Farmer Bruener Has Some Ponies

by Georg

12. We Can Build It For You Retail

Farmer Bruener Has Some Ponies
We Can Build It For You Retail

“The road to success is always under construction.”
–Arnold Palmer

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Time: 3:45 P.M. Central Standard Time, Saturday June 20, 2015
Location: The Bruener Farm, Randolph Kansas
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General Gregory Hackmore was supposed to be in command of the situation.

The problem was to define the situation, even while he was at the situation.

Technically, it was an alien invasion. If that was the extent of the issue, the solution would have been relatively easy. That is easy for Hollywood. Reality had rules that film could never duplicate, and a cast that did not break into dance numbers on cue. He had a division of soldiers with helicopters and armored vehicles about forty to fifty minutes away, on a good day. Hell, in extreme circumstances, one of the HIMARS units that had been prepositioned north of their usual areas could put artillery on anything he could see in less than two minutes.

Even the Chair Force wanted to get in on the action, and if they had their way, B-52s and Strike Eagles would be orbiting overhead 24/7, waiting for bombing missions. The only thing keeping the Navy’s thumb out of the pie was the fact they were in Kansas, and as such, a carrier strike force would have a slight issue getting near enough to do any striking.

Thankfully, the Joint Chiefs of Staff had decided to centralize decision making for the situation, focusing on the commanding officer at the site, which was a good euphemism for ‘Hackmore hasn’t screwed anything up with the aliens yet. Let him take the blame if anything explodes.’ Sink or swim, here’s your anchor, complete with chain. He supposed that was the Navy’s contribution to his oncoming ulcer.

‘Trust but verify oh God yes verify’ was General Hackmore’s watchword of this strange invasion.

The HIMARS units had been informed with extreme intensity that there would not be any accidental firings, and that unless he personally was on the phone with the artillery coordinator, the missile pods and transport units would remain cold, inert, and turned off under camouflage netting or heads would roll.

About twenty metric tons of paper were in the process of being filed, an Airborne unit at Fort Riley was being kept on ten minute alert status, and the armored maintenance division was working double-overtime to bring all vehicles up to snuff just in case of emergency.

And an emergency had been defined as ‘What General Hackmore says, not anybody lower on the food chain and particularly not any nitwit in the five-sided puzzle palace who thought it was perfectly fine to jump the chain of command for their particular critical important bit of trivia.’

It was an example of what kind of power General Hackmore had been granted. Even with all that supposed power, it had still taken eight hours to get four blithering tanks and associated command vehicles the relatively short distance from there to here, between the traffic tie-ups, accidents, one insanely frustrating truck running out of fuel due to a malfunctioning gauge, and rules defining just how long a driver could be behind the wheel before being swapped out by another soldier who needed to be delivered through the same disaster zone.

If the balloon had ever gone up in Germany, this kind of cluster-fuck would have been the norm across Europe. Thank God for Reagan.

He had relocated his informal command post to the Bruener family farm, not strictly because of Jonagold’s beautiful wife Maria, but because it provided a good view of the proposed security deployment. Besides, Maria had brought out iced tea to the three of them, and stayed behind to watch the slow progress of the tank transporter as they unloaded Four-Two at the top of the hill.

“Good thing they’re finally here, general,” said Jon with just the slightest snark in his voice. “We crunchies were always told the tread-heads would be there when we didn’t need them, and would be called away the moment we did. I was starting to think they wouldn’t show until the ponies go home on Monday.”

“My S-3 and S-4 are going to get raked through the coals until they’re done on both sides,” said General Hackmore. “The longer I wait to roast them, the more self-roasting they’re doing to themselves, so it can wait.” He took a sip of iced tea and nibbled on his bottom lip for a time until the question he was suppressing leaked out. “You don’t think I can get one of the Equestrians to drop by my house and say hello to my granddaughter, do you? She’s been bugging me something fierce.”

“Not a problem, General. I’ll talk to Hardhooves and see if Flash Sentry is available.” Jon unlocked his new iPhone and checked the contacts list. “The ones working with the police are using the cop radios, but one of your soldiers picked up a dozen pay-as-you-go phones from Verizon for the rest of them. The ponies can flip them open to answer and most of them can dial the address book with hooves.”

“It’s a lot easier than trying to tie into their communication network,” mused Hackmore. “There’s nothing in those communicators they use other than a few crystals. We can’t detect any electromagnetic flux from their operation at all, but they do have range issues.” He craned his neck and got out his own phone in order to enter the pony commander’s number while Jon waited for the ringing to finish. It only took a few minutes to set up the ‘public affairs visitation’ for Flash, which sounded like Hardhooves was grateful to get the pegasus out of his hair for a while.

