Chapter 24: New Tech
Jackson finished up his meal, a rather un filling assortment of greens and bread. He was eating in the RSTG's NCO mess. He could have eaten in his room, he almost wished he did. He learned that they had a menu for visitors and ambassadors that more or less fit his tastes. Interestingly enough, even though this country was almost entirely vegetarian, they often hosted more carnivorous clientele. He also found it amusing that an asterisk at the bottom of the pages declared that all the 'item' had died of natural causes and 'donated' themselves. Strange, actually.
As it was, even though he liked his new—if temporary—home, Jackson still yearned for some familiarity, even if it came from a military branch erected by his close friend and brother. He got up to turn his tray into the mess' scullery for washing, other NCOs giving him slight nods as he passed. He hadn't even been in country for very long and he was already somewhat of a legend. Although, he guessed that was largely due to the fact that he was a strange being from the same world as Kaughn, who had saved a few of their own cities already.
He looked at his watch and noted the time. He still had a little bit before he had to be at the armory. It was the last thing he had to do before he had to return to Ponyville for a couple days to recharge for the Op he'd scheduled. Commander Sparks wanted to meet him there. The unicorn wanted to introduce some new equipment and said he wanted Jackson and his squad to test it out in the field because 'humans tend to be a lot rougher and take more risks in his experience.'
It actually sounded about right. Mostly, from what Jackson had seen, the Equestrians were content to simply live their lives and nothing more. The fact that something was trying to disrupt that without provocation made it all the worse. Philosophical thoughts were great, but they often didn't solve much, so Jackson shook himself from it and proceeded to the armory.
The armory was a big place. It was a separate one from the Royal Guard's, it housed all the firearms, explosives and other weapons that had been adopted by the RSTG. It was also, it seemed, the location for the service's R&D lab. The clerk behind the issue desk saw Jackson coming and unlocked the door, waving him through. Sparks was already there, waiting for him in the back by a live fire range. Next to him was a pile of what looked like body armor.
"Morning!" The unicorn said. "Your visit been well so far?"
"Yes sir. What ya got for me here?" Jackson asked, walking up and examining the objects on the table.
"Just the latest and greatest in personal protection. Wanted to see if you would mind helping us test it out a little."
Jackson turned to the rusty red unicorn, "You ain't gonna shoot at me, are you?"
"No no, of course not." Sparks chuckled. "We had the mannequins for that."
"Yeah, how'd they do?"
"Well enough, no punctures."
"So why do you need me?"
"There are a few things we can't test for with inanimate objects." Said a stuffy voice whose tone said 'I'm smarter than you' without having to actually say it. Jackson looked over and saw a donkey with wiry gray hairs and a wearing a lab coat casually walking over, an assistant—a unicorn—in tow, hastily scribbling on a clipboard. The donkey walked up and offered a hoof which Jackson shook. "I am Dr. Amadeus Wright, head researcher in ballistics and applied physics for the Equestrian Royal Academy of Sciences and Magics, but I'm sure you've heard."
"Dr. Wright here has been gracious enough to help develop protective equipment for our operatives." Sparks explained.
"Quite right, though I must say that the materials provided by the previous human, a fellow like yourself, proved to be immensely helpful in that endeavor. They call you Chief, please do tell, what are you Chief of?" The doctor asked Jackson with a hint of sarcasm.
"Breaking bones, mostly." He replied. Jackson liked the smart guys usually, but there was something about this one's attitude that was rubbing him the wrong way.
"Hm, right. Let's get to it then, shall we? Please don the armor, if you will, and we will begin."
Wanting to get this over with, Jackson picked up the armor from the table and began to put it on. It wasn't much different from most of the stuff he'd worn before. The vest for the torso was made of a cloth like material, but it was thinner and more manageable than kevlar and ceramic plates. He almost thought it was like the scale armor he had worn before, but it was more like a regular garment than anything else.
