Rocket Man

January 08, 2017:

Kinsey makes good on her promise. Matt Murdock gets to achieve escape velocity wearing Star-Lord's boots.

The Garage

The only sign on the broad outdoor exterior reads 'GARAGE' in large letters of backlit, machined metal, and there are several bay doors leading into what turns out to be a hangar-sized space, one entire warehouse converted over to servicing vehicles of every description.

There are polished concrete floors and large hydraulic lifts, banks of tool chests and peculiar armatures of equipment hanging from the ceiling. In spite of the breadth of space, the interior feels cozy, somehow — maybe because of the graffiti covering the walls end to end, or the small personal touches like prints, papers, photos and mementos hung here and there. Speakers dot the length of the space, and during business hours there is almost always some sort of rock playing loudly enough to drown out the whine of heavy equipment.

To the right side, a secondary interior building has been cordoned off from the main body of the warehouse. The door is located up high, just beneath the roof, and accessed via a set of metal stairs.

The roof itself is able to telescope open to admit smaller, personal aircraft as necessary.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Rocket Raccoon, Peter Quill

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

It's the end of the work day for most people, just after the dinner rush, but Kinsey's garage keeps odd hours. Her hours. As the sun sinks below the high lip of the concrete canyons that make up Gotham's cityscape, the lights from the interior are a scream into the growing dusk beyond, brilliant and eye-catching, even if the sign used to advertise its purpose is not. Blues-rock rumbles from the speakers, periodically interrupted, overwritten, by the sound of a drill or something similar in the very back of the space, where Kinsey is half-buried inside of the fuselage of a small helicopter.

There are tool chests on wheels dragged into the area immediately surrounding it, though the rest of the hangar's interior has been cleared in preparation for his visit, vehicles belonging to her existing customers shifted over to line the sides of the space. Atop some of the tool chests are cartons of take-out Chinese food, half-finished, fork stuck inside the top of one container of noodles. Forgotten.

Cameras mounted to the exterior of the building track pedestrians who pass by, and most of them don't react to that in any way, either because they don't notice or because they've grown accustomed to the amount of security on that particular piece of property. When Matt does arrive, he will be no different: one of the swiveling lenses within a dome of bulletproof glass will roll and twist, tracking his approach.

(Your guest is here.)

/I see him./

—-

What the security cam finds is nothing like the obvious sort of threat it is presumably meant to identify and track. Now, last night would have been a different story, when Matt Murdock was decked in his mail-order ninja gear, prowling Gotham's glitzy neighborhoods like a cat-burglar. But today, Quilted jacket, dark cords, winter boots, and a clean shave, he's (largely) back to being the unassuming, soft-spoken twenty-something he shows to the world in most of its waking hours.

That isn't to say he's entirely reverted to form. Some of the euphoria from last night's wildly successful brawl remains, straightening his back and putting a spring in his otherwise careful steps. It's not every day you stave off an ambush of extraterrestrials, and the victory is just the latest in a series of small but literally palpable victories with Manhattan's more convential brand of villains. Matt has had a good run the last few weeks, and it shows in a dozen subtle cues that even a pair of rounded lenses can't hide. He's feeling good.

"Thanks," he's saying with two quick pats to the hood of the Uber that brought him right to the front entrance of the bayside warehouse before the vehicle rolls on. Stretching out his walking stick he makes his way into the space; all his powers of curiosity and imagination brought to bear on the environs. He feels the mechanical eye on him, senses its movement in time with his deliberative steps; he smells the half-finished Chinese food, the greases and oils and lighter fluid; and hears the work of his host deeper in the belly of the cavernous beast.

"Kinsey?" he calls out into the expanse as he walks without any obvious aim.

—-

"Hey!" Muffled, echoing.

"I'm back here! Uh — I'll be over in a second. The floor's pretty much clear, so you shouldn't have" Muttered: 'Ow!' "to dodge much."

Most of her attention sits with the work she's doing, twisted around inside of the minute space available within the outer shell to work on something faulty in the electrical system of the aircraft, but there are parts of her that track his progress into the space, and in her own way, she senses as much about him for those brief few moments as he senses about /her/. Sensitive equipment affixed to the walls and ceiling monitor his progress through the space, charting his heat signature, sensing the presence of hidden metal objects of substantial size on all of her clients who walk through that door. His face is scanned by facial recognition software and would have been uploaded to Five's database, had it not already been put there by their first meetings.

She slowly extracts herself. One shell-toe shoe touches down on the cement, the other eventually following, metal dully ringing as her jean-clad backside slides over the lip of the space revealed by the removal of that side panel.

She dusts her hands on the sides of her hips, straightens her shirt, tosses aside a pair of wire cutters with a quiet bang on the tray atop one of the tool chests.

She waits until she gets closer to say anything. "Hey Matt. How's it going? Found the place alright?"

—-

Matt's course alters as she calls out, the walking stick clack-clacking its half-moon arcs in the general direction of her voice and the quiet commotion she causes with her disentanglement from the helicopter. "Yeah, no trouble," Matt answers with a smile, warm and open-mouthed as he continues his amble. "And I'm doing — ah. Really well." His brow crinkles, as if he were puzzled by his own answer.

Footfalls bring him to a closer, more companionable distance, and then he's adding, "How've you been? This must be some place you have here," he adds with a gesture of his walking stick towards the space around them. "It /sounds/ big, if that makes any sense at all."

—-

"Of course, it makes perfect sense. Human beings are usually able to tell the size of an interior space from the way sound carries in it. The materials being used, whether it's full or empty. Which I don't have to tell you, right? But most of the rest of us do it without realizing we're doing it."

Science!

"I've had…an interesting week, actually. You probably heard about the thing at the charity auction. …You want something to drink? I've got tea, coffee, water…mmmm, maybe some soda." Alcohol is very distinctly not in the offing, for whatever reason. Maybe because he's here for her to strap rocket boots to.

In the distance, the bay doors begin to slowly roll closed, all on their own. "I'll just close up a little bit early. I don't have any other appointments and this thing I'm working on will probably keep me busy for the next two days, anyway."

—-

"Of course the scientist knows," Matt says dryly of that digression as he plants his walking stick tip-down on the concrete floor clasping the handle with both palms.