“Any technology sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic,” said Maria, who had been fairly quiet until then. As a practicing psychologist, she listened a lot more than she talked anyway, and still had the Portuguese instincts of her childhood around older men. “I wonder if the opposite is true. The ponies talk about their princess raising and lowering the sun and moon, after all. If those are just some sort of technological… or magicological—”

“Thaumaturgical,” said Hackmore. “It’s the latest buzzword on all of my teleconferences. The wonderful boffins of the Army think the secret to mastering Equestrian magic is to use as many large, indescribable words as they can. There’s more useless technobabble running around behind the scenes than you can shake a stick at.”

The conversation continued as the tank at the top of the hill was nudged into position and the tank transport moved away. They were just getting into interesting speculation as to how long it would have to remain in place when several ponies came around the corner of the house in their direction.

“Ah, General Hackmore. Mister Bruener,” said the smallest of the bunch, a brick-red earth pony who had to stand up on his hind legs in order to shake their hands. “My name is Big Brick, of the Big Brick Brothers And Partners, Reconstruction, Assembly, Transformations, Installations, and Niceization Guaranteed⁽*⁾ company.”
(*) BBB A+ RATING Contact Midknight Defender for franchise opportunities. Become a Big Brick affiliate today!

“You’re Big Brick?” Jon’s nose twitched, quite obviously from the effort of restraining a laugh at the mental image that immediately sprung to Hackmore’s mind. Ponies had a tendency to match their names in ways that baffled logic, and this short, chunky one was no exception with a few strands of grey hair in his mane and the image of a square brick on his rump.

“Yes, sir. And this is my son, Little Brick.” They each shook hooves with the far larger earth pony, who could have looked into Hackmore’s eyes easily, and did quite a bit to wipe away the mental image that his shorter father had conjured up. After the vigorous hoofshake, Hackmore’s eyes drifted to the other two ponies on the porch.

“So these must be your brothers, then?”

“Naaa,” said Big Brick with a disparaging flick of the wrist. “Ash Hole made it out of Ponyville during the evacuation. These are my accountant, Double Billing, and my work crew supervisor, Cost Overrun.”

Hackmore found himself shaking hands… well, hooves with a greasy-looking unicorn and a somewhat mottled pegasus who looked as if he had not taken a bath since ever. Thankfully, he did not have to think of what to say since it was Jon Bruener’s problem, and welcome to it.

“Good morning, gentlemen. Or ladies,” he added, since Jon was obviously suffering from the same work in progress in trying to guess gender on furry quadrupeds. “What can I do for you?”

“It’s what we can do for you,” said the small earth pony with a disturbingly happy smile that Hackmore had last seen on the repairman who had replaced his water heater. “You see, our company has quite a reputation around Ponyville as the place to go for all of your structural needs. We specialise in erecting structures all across the tri-county valley, and although we do some of the finest commercial erections in all of Equestria, we’re also the ponies that others come to whenever they find themselves in dire need of our other, more personal services.”

That mental image was getting very difficult for Hackmore to ignore, but Jon was made of stern stuff and nodded anyway. “So what servicing do you think I need?”

“For that, I’m going to refer you to my lovely wife,” said Big Brick.

“Right, right,” said Double Billing in a disturbingly sexy female voice, moving the toothpick she was chewing on to the other side of her mouth and floating a clipboard up in her magic. The sheet of copy paper it held was covered in squiggly Equestrian symbols including a line of numbers to one side which almost looked normal if squinted at and one were to ignore the comma placement. “Youse has a problem wit your road, sir. Seems one of our boys found a culvert at the bottom of that first hill thats got all kinds of rust eatin’ away at it since the cathodic protection washed out during the gravel getting undercut, an’ the first big load it has to take is gonna make it buckle like Overrun here facing a raincloud.”

“The road’s gonna break, dude,” said Overrun, continuing to stare in fascination at the tank transporter starting to move down the hill. “That’s one big chunk of metal. Gonna break it like a toothpick.”

“Yeah, you should probably go wave that truck off,” said Double Billing. “Else they’re going to rupture the existing culvert and dat’ll cost extra to fix.”

“Wait a second,” said Jon. “That’s a county road, not mine. And they put that culvert in just over ten years ago. It’s not old enough to fail yet. The county was very insistent about putting in a heavy culvert when I started my company, and I’m pretty sure my mil levy went up because of it back then.”

Both humans took a glance at the huge truck and the squat main battle tank it was carrying. Undoubtedly, there was a lot more weight involved than semi trucks carrying normal seed deliveries for Bruener’s storage facility. Still, caution was probably indicated.

“Maybe I should—” started General Hackmore just as the truck reached the bottom of the hill and the driver shifted into a lower gear to take advantage of engine braking.

The road took care of that first.