The set came complete with segments that strapped onto his biceps, forearms, thighs and shins. These components were somewhat more rigid, but did nothing to hinder his movement. The only huge difference he noticed were strange metallic bracelet like things that he was instructed to wear on his ankles and wrists. They came with a matching necklace of sorts that clipped into the collar of his vest. It all fit snugly on his large frame and and was almost form fitting.
After everything was secured in their proper places, the good doctor had Jackson go through a series of movements, testing his flexibility while wearing the protective garments and ascertaining wether or not his mobility would be significantly compromised through their use. When it was decided that the armor wouldn't hamper his movement, they moved outside to a track where Jackson was asked to go on a run to measure his endurance and stamina, but the armor was so light that it barely made a difference at all.
Afterwards, Jackson caught his breath before being ushered back inside and asked to move to the range, which he noticed now had very tall, very thick transparent paneling along the individual lanes. "Very good, very good." Dr. Wright said as he studied the recorded results. "We now have but one more test. The most important one in fact. Chief Jackson, would you be so kind as to enter the range and stand as close to the center as possible?"
Warily, Jackson moved to comply, but he gave Sparks a worried look. The Commander just nodded and gave him a reassuring smile. Jackson walked into the range via a heavy ballistic door welded into one of the side walls. After he passed through, it clanged shut and squeaked as it was dogged tightly down. It was about here that he noticed the scorch and burn marks all around the floor and walls, all centered near where he was standing.
On the other side of the transparent barrier, Dr. Wright stood calmly with his assistant as if there was absolutely nothing out of the ordinary for the setting of this scene. Speakers set into the ceiling overhead crackled to life as Dr. Wright switched a small microphone on. "We will now test the effects of a high energy overpressure wave as is commonly associated with magical incendiary devices currently known to be in use among Lotkin Renegade groups on a living specimen. That would be you, Chief Jackson. Not to worry, preliminaries have all come back highly positive, I doubt you'll receive much more than slight disorientation." He looked to his assistant. "Dulce, fetch the ordinance."
"Wait, WHAT!?" Jackson exclaimed. "Aw hell naw, I know you ain't using me as a damn guinea pig!"
"Don't worry, Jackson. Mr. Wright knows what he's doing." Sparks said through the speakers.
"Doctor Wright." The donkey corrected.
The assistant shortly returned and opened a small hatch in the transparent wall, magically levitating a small device built around an object that resembled a crystal ball, only with violent swirling lights within. The device landed next to Jackson and the hatch secured shut. "Chief Jackson, just remain still and all shall be well." Dr. Wright said into the mic. The assistant resumed scribbling notes, recording everything that was happening and being said. Dr. Wright glanced at a wall clock. "Detonation, on my mark."
"Nuh-uh, I didn't travel through some freaky space and time thing for this shit." Jackson protested.
Wright began the countdown, "Five. Four. Three—Chief Jackson, please stop moving—Two. One. Mark."
Jackson was on the way to the ballistic door when the world around him abruptly flashed red and white and he was thrown forward into the wall, though not with enough force to seriously injure him. As he picked himself up, there was painful ringing in his ears, but not as much as there should have been. Jackson blinked his eyes, attempting to readjust them to the light. He could hear some one talking, but it sounded as if he was underwater. Gradually, everything came back to normal.
". . .Jackson. Chief Jackson. How are you feeling?"
"Like a million bucks, how the fuck you think!?" He replied angrily.
"Note, subject is alive and cognizant. Showing signs of intense ire, brain damage unlikely."
More sensations were starting to make themselves known to Jackson's body. Most notably, to his exposed skin. It was starting to feel as if it was on fire. Slowly, he inspect his hands, "The fuck? I'm fucking sun burnt!" He gingerly touched his face and the top of his bald head. "Fucking everywhere!"
"Subject's vocabulary is lacking, though not the focus of this test. Dulce, note that the magically reactive armor is still experiencing problems redirecting or blocking the heat. It was expected, heat takes far more energy to manipulate, but it shouldn't still be this prevalent at this stage. We'll speak with the enchanters, but it may take some time to rectify the issue. However, the test itself was an all around success."
