The Sunday Witch Hunters: Weapons Testing With Midori and Lee
You know, I’m thinking it would be sweet to have a Pip Boy. One of these:
So a phone, on your wrist, but not one of those wrist straps for your phone. Because that just leaves the phone screen open to disaster, and nobody wants that.
Garmin makes some sports watches which are along these lines, but the battery life when the GPS is active is a big problem. Which makes me wonder just what the Pip Boy uses for power. It’s probably bandit souls.
Anyway. How have you been? I’ve been playing with Lego, building sets for tomorrow’s video. It really would be a good idea to have the sets built at least a week in advance, but I like to live dangerously. Plus this morning I woke up and went, “Hm, I don’t want to use the paper sets I built. The Lego looks better.” If I was a director, I’d fire myself.
In light of that, I’m taking a rain check on the chapter art for Witch Hunters this week, BUT the episode is ready to go. Ah ha! Whoo hoo! If you haven’t delved into Witch Hunters yet, you can find all the episodes here. If you’re up to speed, let’s get to it!
The Sunday Witch Hunters
Episode 15: Weapons Testing With Midori and O’Roarke
Lily was sitting in the lecture hall, half-listening to Professor Ballstern droning on about legal theory, when her phone beeped to say she had a message.
Fifty heads swivelled towards Lily. She already had her handbag in her lap and was pawing furiously for her phone. She found it, and flipped it open without so much as a sideways glance at her curious classmates.
The message was from Lee.
WPNS TESTING TDAY! INTERESTED?
“Hell no,” muttered Lily, and typed as much. She dropped the phone back into her bag.
Lurking beside her (and giving everyone in the vicinity an inexplicable sense of gut-wrenching dread) Drake raised his eyebrows. “Anything good?”
Lily shook her head minutely. “False alarm. Lee wants a guinea pig for his weapons testing.”
“Hah,” said Drake, and returned to watching another student’s game of Tetris two rows down. “Crazy.”
Ten minutes later and thirty kilometres west of the unappreciative Lily, O’Roarke’s phone went haywire on the passenger seat.
The phone had to go haywire. O’Roarke would never hear it otherwise. He had Megadeth burning out the Caddy’s speakers, the whole car thumping as it plunged down the highway. As soon as he heard the phone, O’Roarke coasted the Caddy to a stop. One message from Lee Alexander.
WPNS TESTING TDAY! LILY NOT INTERESTED! YOU?
O’Roarke scrutinised the message for a long moment before making up his mind. What the hell. He had nothing else to do. It was Friday; he had finished his jobs for the week, including cleaning up after the cuttlefish hive. Until Knox or 13th Council called up with some other emergency, O’Roarke was driving around looking for ways to entertain himself.
Dave Mustaine was still sweating bullets when O’Roarke pulled the Caddy into gear, and turned back the way he had come.
Lee Alexander, former weapons developer for any number of official and paralegal military factions, lived on a property half an hour outside the Muraluna city outskirts. The properties either side of him both belonged to large-scale cattle farmers, essentially buffering Lee’s hundred and sixty acre block between a thousand acres of inhospitable terrain.
This worked fine for Lee; the cattle farms were unmanned, and the cows had never once called the police when an experimental missile careened overhead, or a prototypical mechanical ward-placer malfunctioned and summoned herds of blood-thirsty demons.
Yeah, the local Chupacabra rumours? Lee’s fault. Lee and Midori’s fault, actually. Even maybe mostly Midori’s fault, as she had been the one who had suggested the neighbour’s cows were a good test subject for an automated demonic defence system.
O’Roarke parked the Caddy in the shade of the farmhouse, then hopped out and walked the rest of the distance to the workshop. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust Lee to not accidentally explode any stationary object within spitting distance of the workshop. Sure. Of course not. It was just that he needed the exercise. And O’Roarke knew there had to be a reason why the Alexanders had built their workshop nearly a kilometre from their house.
The workshop itself was magnificent. It wasn’t quite the size of a warehouse, as Presley had claimed. That’s not to say it wasn’t amply proportioned. It was the length of a train platform, three times as wide, with a low, slightly sloped roof. From the outside it appeared to be a rundown woolshed, rust seeping up from the red dust, the corrugated iron sheets of its walls and roof peeling from their wooden supports. The outside was a lie. Cross the threshold of the shed’s sole tin door and one noticed the doorframe was far thicker than the thin walls would suggest. Of course, once one had set foot in the door, one was also prone to noticing that the inside of the shed was a high tech robotics laboratory in impeccable working condition.