But then she's mentioning the auction and his dark brows are shooting straight up. "Wait, you were there at the auction too?" he asks, mildly incredulous. "That's crazy. Foggy begged me to go see if I could make some connections, maybe make inroads for the firm across the Hudson. Un-real. I've never heard anything like it, though I? well. I got shepherded out by someone there pretty quickly when the weirdness first started." A beat, a grimace, and then: "Wow, glad you're OK. What a night."

"And, uh, yeah, thanks, I'll take a water for right now," he says on her offer of refreshment, "Somehow I don't think getting the heart humming on caffeine before launching into the air on rocket-boots is the right play. Though you can tell me if I'm wrong on that count, test-pilot."

Another beat, a bemused chuckle. "So, we are /actually/ doing this, aren't we?"

—-

Leaving him for the moment, Kinsey makes her way toward the interior building in the back right, along one side of which is a table containing a coffee machine, magazines, mugs, cups, and beneath which sits a mini-fridge. There are second-hand waiting room chairs beside it for those of her clients who decide to stay while she works. It's the mini-fridge she wants, dropping into one of those crouches that flouts gravity. "My parents were invited. They didn't plan to go, so I took their plus-one spot. I can't decide if I'm glad I did or not. I don't remember much about it, I took a pretty hard knock to the head right around the time everything went crazy. I remember hitting the floor." Which is mostly true. Not a physical knock, but still, though… "And then someone…"

/Picked me up and jumped thirty meters over the crowd to put me down behind the bar./

"…dragged me behind the bar, out of the way. There was a lot of screaming, but I couldn't see what was going on, with the dark and the — well, the bar. I dimly remember there being some fighting behind the bar, and…" She pushes the door of the fridge closed, rises from her crouch and turns back to face him, her expression dancing between amusement, lingering, mild incredulity, and something else more difficult to describe. "And then Spider-Man picked up and carried me off to safety. Which meant sticking me to the ceiling." The amusement blossoms, gaining momentum and realizing itself in a full smile as she closes the distance again. She shakes her head slowly. "You read about him in the papers and it makes you think he's some kind of monster, right?" She holds out the water bottle, then remembers, reaches for his cuff with one hand, and presses the bottle into that hand with her other.

The 'something else' in her tone turns out to be — what, exactly? Bashful, impressed, embarrassed. Wistful? She was rescued by a /super hero/. This is how fan-girls are born. "He seemed nice, though." Pause, remembering. Admitting: "Maybe also a little bit awkward. And /yes/," she continues, with a renewal of a smile that could dazzle even in broad daylight. "We are. Unless Mr. Daredevil is getting himself a case of cold feet."

—-

Proof that the universe has a sense of karmic justice, or at least a wry appreciation for reciprocity, came at 5:47 p.m. ET on Jan. 8, 2017, when one aspiring hero Matt Murdock felt an inexplicable and quickly suppressed flash of jealousy over the (in)famous Spider-Man exactly eight days, twenty-two hours and thirteen minutes after the thoroughly adorkable, nineteen-year-old Peter Parker beat himself up over being less put together than some blind dude in a tux at the Gotham Antiquities Commission Gala.

At some point during her story, Matt's folding his walking stick into the crook of his arm so he can open that water bottle and taking a long swig, thankful for a bit of glass, wire, and plastic to obscure the majority of his features from sight. It's her final comment that sees him smiling into the drink. "You know, I knew that one was going to get me in trouble as soon as I said it," Matt admits after a swallow, all self-deprecatory humor. Bragging to a pretty girl about anything never ends well. An exhale, a hard bite of a grin. "What the hell? Let's do this."

"But seriously, though, Kinsey, that's all just crazy," he's adding as he straightens himself up, screws back on the cap and recaptures his prop by the handle, steeling himself internally for all manner of rocket-booted mishaps. "I always thought the slinging from the buildings sounded pretty cool, though I'm not sure how much I'd like to be glued to the ceiling."

—-

"A lot of things can get you into trouble around me," says Kinsey, smile wide and close-lipped but sharp, bright in the eyes. "That's what happens when you spend time with people who see boundaries as challenges. We start to get ideas. Go ahead and take off your coat and shoes. I'll grab them in a minute. I think I've figured out a way to make this…you know, not awkward for you."

She pivots and crosses the floor again, over to the workbench that lines most of the right-hand wall. Hanging from a tool board above it is a harness, and an extremely long coil of tether, sheathed in bunching nylon that suggests the ability to stretch. She hooks that over one shoulder and drapes the harness over the other, and then she's off to a set of heavy-duty lockers at the end of that wall where it meets the interior building. "I can tell you I'd rather not be glued to a ceiling a second time, for whatever that's worth," she says. "Or glued at all."

She touches the scanning pad in the front of the locker, and it pops and yawns open. The rocket boots are sitting inside on top of a folded towel. They're slightly lower than knee high, a mix of materials — brown and black leather, or something that looks like leather, with multiple catches and rivets to reinforce them against the thrust of the rockets attached to the outside of either boot, present in the form of fairly small cylinders, perhaps the size of a truncated flashlight. Sitting beside them on the towel is a single leather glove with a switch on the palm.

She bundles these into her arms, carries them back to him. "I'm pretty sure they'll fit. The guy they belong to is about two inches taller than you are."

She drops into a limber crouch beside a new fixture on the garage floor: a heavy metal plate bolted down into the concrete with an inch-thick metal ring in the center of it. Slowly, she begins to divest herself of items. "I put together a tether that will give you some elastic resistance before you hit the end of the line, so you'll have a good amount of warning. The hard limit is ten feet from every wall, and the ceiling. Place is pretty big, so you'll have plenty of room to mess around. I…did wind up taking cues from a toddler harness, though. Sorry."

—-

"Yeah, I'll bet," Matt shoots back at Kinsey's talk of trouble as he contents himself, for the moment, to be the guinea pig in waiting. Powers or no powers, roof-hopping or no roof-hopping, what's being proposed here tests the limits of his experience and under ordinary circumstances might find him more on edge. But he's feeling loose, confident, even brash after last night's rush of a fight.

/Hell yeah I can fly/, is the gist.

But while he's following her instructions, setting his walking stick down and doffing his coat to reveal a dark and untucked chambray shirt, then pulling off his shoes with a few tugs and well-balanced hops, he's also watching in the way only he can. He's taking in the sounds of fingers on pad and of opening lockers, absorbing whatever ALIEN SCENTS might be discerned as the boots are revealed.