"Can I go now?" Jackson shouted.
"Yeah, come on out buddy." Sparks answered. "Thanks for the help, I owe you some beers."
Quick Fix trotted along happily, a set of bags filled with groceries and snacks bouncing on her back. She was on her way to Aria's place, specifically the large hangar nearby. It was a bit far from town—she was interested to learn that it had once been the original training grounds for the RSTG—but she didn't mind much.
A quick stop to the low built house to drop of the groceries for Aria was all she did on arrival before taking her snacks and resuming her journey to the hangar. The Clipper was parked outside it at the moment as something else had temporarily taken it's place. The metallic clicks of a ratchet could be heard echoing from inside the structure as she approached.
Ducking in through a side door, she dumped the items she was carrying on a nearby workbench and went over to the middle of the hangar where a pair of human legs were sticking out from under a large object that was concealed by a white dust sheet. "Hey Topher." She called out. "Got the stuff you asked for." A grease and oil stained Mayfield slid out from under the sheet, ratchet in hand, as Quick Fix took a can out from the bag and tossed it to him. "Beer's a little warm, about under room temp." She warned him.
Mayfield popped the can open with a hiss of escaping carbonation, "S'all right, proper temp for a good brew anyhow." He took a swig from the can and grimaced, ". . .which this is not. Sod it." He tilted the can back and swallowed a big gulp, exhaling in satisfaction afterwards.
"The gear box all set?" Quick Fix asked.
"Good as you, Quicky Q. Just needs a few more tweaks and she'll be all set." He said, shoving himself back underneath and resuming.
"I hope the parts I made fit ok."
"Neat magic trick, that. More handy than a fifty armed pervert."
"Like I said, I just need the raw material and a good sketch, I can shape it however I want."
"Any chance you could fashion me a new watch? Mine's on it's late years."
"No, sorry. Doesn't really work with complex machines."
Mayfield pushed himself back out again and stood up, wiping his hands on a small cloth as his did so. "Should be good now, why don't we switch her on?"
Quick Fix giggled with excitement and pulled out a set of keys, specially made, from her tool pouch. She galloped around the other side and Mayfield stood back as he saw part of the sheet lift, followed by a hollow thunk as a door slammed shut. With a not so loud electric whine, the object vibrated to life, it's internal workings revving a few times as the unicorn upped the RPMs. "It works!" She cried with joy.
Jackson stepped off the train, feeling miserable. He couldn't hold his overnight bag right because of the pain in his arms. His head was especially bad. He had it covered up as best he could; big hat, large sunglasses, colorful scarf. All borrowed from Rarity. He looked ridiculous. At least he'd have a couple days to recover.
Getting back to the house wasn't too bad. He was glad the'd picked a place in town, it wasn't far from the station. As he ambled up the steps, Jackson reached for the door knob and turned it, hoping Mayfield was already home and the house was unlocked. The knob wouldn't budge.
With an exasperated sigh, Jackson walked around back and tried the back door. It was also locked. He pounded the door a few times in frustration, hoping his friend was just in there taking a nap, but nobody showed up. It was then that he noticed a small folded piece of paper wedged up in the top of the frame. He plucked it out and opened it up to read it.
'Hey there Jacko, hope your trip was good. Got a case waiting for you, but as you can see, we're not home. Come on out to Myst's place, the hangar around back. Lady Q and myself have whipped up a nice little surprise for you during your absence.
With a huff, Jackson crumpled up the paper and tossed it in a nearby bush. This was the last thing he needed right now. Still, he hadn't brought his keys with him—a major oversight—and the only way into the house was through Mayfield. So, he hefted his bag again and went out to the town's main thoroughfare and hailed a cab. He'd make sure Mayfield reimbursed him.