Things whirred and clunked, everything was shining chrome and black rubber. The light was crisp and omnipotent, extinguishing all shadow. It was a little like stepping into the TARDIS, although while the TARDIS was alien and groovy, the Alexanders workshop was a mean, pristine, experimental-weapons-producing machine.
“The guinea pig!”
Lee’s head appeared above a conveyor belt. He ripped off his safety goggles. “O’Roarke! I knew you’d make it. Can you believe Lily turned me down?”
The little man rushed around the end of the belt to greet O’Roarke by the door. From a rack of tools on the wall, Midori Alexander hurried to join him. Much like his workshop, Lee was a different entity once the threshold had been crossed. Literally, the threshold. Outside of the workshop, it didn’t matter how well a guy knew Lee. He would revert to his alter disused-woolshed ego, a meek, flustered individual who was easy to overlook in a room with one other person or a decorative chair. If Lee was truly similar to his workshop, O’Roarke supposed the appearance from the outside was purely to thwart authorities from asking awkward questions. Which did not relieve O’Roarke in the slightest.
Across the threshold of the workshop however, Lee ditched the woolshed act in favour of … well, you’ll see.
“Guinea pig,” greeted the Osaka-born Midori, bobbing her head to O’Roarke, “We’re so pleased to have you join us. We’ve got two new weapons, the-”
“I’ll tell him,” Lee interjected, pushing in front of his wife. He was an inch taller than Midori, though she had him by fifteen kilograms. He bared his teeth at O’Roarke. “We have two new weapons. You’ll never guess what they are. We just want you to test one of them today. Is that right, Midori? Just one? Or are they both ready?”
O’Roarke shuffled further into the workshop in the hopes that these two over-enthusiastic chipmunks would grant him half a foot of breathing space. No luck. Midori and Lee crowded around him, perhaps hoping he would burst into song so that they could climb up onto his shoulders and see the world from a Disney point of view.
“One is ready,” Midori told her husband, “The other still does that burning thing.”
Facing O’Roarke, Lee rolled his eyes theatrically. “I thought you stopped it doing the burning thing. That was your job.”
Midori smiled briefly. “No, dear, my job was to stop it doing that backfiring thing. You know how the alloy was overheating and exploding the screws into the user’s face, particularly the eyes? I figured that out last week.”
“Ha, I know.” Lee’s voice was dripping with irony. He turned to the other chipmunk. This, O’Roarke thought, was the problem when husband and wife worked together for a long time without other human interaction. They regressed to wild animals. Albeit in this case, wild animals capable of flattening a city. “I know because I was the one who had to fabricate the seamless titanium rod to replace the silver alloy. I thought we agreed since I was the once who actually had to make the seamless titanium rod that you would solve the burning thing.”
“It was my idea for you to use titanium,” Midori protested, “You didn’t solve nothin’.”
“Well excuse me!” Huffing, Lee turned to O’Roarke. He plastered on a grimace. “You’ll have to wait for the beam sword. It’s still doing the burning thing.”
“Sure,” said O’Roarke, “What else you got for me?”
Lee’s face lit up like the sky on New Year’s Eve. He scurried over to a stainless steel bench and took from it what appeared to be an assault rifle made for a super mutant. Lee waved the rifle over his head. O’Roarke ran for the door.
“Wait, wait!” Midori cried, running after him. “It’s not loaded, we promise!”
O’Roarke paused in the sunlight. Lee and Midori faced him from across the threshold. He knew if he retreated for the car, Lee wouldn’t follow him. Midori might. But Lee was a closet sociopath, or at least a workshop sociopath, and he wouldn’t wave an assault rifle around in broad daylight. Pity he had no such qualms about waving it around in the workshop.
“She’s right; it isn’t loaded,” Lee said, wiggling the rifle to demonstrate the silent nature of no ammunition.
Reluctantly, O’Roarke returned to the machined comfort of the shed. Midori and Lee high-fived. They crowded around O’Roarke once more.
“What is that thing, anyway?” O’Roarke wondered, gesturing to the rifle. All this conversation was killing his throat.
“It’s a modified M32 grenade launcher,” Lee told him happily. O’Roarke nearly choked.
Midori pulled a face. “Oh! Lee! I have cupcakes in the oven in the house. I’d better go and check on them. Make sure you explain to the guinea pig about the death ray thing.”