"That's a lot of rope you're giving me to hang myself with," he's saying to talk of the tether as he pulls off his glasses and let's them rest on the arch of one boot, one handle tucked under one lace for bracing. The difference is even more dramatic than one might expect; for Matt more than most, the eyes are unshuttered windows to the soul. Big, dark, expressive, they convey worlds of emotion he'd almost certainly rather hide from nearly everyone 99% of the time. Today, a certain strain of boyish enthusiasm. On other days — other things.

"Kinsey, if I wasn't fully prepared to throw my dignity on top of a garbage fire, I wouldn't be here," he says to talk of a harness with a quick flash of a grin and then a definitive nod. "Bring it. Let's break some limits."

—-

The most alien scent of the boots is going to be the smell of Peter Quill's /feet/. Beyond that, there's no fuel smell, perhaps an ozone residue. Whatever power source is being utilized, it is distinctly non-terrestrial — which he probably didn't need his nose to discern, given the lack of a massive fuel tank.

Kinsey drops one knee to the floor and leans, securing the heavy-duty caribiner at the end of the tether to the loop on the plate. She connects the other end to one of the harness straps, and then gets to her feet and starts to eye his frame, adjusting strap lengths through pull-buckles by estimation. "It's a lot of rope, but you'd have to try pretty hard to hang yourself with it. I had these visions of you spinning in helpless circles at the end of a taut line and I thought I'd spare us both the embarrassment. This way, at least you'll be able to maneuver, yeah? Arms out, attorney. I'm gonna buckle you up. Everything should feel fitted, but not tight. And you can put this—" She pauses, leans waaaaay over, snares the glove from the top of the boots with two fingers, and then reaches to tuck it into his hand, "On. Just don't fool with the switch in the palm yet, unless you want me to spend the next hour chasing around unmanned rocket boots." Pause.

"Scratch that. Don't fool with it even if you do."

—-

"Yes ma'am," Matt answers to the call for arms out, adopting the position of the cross with no small measure of gallows humor. Said frame is a bit sturdier than one might expect for a blind white-collar professional; fit enough to fly, for sure, unless he goes careening headlong into the concrete floor somehow. She's buckling, tightening, and he barely suppresses a hitch in his breath as the straps dig into the shoulder where one of those insect-things got in one good hit. He can take it, and he can even laugh when she's painting a picture of him spinning mindlessly in semicircles around a tether. "I'd never do that," he says of sending her chasing, lips bent downward as he shakes his head with all the moral authority he can muster. Convincing, but short lived. "I'd never even be able to see you chasing them."

"So, question," he's adding speculatively as all this rigging goes on and he is, for the moment, largely a passive participant in the whole business, "the point of this originally was that I doubted you had alien rocket boots in your garage. And while I actually really appreciate the demonstration — why should flying around in these convince me they're anything other than military-grade hardware or some Tony Stark knock-off one of your clients wants you to fix?"

It's silly, his arch protestations. He knows there are aliens. He just knocked a bunch of them around with bizarre, oversized tasers. But the fiction, and the banter, has a life of its own.

—-

"I suppose that's a fair question, coming from someone who isn't an engineer. The size-to-thrust ratio for these rockets is impossible utilizing any power source found on earth. And Tony Stark, well…" She sniffs. It sounds…judgemental. "/Hm./ Let's just say he's had help. Even the Mandroid armors he produced for the Knightwatch can't run for very long, and they utilize thermoelectric radioisotope electric generators. Fifty-thousand watts of energy may sound like a lot, but it /costs/. And that is /primitive/ technology, he's just put a shiny bow on top." Her disenchantment with Stark is /palpable/.

"Meanwhile, these tiny little rockets on these boots may never run out of a power source, as near as I can tell. They're utilizing a material catalyst that I can't even detect diminishing while in use. It's not terrestrial." She ducks beneath his arm, swings around to the front, and buckles him twice, once over the chest and beneath the arms, once lower, below the upward expansion of the ribs.

There is a pause.

"What do you spend your spare time doing, Murdock? Wrestling bears?" Another pause. "You're not into /Crossfit/, are you?" Her tone suggests this would be a strike against whatever esteem he's built for himself.

—-

'Gibberish gibberish gibberish gibberish,' is what she says to the man who chose one of the few graduate degrees of distinction where no kind of testing in math or science is required. The truth is that Matt actually knows a great deal about the physical world, because he experiences it in deeper and more unusual ways than most of his species; but it's all practical, nearly instinctual knowledge untainted by any of her rarefied education.

"If I were Tony Stark I'm sure I'd be green with envy. Sadly, I'm pretty sure the miracle of all this alien engineering will be totally wasted on me," admits the literal altar boy with a slightly apologetic smile as the final buckles and belts are fastened. "But if it's any consolation, I'll still enjoy the ride." Unless it goes terribly, terribly wrong, goes the internal addition.

And then she's talking about bears and cross-fit, just roundabout enough that it takes him a handful of heartbeats to take her meaning. "Oh," Matt says, ducking his chin with a little puff of a chuckle, some combination of flattered and embarrassed. "Uh. Genes, I guess. My dad was a boxer, and… I dunno. I go to his old gym at odd hours and pay a guy to spot me."

—-

"If you enjoy the ride then it isn't wasted, is it?" So says Kinsey Sheridan, whose life's pleasures have become significantly less complex, more straightforward, in the time since her accident.

She double-checks all of the secure fastenings one last time, and then one well-shaped brow rises slowly in answer to something said in all of those humble demurrals about his physical condition. "Nobody," she says, prodding down his abdomen with the tip of an index finger, "Gets this from genetics." And then she's immediately forced to pin caveats to that statement: "Except Superman, probably. Or one of the mutants. Look, you know what I mean." For Matt, Kinsey being right-handed without a right hand to speak of, the moment is a small introduction to some of the subtleties of the prosthetic being used: it's lighter than a real arm would be. Electrical currents maintain the proper body temperature. There is a network of very thin, liquid-filled tubes just beneath the surface, and those tubes have a pulse, incredibly enough, though they feel nothing like veins beneath skin.

Taking one step back, she places her hands on her hips. "Alright, Rocket Man, I think you're ready for take-off. I'll get your coat and shoes out of the — oh, wait. I almost forgot."