After a graciously short, but bumpy ride out to the edge of town, the cab pulled up in front of Myst's and Sparks' residence, but no one seemed to be home. The cabbie wouldn't drive off the road, so Jackson paid him and went around back to where he thought the hangar was. He'd only been there once before.
When he got there, he was astonished to see The Clipper tied down and parked outside. That must have taken some really good convincing with Aria, the only thing she loved more than that aircraft was her son and maybe Sparks. Thoroughly tire of this shit, Jackson walked up and pounded on the large hangar bay doors that stretched across the opening and sealed the inside from the elements. "Hey, open the fuck up! I'm fuckin' tired!" Jackson could have sworn he heard giggling from behind the door. "Hey man, this ain't funny!"
The doors suddenly rumbled to life as a high pitched electrical whine revved in the air. At first he thought it was from the doors, but he knew the small motor was quieter than that. As the gap between the doors widened, bright flood lights flashed on from inside the hangar, and out from the space between the doors, illuminating a wide swath of the field beyond.
Jackson back peddled as something big and bulky shot out from the hangar, tearing around the grass and doing donuts at high speed. As it did so, he realized it was the source of the high pitched sound. Jackson was looking at a big humvee like vehicle that sat on four large wheels designed specifically for unconventional terrain.
The vehicle whipped around in a circle one final time before cannoning over to Jackson's position and grinding to a halt next to him. The door on it's front right opened up and Mayfield stepped out, coming around to greet his big friend with a big grin. "Now how d'you like this, eh? Bang up job, if I say so myself." He gave Jackson a once over, "Oi, what's with the silly shit?"
"Long story. I don't really feel like talking about it right now. What's this thing?"
"She's our new ride, yeah?" Mayfield said excitedly.
Jackson peered into the passenger side window, "Looks great, but the steering wheel's on the wrong side."
"That's because she drives on the right side of the road, the English side, the proper side."
"No, we drive on the right side. You guys drive on the wrong side."
"Whatever, Downer Danny..."
"So, what are you calling it?" Jackson asked.
A hatch set on top flapped open and a grimy, but jubilant Quick Fix popped out like a gopher, "Her name's Daisy!"
"Daisy?" Jackson said, almost baffled by the choice. The big brutish thing looked like it could dole out some hurt. Nothing like a Daisy.
"She picked the name." Mayfield said defensively.
"Ah well." Jackson said in acceptance. "Can that thing kick some ass?"
"Can it!?" Mayfield chortled. "I designed and built it! 'Course it can!" Behind him, Quick Fix cleared her throat in annoyance. "She helped." He added.
"You got any more or is this the only one?"
"You serious? I'm surprised we managed to build this one in the few days you been gone. Nope, this the finest fighting vehicle of it's kind."
"It's the only fighting vehicle here. Well, except for Myst's air ships, I think she got you beat there."
"Sure, sure. So now tell me. What is wrong with your face?" Mayfield crossed his arms.
"You really wanna know?"
"Tell us!" Quick Fix shouted from on top the armored vehicle.
Jackson sighed. Then he removed the hat scarf and sunglasses. What lay underneath set Quick Fix giggling, which she unsuccessfully tried to stifle. Mayfield on the other hand, burst out laughing without any reservation. Underneath all the cover, Jackson's skin was starting to peel, he really had gotten a bad sunburn. It wasn't too serious, but it was enough to be an annoying inconvenience.
"Blimey, what happened?" Mayfield finally managed to say after he caught his breath.
"Testing out some new tech. Was all right at first, but the eggheads didn't warn me about this" Jackson pointed to his face. "I guess it's good they didn't though, I wouldn't have agreed. Assholes." He muttered to himself.
Jackson's explanation caused Mayfield to laugh again, "Boffins made you their little bitch, did they?"
"Yeah yeah, laugh it up. And where's the beer you promised in the damn note?"
Quick Fix hopped down from the roof of Daisy to the ground, "C'mon, I got you, lizard man. I'll get you something for that skin too."