They were just far enough away that the sight of the rear dual wheels breaking through the gravel surface of the road was visible before the sickening crunch of collapsing steel echoed around the farmstead. The heavy transporter vehicle, which fortunately had been traveling at a very low velocity, lurched and appeared to break in half, with the truck cab sticking up in the air and the front wheels off the ground by a considerable margin. To the rear, the hefty main battle tank did not shift off its platform, but the weight drove the fifth-wheel coupling straight down into the resulting hole, and most certainly bent the hell out of the transporter’s whole structure.

“Yeah, dat’s gonna cost extra,” said Double Billing, making an entry on her clipboard even as the crunching sounds of the wreck were dying down. “We’s gonna have to rent some equipment in town, get a couple of you humans to drive it here, and work thru’ da night to get ever’thing done afore we’re gone Monday. We’s talking about serious overtime. Mebbie even have to get a crane to lift dat huge hunk of metal off the back.”

“That ‘huge hunk of metal’ can drive itself out,” said General Hackmore, who wanted to pinch the bridge of his nose but instead turned the gesture into a brief scratch before getting out his SMEPED to take a picture. “I’ll get a Hercules down from the Fort to pull our transporter out. Sorry to have busted your road, Mister Bruener.”

“It’s the county’s road,” said Jon. He took a picture with his phone and opened up Facebook. “I don’t think there’s any need for your services in this regard, Big Brick. I’ll bet the county is out here in a few hours, even if it is Saturday. Sorry about that.”

The smallish earth pony made a throwaway gesture with one hoof. “Pshaw, not a problem, sir. It’ll do the boys good to watch how the humans rebuild roads. It’s just…” Big Brick moved closer and raised his voice. “Hey! Overrun! Stop gawking and go help dat lady out of the truck! An’ the rest of youse, go see what they need done. We can call it a free estimate. Now git!”

Once the other three ponies were on their way, Big Brick cleared his throat and asked, “So, as I was saying. My boys, they get a little antsy without nuttin’ to do. I means around Ponyville, there’s always something blowin’ up or like that, and den when Princess Twilight’s crystal castle popped up witout even a single flush terlit or sink in it, I thoughts we were set for a couple years. Soo…” The short pony looked in both directions. “You got anything I could use to keep ‘em busy until Monday? I’ll get’cha a ten percent discount.”

“There’s some things I’ve been bugging my husband to do about the old house, and our house too,” said Maria unexpectedly while Jon was distracted by the way Cost Overrun was flying the transporter driver to the ground. “Since the Army has their mobile kitchen setup now, the ponies won’t need it for a lunch stop. Let me go get my list.”

Jon’s wife vanished inside the house, and Hackmore felt the same sensation whenever a military project needed ‘just a few changes’ in the contract.

“Just… try to keep it under control,” Jon urged.

Big Brick grinned. “Don’t worry. We’ve got this.”

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Time: 4:20 P.M. Central Standard Time, Saturday June 20, 2015
Location: The Bruener Farm, Randolph Kansas
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“You idiots broke my fucking tank!” Lieutenant Comena stalked around the broken transporter, trying not to grind his teeth. “I hope you plan on working for the Army for the next hundred years, because they’ll be taking this out of your check for centuries!”

“But the road—” started one of the support crunchies.

“Screw—!” Nick stopped, considered the Division Commander standing on the porch of the Bruener house a hundred meters away, and changed his words. The fact that a few ponies were standing around helped.

“You boys got my baby unchained, right?” he growled. “Because if Corporal Frey breaks something getting it off the transport, the general’s not going to be very happy.”

Nearly an hour of close inspection to verify the unchaining of said tank later, including laying out a series of movement flags and planning with his driver, Nick gestured all of the observers back—including the four-legged ones—while hoping that Rick was as good at driving the tank as his records indicated.

The big Abrams barely trembled when the turbine fired up on schedule and Rick began going through his checklist, allowing Nick a moment of thanks for at least one thing going right in this deployment. It seemed to be taking longer than normal for Rick to get the tank ready to move, which could have just been from all the ponies and humans who had started to gather behind the barbed-wire fence with him. Gathering a civilian audience was normal for any kind of tank movements, but the longer Nick stood and watched, the more ponies gathered with him. One thing Nick knew for certain was that if he was watching some Equestrian equipment maneuver, he would have appreciated some sort of explanation, so it was only fair for him to provide one now.

“We don’t normally drive the tank off the transporter at this angle,” Nick started, narrating as if he were standing in the War College instead of in front of a dozen curious ponies and several reporters. “The only other option would be to get a crane down here, and that could take a week.”

“Bet I could do it,” rumbled a deep voice to his left, which when Nick turned and looked, belonged to the hefty Equestrian Royal Guard who he had thought was mute. If there ever was a unicorn who could lift sixty plus tons of steel, this one was it, being about a pony and a half wide across the shoulders.