She slips away to snap up his belongings, trotting with them to the workbench and setting them neatly down. When she returns, it's with a helmet. A skateboarding helmet, to be precise.

She holds it in both hands and extends it until it taps him lightly on the chest, a cue for him to take it. "Safety first, etcetera. Please don't die on my property, Matt. I can't afford any more insurance than I'm already paying for."

—-

It might otherwise be a brief moment of frisson for Matt Murdock, some young woman he's displayed some interest in complimenting his frame and bringing a finger down his stomach. And there's an element of that, even as unusual as these circumstances are. But the revelation of her prosthetic — in its own way light-years more alien to him than some rocket-boot — qualifies the moment's character and sets him off balance.

"I'm no Superman," Matt passes it off with a slight smile, a dismissive shrug of his shoulders. "I just don't sleep much. I always feel like I some have energy to burn. So at night, I do." An odd statement, perhaps, from a man who, at least in her experience with him to date, has been more marked by stillness than any fidgety excess.

And then she's coming back to him with a helmet, and a little of that wry humor returns. "Great. Glad I'm getting all that special Top Gun equipment to keep me safe, Sheridan," he says as his hands feel around the contours of his helmet. "I'll try not to die. And I'll even promise this: If I get hurt? I promise not to sue. Cross my heart."

Helmet donned, the lawyer spreads his hands. "What's next, lady?"

—-

He promises not to sue, and Kinsey, solemn, says: "You're a scholar and a gentleman. Also, you should know I have no money." And, "Make sure you fasten the chin strap."

Then there's nothing left but the thing itself, and the young woman with the dark hair experiences a mild pang of apprehension. It ought to be safe enough. She's thought things through. She stress-tested the boots herself to make sure they weren't going to fail out from underneath him. Assuming he maintains control, everything should be fine, but she knows so little about him — what if he panics? What if he gets disoriented and just…falls out of the sky?

It's too late for second thoughts, though, and the only way through is forward. "The glove has a remote control in the palm. It's clicked to 'off,' sliding it in the other direction increases the amount of thrust. Very, very simple. The curve isn't too sheer but try not to jam on it straight away, yeah? You're gonna want to take a minute to get a feel for things."

She reaches out and takes one of his hands in a position very like she might kiss it, fingers curled over, so that his hand is braced atop her knuckles. "You can use me for balance but I don't think it'll take you very long. It's surprisingly intuitive."

—-

When she takes his hand to steady him, and he offers a smile that expresses equal parts apprehension and something almost giddy as he fastens the chin-strap. "Got it," he says.

Neither emotion is feigned. He shares (some) of her apprehension, even if he is far more abled than she could begin to suspect. Part of that stems from that continued artifice the dogged insistence on pretending he's just ordinarily blind. It introduces a host of complications to what would otherwise likely be a manageable learning curve. It's hard enough learning to learn a new skill without feeling like you've got to tie one hand behind your back on your first go.

But that is more than outweighed by anticipation. In the past three weeks Matt Murdock has come as close to flight as a man can without aid of technology or relevant superpowers. In those running midnight leaps between rooftop ledges he's experienced milliseconds of balletic soaring right before that hard crash into the ground or grapple with the fire escape. He's not Superman, not hardly, but in those fleeting moments, some part of him surely wishes the chemicals he'd been doused with as a ten-year-old kid had done a bit more for him than allow him to suss out what his conversation partner had for breakfast three mornings earlier.

/Well, here's your chance, Murdock./ And so he takes it; a press of his free palm and ignition! A blast of fire and sound sees him lurch upward, if wobblingly so, and still reaching down to keep a slightly tighter grip on her hand.

"Oh, shit!" Matt barks out in a laugh at that first upward jolt, even if the blue flame jetting out of the boots only lifts him a mere foot off the ground. "Okay, okay this is, hah. I've got to admit. This is pretty fucking cool, Kinsey."

His sense of balance is refined but complex, dependent both an acute internal awareness and a picture put together from the ricochet of sound waves along the arcs and planes of the cavernous space around them. It's a delicate but powerful quality that seems to hold despite the introduction of a whole new sphere of movement. And so he presses forward, giving himself a little more gas and relinquishing her grip with a: "You're going to tell me if I'm close to hitting anything right? Like, you know, the ground."

—-

Kinsey watches with a critical eye, the better to intervene if things appear to be sliding sideways. She tenses when he wobbles, something he'll feel as a springy sort of readiness in her artificial limb — that's a subtle cue that that shouldn't be /possible/, an instinctual muscular response — but he doesn't wobble any more than anyone else might in the same situation, and when he feels secure enough to let go of her hand, she makes no protest.

By then she's smiling anyway, the smile that cuts closest to who she is. The one she wore when her first trials came back with statistically significant confirmations of her theories. The one she wore the first time she sat in a pilot's chair, or tried on one of the elaborate prosthetics she made for herself. An ignition provoked by discovery and beating some unquantifiable odds. It is as close a thing to pure joy as she has ever known, and she is not immune to experiencing it by osmosis, in his laugh and the broken sentence, the quick dip into profanity from someone who has seemed, in what few moments they've spent together, to be more uptown than that.

Well, his father /was/ a boxer, right? And Irish.

"Right?" she says, of the boots, and how cool they are. Because they /are/.

Once she's been released, he'll hear her take several long steps backward to clear out of his way, though she doesn't retreat so far that she couldn't dash in if necessary. "No, I'm just going to let you smash into things until you're concussed, and then take your wallet," she says, dry as the desert sands. Her voice is raised enough to carry over the white noise of the ignited rockets.

"Of course I'll tell you! But the way I've set things up, I shouldn't have to, as long as you pay attention. The line's gonna give you some additional resistance for ten feet or so before it hits its hard limit, so just…try to pay attention to that and you won't have to put up with any sudden stops."

—-

"Pay attention," Matt repeats over the din, of that quality he needs to keep himself alive and un-concussed. "I can do that!" And then he /is/ paying attention to all of it. That sense of momentum, of anything /but/ weightlessness that still leaves him somehow going up and up and up. Matt is laughing again, filled with improbable and incredulous joy as he rises two feet, three feet, four feet above the ground. It's painstakingly slow at first, almost as if he were hovering more than shooting upward. And it is, because of that caution, a /mostly/ smooth rise, even if at one point there's a a sudden jolt to his right and a jittery course-correct as he fiddles with the directional controls.

