeping, that doesn't leave a whole lot of time for anything else." She tilts her head, lets her eyes travel off on an angle, roving the nearby piles of refuse, thinking about something else. "There was a nice attorney I met in Metropolis recently who asked me if I'd like to have coffee," she admits, and she sounds uncertain about whether or not that's a good thing. Then, she laughs: "Of course, he's blind. Maybe that's why he asked."

—-

"Aww, the poor guy," Kelly sympathizes. "I hopes he gets a lot of use out of 'justice is blind'; I've got no idea how you even complete law school without being able to see. There's supposed to be *so much reading*."

"What did you say you do now?" She asks, bouncing freely between topics.

—-

"Braille, I guess. Or audiobooks?" It's a good question, though, and Kinsey tucks it away for later use.

She pulls her attention back from the stacks of debris. "I run a garage in Gotham. Hasn't been open for very long. Most of my clients come from Metropolis. I'd give you a business card, but somehow I suspect you don't need my services." She crinkles her nose, a playful expression. "Also, I may not have had any made up yet. But word gets around, anyway."

—-

"Ooh I used to work at one of those. What kind of jobs do you do?" Kelly asks, her interest sparked all over again as she gradually forms a stack of scrap material and straps it down with come-alongs.

—-

"Anything, honestly. Mostly vehicles, as you'd expect but I had a couple of aliens leave a message on my answering machine last week, believe it or not. Most of my clients come from Metropolis. Not a lot of Gotham locals need a specialist, but I can't afford the rent in Metropolis, sooo." She sniffs. The brisk air of the outdoors is starting to turn the end of her nose pink, flushing her cheeks. "But, hey. If you know anybody who needs something worked on and it's not in your wheelhouse, feel free to send them my way, huh? No point in being choosy when I'm just getting things started."

—-

"If I meet someone who needs a specialist and doesn't mind a tow all the way to Gotham I will," Kelly grants, as small as the favor might be. "Do you have any sources for custom parts? My workshop needs a couple more upgrades before I can say I can mill anything automotive but I take rush jobs. Find out at 11 at night that you need a new piston and fancy shifter? I'll have at least one of them done by the next morning; both if I've got the right grades in stock."

"Most of what I can do on shortest notice is structural or decorative though; things that don't need really fine control or fancy alloying. Those are the hard ingredients to get a hold of."

—-

"Thanks," Kinsey says, and means it. Every little bit helps, right?

As for the latter: "I've been making do, but putting that workload off onto somebody else would probably be a huge help. Vulcan Armory, right?" She pauses just long enough to do the Star-Trek hand thing, alongside a wry, close-lipped smile, and chases it up with a wink. "I'll remember. I'm guessing whatever the aliens want, it's not something I can get wholesale. So keep an eye out."

The sound of her jacket's zipper is loud in the otherwise mostly-still yard. "I'm starting to catch a chill, so I'm gonna head inside and overpay Micky, as usual. It was nice to meet you…ah, I don't think I got your name."

—-

Kelly laughs and returns the gesture. "Yes, live long and prosper. I've got a website you can find with a little Googling, and if you're really interested I could give you a tour some time. That way you know what I can handle."

The metal-clad young woman handsprings forward to Kinsey and offers her gauntlet for a formal introduction. "That sounds like fun. I'm Kelly Smith - and you?"

—-

It's extremely trusting of Six to put her hand into the armored one, all things considered. Her hands are her entire livelihood, and those gauntlets—

"Kinsey Sheridan. I don't have a website, but if you have a look around the waterfront of Gotham's South Point, the garage'll be hard to miss. I'll make a point to swing by sometime, though. Probably soon."

Fortunately for Kinsey the thick hydraulic reinforcements accenting the larger parts of Kelly's suit are absent from her hands and her metal grip is reassuringly gentle - crushing things would be bad for business after all. "That sounds good - maybe call first though. It's not a store as much as a warehouse and… well you've shot guns before, you've got hearing protection. You'll want it," the smith rambles to herself as much as the raven-haired young woman. "Maybe I can go visit you then just take you back with me!"

—-

Kinsey has the kind of brisk handshake that comes from years of being in meetings with People of Importance — most of them men. Her smile is easy, though. "Sure. Either way. You take care, Kelly, and have yourself a good holiday, alright?"

With a final smile and a little trilling finger-wiggle of a wave, she takes two steps backward and then closes the distance to the shop, already giving Micky a hard time before she's even cleared the threshhold.

—-

"You too, Kinsey!" The metal smith replies cheerfully. She giggles to herself at the starting tirade before pulling a notepad out of her breastplate and returning to her scrap pile to tally her soon-to-be-possessions. She could wait a little longer to negotiate their prices with Micky.

"Oh! I knew I was forgetting something," Kelly blurts, impotently snapping her metal fingers before turning and striding back off into the scrapyard. It comes out as little more than a clunk.

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