“Hang on, Titan,” said Nick. “Don’t want you straining yourself over something we can handle another way.” Out of the corner of his eye, Nick could see the rest of Four-One’s crew likewise by the barbed wire fence, although each of them had their phones out to record the tank extraction for later reference and most likely ribbing of Rick if he managed to flub it up.

“This is Four-One,” sounded the laconic voice of Corporal Frey from the radio. “We are ready to attempt extraction.”

Restraining the urge to call Rick on the carpet for implying he was a ‘we’ of sorts, or a dentist, Nick closed the contact on his own radio. “This is Four-One Actual, you are clear to move backward. Proceed slowly.”

The last line was extraneous, but since he could see a few news cameras among the gathering crowd, and the Abrams could probably go in reverse up the hill at over forty miles an hour, emphasizing caution was a wise precaution. Thankfully, Rick was not in the mood for stupid displays for the camera. The big main battle tank moved in reverse just as smoothly as if General Dynamics was doing a demonstration, crunching over the boards at the back of the transport and gliding to a halt on the road where Rick took the opportunity to move the turret so the main gun pointed up the road, away from the spectators.

“This is Four-One, are we clear to move to the destination?”

Nick looked back and forth down the road, checking for loose ponies or other wandering civilians who might be dumb enough to get in the way. Seeing none, he triggered the radio again.

“Four-One, this is Four-One Actual. You are clear to proceed.”

Once again, the bulk of the tank just seemed to glide down the road, heralded only by the sharp popping of gravel being turned into dust under its treads. It moved into the designated firing position, paused for a moment, then did a neutral 180 steer to swap ends while the turret remained fixed in place, leaving the entire tank pointed up the hill and situated for its short stint as mechanical sentry. It was a little bit of a show-off, but Nick could not really criticize his driver for it, because he had pulled it off so well. As the turbine whined down to a halt, Nick turned to the audience and announced, “Ladies and Gentlemen, that is how you park a tank.”

Through the scattered applause, the hefty Royal Guard Titan moved up to Nick’s side and saluted. “Sir. You need that other thing moved too?”

His first instinct was to discourage the unicorn, since they were going to send a Hercules transport vehicle out from the Fort to deal with the mess anyway. Something in the unicorn’s eyes convinced him otherwise, because he looked much like a weightlifter who had been told he could not lift somebody’s Toyota.

“Just a second, Specialist Titan.” Fumbling in the pocket of his ACU’s, Nick pulled out the short contact list and his iPhone, feeling odd to be making a phone call to an extraterrestrial military officer to ask permission to use one of his soldiers as a tow truck. A short conversation later, Nick hung up the phone and turned to the eagerly anticipating soldier. “He says to wait until he’s here.”

“Thank you, sir!” said Titan with a sharp salute that just barely ‘ticked’ against the steel of his helmet.

It took about twenty minutes for the pony sergeant to show up, along with a few dozen more ponies, a news camera or two, and for all Nick could tell in the growing mixed crowd of ponies and military, the whole of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Titan had spent his time checking the broken transporter and lighting his horn in places while he squinted or sniffed different areas of it.

“Specialist Titan,” called out the old pony commander. “Give the humans a good show, and try not to hurt anypony.”

“Sir, yes sir!” Titan turned back to the truck and lit his horn, making a beam of silvery light vanish under the crumpled steel where the cab and the trailer met. He gained a distant expression, much as someone poking around inside their mouth for a loose tooth, before the wreckage gave a loud noise that sounded like a disengaging coupler. “There we go,” said the unicorn under his breath as he braced his hooves and the silver of his magic surrounded the cab. “One piece at a time.”

There was a ripping noise as if the world's largest sheet of paper was being torn, then the massive front end of the transporter floated up in the air, much like a lead balloon, and Titan turned with it, causing it to glide through the air and land gently back on the road headed uphill. He then repeated the action on the twisted bed of the trailer, sending it flying through the air to land behind the cab where it remained, looking warped and misshapen like a child’s toy that had been stepped on.

This left a fairly large rust-ringed hole in the road along with a washed-out section below it, which Double Billing strolled right up to, made a note on her clipboard, and walked back to the house, most likely to increase her estimate.

Nick walked up to the panting unicorn and clapped him across the armored shoulders. “That was pretty darned incredible,” he admitted.

“The hard part was getting my field all the way around it.” Titan gave a heave and pulled one hoof out of the gravel where it had sunk up to his fetlock, then repeated the task until he was free. “I think I can bend it back more or less into shape, if that will help.”

And a little over an hour later, the tank transport looked only slightly off-center and wobbled a bit as it trundled up the hill, leaving the rest of the Army unit to their duty.