The ascent is reminiscent of little leaps forward for him, too. The first time he blocked one of Stick's punches, or the first time he snuck out of the orphanage in the middle of the night all by his lonesome. Even the first time he won a fight, though in that case the euphoria was quickly tainted by a host of doubts and recriminations. Here it's only slightly alloyed by his deceit, a tinge of regret both for the subterfuge itself and for the way it keeps him from REALLY taking these babies for a spin. But most of his public life is spent with self-imposed limits, and in this case, even this tentative and cautious rise is /enough/.

At first. He's getting more daring, smoothing out his upward jolts, beginning to zig and zag upward. Though even while he's making that tentative climb, he'll make some room for the practical. "Hey, Kinsey how am I supposed to, uh, bring myself back down, anyway? Do I cut off the gas, or point myself back down, or… what? Because I've never actually seen any of the sci-fi shows where they do stuff like this…"

—-

The directional controls are, of course, his feet. The angle of his legs. And that may be strange initially, but he's got more sense of momentum and trajectory than most. Angles and speed, force and inertia — that's all it is. It's just not his muscles providing the forward thrust anymore.

"You'll want to balance yourself out with your feet aiming straight down, and then slowly ease back on the thrust. It should bring you down pretty slowly as long you don't move the slider too quickly."

Which is not how Kinsey chose to disembark, once she had the hang of things: she'd swept down the length of the hangar, cut the gas and dropped into a run just to see if she could. Came in just a little bit too hot and nearly stumbled forward over her own feet to go crashing into the pavement, narrowly avoiding that spill. And she'd done that because she has every intention of building herself a pair of prosthetics that include /rockets/, now that she has a mental schematic of the technology.

Where she's going to get the fuel source, well…

…she'll figure that bit out when she gets to it.

"Usually they aren't controlled via the palm device," she adds, sliding her thumbs into her back pockets and taking a few more steps back as he seems to get more in touch with his center of balance. "There's a system in there keyed to the owner's biosignature, part of a larger set of interconnected systems, and I don't — I don't exactly know how that works, yet, but I'm figuring it out."

—-

"Okay!" Matt shouts back at that very sensible explanation. And apparently the blind attorney feels a bit more confident going up now that some path downward has been explained; he adds some thrust and fairly well /shoots/ ten feet ceiling ward with a blast of blue flame. It's no longer a smooth line upward; he introduces arcs and variances for verisimilitude and, frankly, to have a little fun with it all. To wit, the: "WOOO!" he shouts out as he gains ground.

The rope is giving and giving as he weaves his way upward, though it's approaching its warning stage; ten feet left. "Do me a favor and keep talking, alright?" Matt is shouting down from his lofty position. "I'm pretty certain my sense of direction's going to go pretty well haywire up here, so I'll just orient myself by your voice. Cool?"

And he'll even help her along: "So you don't know how it all works yet, but you're 'figuring it out.' Let me guess: you're totally going to try to build yourself some alien rocket boots, aren't you?" A beat, and then a shouted: "Not that I can blame you!"

And then he's testing out some of that directional sense, giving himself some thrust while he makes a rightward turn and zooms towards the west wall, smile wide. "JESUS CHRIST!" he shouts, happily.

—-

Kinsey spends most of her day silent. She lives alone, she works in a lab beneath the floor under their feet — completely insulated from scans of all types, save seismic readings, perhaps — and the one individual in her life that regularly engages her on various topics exists within the bounding bone confines of her own skull. She doesn't spend a lot of that time speaking. Not even her workday requires it, though she's been known to mumble-sing along with whatever's playing over the speakers.

And that is not because she's by nature a silent person, though she trends toward wry soft-spokenness. So it's nothing, really, for her to satisfy his request, particularly when he engages her about her work. It's something so new and interesting that she neglects to consider whether or not it's a good idea to talk about it, given what she plans to /do/ with those rocket boots: i.e., make them part of Six's regular kit. But he's just /some guy/, right? And there are a lot of rocket-boot-wearing extranormals and metahumans in the area.

I'm totally going to build myself some rocket boots," she agrees, and the last few words tumble over the rapids of a small laugh. "They weren't sure how they were going to pay me for the work, but I figure they can find some of the fuel source for me, and I can puzzle through the rest. I'd make modifications, obviously. Those boots aren't exactly my style."

There's a /very/ brief pause. "I'm not sure exactly what the legality of using them in New York City is, but I'm gonna go ahead and trust that my new lawyer friend isn't going to suffer a crisis of conscience and turn me in for having too much unlawful fun. And I'm willing to bribe him with regular access to a pair of reverse-engineered rocket boots."

His shouts from up on high don't sound much different from hers, when she was holed up here all alone, giving them a try for the first time. Less gracefully than he is, actually, for two reasons: one, she was considerably more reckless about it, and two, she's still a very visual creature, and visual information has less to offer someone using those boots than all of the fine, internal instruments that keep a person balanced. In that, paradoxically, he is actually better-equipped than she was. She watches with sympathetic pleasure and no little professional pride. They work just as well, she thinks, as they were supposed to before they were brought in. Not bad, considering they'd looked like an elephant had run them over. Maybe a whole herd of them. "Now I have to ask myself how many other interesting things they have access to. They offered me a flight on their ship. Into /space/. Which — that's great, obviously, but I don't even know the guy, and I feel awkward getting into Ubers. I bet they've got some fun stuff, though. I invited the, uh. Raccoon?" Not sure about that. He /looks/ like a raccoon… "…out to dinner. I'll have to do a little digging. Do you think raccoons get chatty after a couple of glasses of wine?"

Yep. That's a sentence that she just said.

—-

A torrent of words from Kinsey, and silence at first from Matt. Maybe he's just enjoying the careening, seemingly aimless flight through the open air of the hanger, too caught up in the unprecedented moment to answer. Maybe he's not even listening to her. Or maybe, from the way he slows down the thrust and lowers his feet down to hover some eight feet above where he heard that voice, he was surprised into silence by her last go-round. "Wait, wait, wait, I'm sorry, did you just say you asked the alien /raccoon/ demolitionist out on a date?" Matt asks, chortling incredulity, practically tickled. "Oh, man. Kinsey Sheridan, intergalactic space traveler. I thought you said your life was boring!"

And then he's whooshing east, faster this time, confident, even elegant, tether snaking its way behind him in zigs and zags. "Anyway," he shouts over his shoulder, because strictly speaking he doesn't have to look where he's going. "You let me zip around in something like this once in a while, I'll go one better and even represent you pro bono when you're inevitably ticketed by the cops. How's /that/ for a sweet deal?!"

—-

Kinsey scoffs, and it would be below the point of hearing for anybody other than Matt, or some metahuman equivalent. "It's not a /date/. That's — I'm pretty sure that would be /illegal./" This far north, anyway.

Why does everyone want it to be a date..?

"It's the details that are boring," she insists. "Not the broad picture! You know, I don't have a very exciting routine. And going to dinner with a sentient raccoon is, you know. That's mostly just…weird. …Why am I trying to defend myself to you!"

She folds her arms across her middle, laced over the lean slant of her ribs, and is mollified by his offer of help, at least. "Sounds like a pretty good deal to me. You stick around long enough, and you keep to yourself that I'm going to dinner with a sentient raccoon, and maybe I'll even build you your own set."

/Incentive!/

—-

Matt makes no effort whatsoever to hide his laugh at her protestations; it's by nature quiet, but between his current state of exuberance and the rooms echo it's surely audible enough to her.

He's well past getting a feel for this; quick study that he is. He seems uninterested in pushing limits to her level, and perhaps from her limited vantage understandably so. When he feels the tightness of the rope at the far east end he comes to a slow, he circles around again for another burst of speed upwards and westward. He's looping, swerving, joyous; the public persona and the private at this instant unified, integrated. She offers him incentive indeed, because at this very moment he's thinking: /Jesus, I have got to get me some of these./

His is a low-tech heroism by necessity. His current costume was cobbled together on Amazon Prime. He has none of Iron Man's protection or propulsion, nor Superman's invulnerability, nor or even Batman's bottomless bag of gadgets. But Jesus, what he could do with just a little help! His life to date has been about making due with a few advantages, turning apparent weakness into hidden strengths. He's on the rise with a mail-order ninja suit; what could he accomplish with more?

The thoughts are fleeting, born of a point in time when he feels his star on the rise. That buoyancy won't last much beyond the week; hes due for a hard fall and he'll get it. But here, now, he imagines possibilities beyond the neighborhood and city he loves so fiercely, and allows himself to be seduced by intimations of the wider world worlds, really beyond his own. It feels good to imagine it.

"Done and done," hes saying as he coasts by her. Honestly, I don't know who I'd even tell that would believe me. That smile seems plastered to his features. "So your night out with the, uh, alien rodent stays between us." A beat. "Christ, what restaurant are you even going to take him to? I've heard Gothamists have a weird sense of style… but you two are /gonna/ stand out."

Then he sucks in a breath. "OK. One more lap!" And he's off!

—-

The question he asks is a good one. It's especially good because Kinsey hadn't really given it any thought until he asked it; she's accustomed enough to the idea of extranormal entities — and habituated to environments full of people who also know about them, working as she did with the DEO, and spending all of her working life…well, at work, really, rarely coming home — that it never even occurred to her.

"Huh," is her eloquent first answer. She braces her elbow on her wrist, brings the fingers of her right hand up to rest on the point of her chin. There is no socially accessible answer for her, no cuisine type that promises a dining experience bereft of strange looks from their fellow diners, and so: "I guess that depends on what kind of food he likes. I haven't had Indian in forever. Also, raccoons aren't rodents, you know! They're in the order Carnivora, not Rodentia."

Which doesn't matter even the /slightest/ bit, but people like Kinsey cannot help themselves. "Besides — he carries around a rocket launcher bigger than he is. You just don't call somebody like that a rat if you can help it. How they haven't gotten arrested yet, I honestly don't know."

—-

"Jesus, Kinsey!" Matt protests from afar to lectures on the closest common ancestors of bushy-tailed, garbage-eating mammals. His arms are flung forward and ball-fisted like Superman as he jets towards the west wall. "You're killing my high, here!" Says the new member of the bar. "Besides," he's adding as he makes his reluctant, lazy wind-down of a lap. "I'm no scientist or anything, but doesn't a raccoon from outer space throw a few kinks in prevailing theories of evolution, anyway? Two identical species developing, concurrently but independently, across millions of light-years. And the part you're really gonna balk at is a mis-ordering?"

He brings himself upright near her, as naturally as if he were swimming in a pool water — more naturally, even, since genuine submergence meddles with his augmented senses in the most unnevering of ways — and summons in a deep breath, abdomen expanding and then releasing, before he begins to gently lower the thrust. "Tell me when I'm close to the ground, will you?" he asks, satisfaction and reluctance both finding their muted measure in his soft tone.

—-

She has the decency to color a little when he calls her on her egregious nerding, rose hues painted on high cheekbones, but he only gets a laugh for his trouble — no apology. She is what she is. "I don't know if that's how it actually went down. Maybe he was the byproduct of a laboratory experiment on Earth, and he wound up in space some other way. I didn't ask. It didn't seem appropriate." As he coasts back across the distance of the hangar toward her position — which he does remarkably well, for a man estimating her position based on sound, she thinks — she unfolds her arms and readies to help him if he needs it. "I'll keep that in mind from now on, though. Make a note next to your name in my contacts list. 'Matthew Murdock: thinks facts are a buzzkill.'"

Hazel eyes evaluate his loft as it decreases, watching for wobbles. The noise of the rockets dulls in proportion to the thrust they produce, and she dials back her volume appropriately. "You've got about a meter and a half left."

—-

"Facts?" Matt asks with mock incredulity as he descends. "Lawyers don't give a damn about facts." Then the grin flashes, white and broad. "Or if we do, we only give them for the material ones." She watches for wobbles, and he offers her a few; they're to be expected as momentum and velocity decrease. He brings his hands out to either side to steady himself as best he can, seemingly unsure of how to navigate those last inches of distance, the impact itself.

He may be more mobile than she ever has reason to suspect, but the end of the venture still comes with a powerful sense of loss. Whatever his special gifts, travel on anything other than mass transit and his own two feet — however fleet they may be — has always proved elusive. Cars are a non-starter. Genuine flight? When will he have a chance to experience something like that again?

—-

"If I'm being fair," says Kinsey, reaching out to place a steadying hand beneath one of his elbows, slim fingers curled over the promontory of bone in the bend, "I only selectively care about facts. After you've done your first impossible thing — just a foot now — you stop making so many assumptions about what everybody assumes to be true."

She lingers for moments after he finally touches the ground, in case his inner ear hasn't quite caught the memo that they're no longer gliding and tilting at will.

"It makes the world a little less safe, but also a lot more interesting. But then, I've always wanted to know the truth about everything." The curve of her mouth adopts a rueful slant, tilting toward apology, though not in ill humor. "Then again, I'm not an attorney. I imagine always knowing the truth would just complicate your job. You feeling steady on your feet? Not going to take a dive for a last-minute broken bone?"

—-

Rocket-booted feet make contact with concrete; his body tips forward from the waist briefly but otherwise holds steady. "Nah, no dive or broken bones," Matt assures her, before making the wry addition: "You just admitted you don't have any money," For all that assurance, it's a moment further of steadying before he takes in another long breath, and with it a tentative step forward.

"Well, Kinsey Sheridan, here's a fact to sate your curiosity," he adds in that soft-spoken tone, temporarily leaving (most of) that ribbing humor by the wayside. He can't actually make eye contact. It's not a matter of feigning. Even with all of Matt Murdock's extranormal powers, that simple and fundamental act of human connection is beyond him. But even if those still, dark pools are misaimed, they are alive and alight with appreciation in the moment. "Guys like me don't get to do something like that every day — or, you know, ever. It took thought, and planning, and care. And… well. I can't thank you enough."

—-

He'll feel the changes in the pressure of the air around him when she laughs, more than hearing anything other than breath, interrupted along a staccato cadence somewhere down in her chest. "I don't. I really don't. You're standing on everything I have."

And this is more true than he knows: underneath his feet, a cutting-edge laboratory and sleeping VTOL craft, the most valuable things she owns. All of the accumulated accessories of her other life.

His tone softens her humor, he piques her interest with the promise of a fact of his own, and then tugs just a little bit at her heartstrings with the way he frames his gratitude. "Nah. It was nothing, honestly. No trouble. And it was fun." She tilts her head, sweeps gold-green eyes over a face she doesn't often see without the glasses. It's remarkable how much such a simple thing can change one's access to the subtleties of anyone's expressions, enough to interrupt the most basic of perceptions — which is, she supposes, why professional poker players wear them so often, positioning of the irises aside. She takes advantage of that while she can.

"I'm not sure I follow you there, though. 'Guys like me.' Who are 'guys like you,' exactly?"

—-

Gratitude offered, and accepted. But then there's more. She presses her advantage and he ducks his head and smiles. "Insatiably curious, apparently," Matt says dryly, humor rushing back in a mixture of something quietly astonished and longsuffering at once. That cocktail is not anywhere near as sturdy a shield as his shades, but Matt's always been good at using the weapons available to him. "Every answer leads to another question."

He's a lawyer, so of course he has a bit of a ham in him. Question asked, demurral made, he lets silence rule while he occupies his time with unfastening the chin-strap of his ridiculous helmet and pulling it off his now, assuredly, floppy-haired head. "And that's a pretty deep question, as they go. I suppose, in the moment, I meant, 'Guys whose eyes don't work.' Any amount of daredeviling is beyond most of us, most of the time." A beat, a loft of his chocolate brows above an unfixed gaze, smile apologetic. "Anything past that, you're going to have to offer me a beer, or let me take you out. I'm Catholic, Kinsey; alcohol is required for any real confession."

—-

Had Matt declined to answer the question, she wouldn't have pressed. She knows what it is to guard parts of yourself — even the ones you accidentally make reference to in mixed company, wishing moments later that you had better defenses against making that kind of mistake. And she does assume, at first, that that's what he's going to do, leave her question unanswered by anything save teasing in riposte.

"Ah," she says quietly, when the answer comes, beneath the cascade of his other words. It's sympathetic, but also unconvinced, a complex braiding-together of sentiments for such a short little sound, and any elaboration she might give as to why has to wait until after she's broken into a sharp, dry, arch laugh, reaching for the helmet he's holding as one of her brows scrawls up over the altitude of the other. "Catholicism is a recessive trait in my family. I think we can definitely count on a beer or two in the future." Bending, she sets the helmet down, reaches with careful fingers to begin unbuckling the harness keeping him chained to her garage floor. And perhaps in light of the subject of conversation, those fingertips deftly manage to avoid making contact with his person, releasing all of the fastenings with only a sense of pressure, followed by the more widespread release of the same. "But if you're a /practicing/ Catholic you might not want to take me out, Matt, unless you /really/ like hanging out in confessionals. I think I'm probably a bad influence."

She frames it like a joke, but he'd be able to tell, with that strange, bullshit truth detector of his: underneath the humor, she believes what she says. "/But/, I'm the bad influence who can tell you that with the right friends — that's me, in case you were wondering — there probably isn't much that could be beyond 'most of you, most of the time.' 'Guys whose eyes don't work,' I mean. Turn your nose up at facts all you like, Murdock, but science is capable of remarkable things." As she circles around behind him, she leans in with a playful, "And so am I." She gets ahold of the first buckle behind him and adds, grandiose, "/And/ I'm modest."

—-
He met her investigating, even in the most amateur way, a high tech heist — which she committed. Since then he has found any number of red flags; including at least the contours for the means and motive for the crime. Now she says she's a bad influence, makes grandiose promises beyond what a girl with just some garage could, and believes it as ironclad truth beyond any mere flirt. And for all this, he doesn't even bat an eye. Natural polygraph or no, this bodes ill (or really, really well) for his future as a noir detective.

Which isn't to say that he's oblivious. Somewhere, as harness buckles are unfastened by phantom fingers, he hears a distant call from an angel of his better nature: 'If there's a stunning woman with questionable woman character in the room, Matt Murdock is going to find her, and Foggy Nelson is going to suffer for it.' Likely.

Still, to the dilemma she lays out, Matt's shrug is at once helpless and nonchalant while she steps behind him. "Catholicism is kind of a spectrum, I've found," he says quietly as he turns his head to the side to regard her, his profile all half-smiles. Who never risked a little bit of blasphemy for a girl? "Besides, if I'm just going to those confessionals anyway, bad influences just keep things from getting boring."

Five heartbeats, and then: "Hell's Kitchen next time," he offers quietly to the woman behind him. "I'll show you my neighborhood."

—-

"More interested in the ritual than in your actual immortal soul, huh. I guess that's why they call it 'practicing.' Nobody ever gets around to being one for real, it's always rehearsal." Kinsey relates that in a distracted sort of way, without judgement — just a gently cynical but also strangely affectionate view of her fellow human beings, a constant source of peculiar wonder.

All of his silence and deliberation do give her time to consider whether or not she ought to accept this invitation. As mentioned previously she fancies herself metropolitan, and she's become increasingly aware of how isolated she's been since her accident, but her reasons for that isolation have been good ones. Sound ones. Not just for her sake, either. For everyone theoretically involved.

It's unfamiliar territory. And, she supposes — as she undoes the last clasp, sliding the harness off of his shoulders to hang it over one of her own, buckles and straps hanging loose — unless she ever accepts a test case, unfamiliar territory is what it will always be. Who can live like that?

"Ohhh, Matt," she says, exhaled on a sigh. The words contain more complexity of feeling than her answer can explain. "Let's hope this newfound taste of yours for flight doesn't end in an Icarus incident. Sure, I'm game. I've been in New York for almost three years and I've barely seen any of it. As long as you don't mind that I'm basically a tourist."

—-

"A more charitable interpretation is that people practice to get better," Matt counters, and there's even a quiet note of conviction beneath all their banter. He may joke, and he may risk a little more than he knows for the company of an unknown quantity, but he does have a core to him. To wit: "I do care about my soul. And if you really start endangering it, Sheridan, I'll be sure to let you know." Liberated entirely now from the harness, he steps around to face her and offers a bare hint of white in his smile. "Right now? You're all talk."

She accepts, and he smiles, his unlensed eyes betraying a pleasure most would be better at hiding, and that he'd much rather. "Good," he says, simply, before adding an arch: "And I don't mind at all. They do tell tourists to avoid the Kitchen, but you'll be properly accompanied." His memory flickers back briefly to the slightly off dark-haired woman and her vengeful robot-armed protector that wandered into the alleyways last week. "You'll do better than most, I bet."

He looks to his right, he looks to his left, as if he could look. And then he smiles and dips his chin. "Anyway… this Icarus should head back to his Airbnb. We can save any scorching for later, right?"

—-

That kind of sincerity is guaranteed to make her wonder if she's done the right thing, saying 'yes' to a proposal like that one. It's just a /date/, it's not a big deal. She knows that. She's been on plenty. But it's still…

Any kind of connection, really, no matter how slender the binding filaments. Whatever gets caught in the web she has to spin — that has to be her fault, ultimately. The day she denies responsibility will be the day she really has lost her way. One doesn't need to come to Jesus to be intimately acquainted with guilt.

Too late, anyway, and for all that she waffles, she isn't sure she would take it back. She has to break the seal sometime. Why not now? Plus, the man is blind. That means she can get away with pretending to be a whole person a little bit longer than she might otherwise.

"It'll keep," she says, of scorching. Her footfalls are quiet on the cement on her way to retrieve his things: his shoes, his coat, his glasses. When she returns with them, she hands them to him the way she did the helmet, with just enough contact with his middle to cue him. "I'll be sure to let the owner know there's somebody who wouldn't mind picking up his cast-offs if he ever decides to upgrade."

—-

She retreats, and he goes about the business of taking of the boots that had him shooting around the hanger just minutes ago. A few hopping, wobbling tugs and it's done, with each laid gently on the ground at his feet. "What?" Matt says as he accepts his bundle of things returned to him. "Seriously? Cast-offs? I thought if I 'stuck around long enough' I was going to get some Kinsey Sheridan originals. That's like… half the incentive."

A joke, all the more dumb for being utterly transparent. He's not looking for an extra pair of rocket boots — not really — but it's safe to say that whatever reservations he had about this (still) tentative course disappeared some twenty feet above them. "Thanks again, Kinsey," he says, with a note of his prior quiet sincerity, before he affixes his glasses, tucks his coat under his arm, and drops his shoes so he can begin stepping haltingly into them.

—-

Her lips twist around a soft, self-deprecatory smirk, picking up the boots and the glove as he peels them off. "Are they really originals if I just ripped off the design in the first place? ..Actually, I prefer the phrase 'reverse engineered.' It sounds more…competent."

Boots held in the crook of one arm, glove dropped into the top, she watches him put his shoes on, shrugs in a helpless way she doesn't even believe he can see. "Sure." It sounds sincere, but also somehow uneasy, as though she's not accustomed to being thanked, or possibly being thanked in that way.

Bidden by some unseen, unheard command, one of the rolling garage doors begins to unshutter, rolling upward noisily. "You have a ride all sorted out? Know how to get back to where you're going? I try to return things in the condition I borrowed them in, and this isn't exactly the best part of Gotham."

—-

Ride sorted out? Know where he's going? Matt can't actually give her a side-eye while he's throwing on his overcoat, but he would if he could, and the sentiment is still somehow conveyed in the tilt of his profile. "Yeah, there's an app for that," he says in his best deadpan as he draws his phone out of his pockets. "New York will get me back fine."

He draws in a breath and, without so much as a glance around, still exhibits a quality of taking in the space appreciatively. "Goodnight, Kinsey," he murmurs after that's done. "This was… something. I'll call you to make plans, right?" A beat, a hefting of his walking stick in one hand, and then a sudden seemingly awkward wince as he takes a few steps backward towards the sound of the rising gate. "I mean, unless things go really well with you and that other… guy. In which case, you know. God bless, salud, and all the rest." He won't allow himself a smile until he's already turned and tapping his way out.

—-

"Sounds good. Goodnight."

But then he has to go and make a /thing/ of the raccoon again, and she throws her hands up in the air, turns, and retreats further into the depths of her machinist's lair, raising her voice in mock exasperation. It carries over the sound of the door, the distance, and the music that's playing over the speakers that dot the length of the space, and it will be what follows him out the door. "I don't know why I agreed to this! You're obviously a /completely exasperating/ individual and I should never have told you about the raccoon! It would serve you right if it did go well. I'll make sure we don't skip you when we put the wedding invitations in the mail!"

Everything after that is too muffled to be heard.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License