She hurried out of the workshop. Lee stared after her, his expression wry. “I don’t like to discourage her,” he said, “But she put those cupcakes in the oven at six this morning. They’ve been in there for five hours. Which is four hours and forty-five minutes longer than the maximum time necessary to bake cupcakes.”
O’Roarke had other priorities. “She said death ray.”
“Uh huh. Yeah. No,” Lee lost his look of distraction for one of focused denial. He shook his head vigorously, the grenade launcher clutched to his breast. “No, she didn’t say death ray. Nope. There’s no death ray thing. No such thing. It’s certainly nothing I haven’t fixed already.”
“What’s the death ray thing?”
“It’s nothing, I already told you. I don’t know why we’re having this conversation. There’s nothing to talk about even. There’s nothing wrong with my grenade launcher. Midori is just jealous that I’m responsible for fifty-two percent of its creation, and she’s only responsible for forty-eight. Nuh uh. There’s nothing wrong with it. Nothing.”
“Nothing I should know?”
“Nope,” said Lee, “Nothing.”
“Nothing at all?”
“Nothing.” Lee thought for a minute, and added, “So long as you never use the laser tracker.”
O’Roarke just stared at him.
Lee grimaced. “Don’t use the laser tracker. Ever.”
“Is it a death ray?”
Lee’s eyes shifted to the wall. He muttered, “It’s not supposed to be.”
Feeling a bit sorry for the little man and his wretched grasp on the grenade launcher/ death ray, O’Roarke ventured, “Fine, I won’t use the laser tracker.”
“Or the prop,” Lee said, so soft and quick that O’Roarke barely heard him.
His voice on the verge of giving out, O’Roarke coughed and rasped, “What’s wrong with the prop?”
“It’s connected to the laser. Just don’t use it.”
It might be quicker to make a list of parts that weren’t lethally malfunctioning. O’Roarke held his hand out to take the grenade launcher. With no small amount of reluctance, Lee passed it over.
“Cheers.” The grenade launcher was lighter than O’Roarke had expected, only a couple of kilograms. No wonder Lee had been waving it around like a lunatic. Then again. It was wider than an assault rifle, and the six-cylinder chamber was massive. The barrel was almost as wide as O’Roarke’s hand. There were hinges above the grip, primarily allowing the launcher to be folded to save space, but also allowing the barrel to be adjusted upwards to alter its trajectory. A secondary manual sight had been glued hastily into place behind the laser tag. The whole thing was matte grey blotched with flesh pink.
Lee caught O’Roarke’s puzzled inspection of the paintwork. “Sorry. Midori and I can’t decide between the Macedonian coating or the camouflage options. I think the Macedonian is sexier, but Midori thinks the camouflage will be more practical.”
“We can hunt demons with this, right?”
“Demons, poltergeists, devils, commies, deer,” Lee shrugged, “Whatever you want. Just don’t expect to get a meal out of any deer you hit with it.”
Or any commies, O’Roarke thought. “Specs?”
“Unfortunately Midori misplaced the M32 we had, so I had to build this one from memory. Although maybe that wasn’t all bad; I managed to make a few modifications from the 1983 design. There have been a surprising amount of advancements in weapon’s technology since ’83. Even inventions that no one expected would ever be used against humankind have been adapted into serious weapons tech. From nanotech to new blends of lightweight, durable polymers, we’ve really come a long way,” Lee bared his teeth, and it was more of a smile and less of a grimace now that he was talking about the malicious adaptation of supposedly harmless inventions. “For instance, using a new metal-plastic alloy, I was able to reduce the weight of the barrel by seventy-three percent without compromising integrity. By reducing weight in the extremities, which of course the carrier feels more intensely than weight carried close to the body, I was able to increase the mass of the stock to reduce recoil. Also, the grenades I made are three millimetres wider in diameter than standard military-issue grenades, so it’s possible to remove both the standard 40mm chamber and the barrel and replace them with 43mm versions. So. What do you think?”
O’Roarke glanced at Lee over the barrel of the grenade launcher. His throat felt like parchment. He growled, “I asked you for specs an hour ago.”
Lee jerked. “Of course, of course. Let’s see, uh. Oh yes. It’s modelled very closely on the South African designed M32, like I mentioned. I kept the six-cylinder chamber, meaning you can fire a maximum of six grenades before needing to reload. I can’t imagine what you would need more than six grenades for. Oh, wait, maybe if you were fighting some sort of mech … but Midori is still working on the mech. You shouldn’t need to chase it down and destroy it for at least another six months.”
Mech? O’Roarke checked around the workshop. He didn’t see any mechs. So was Lee joking? O’Roarke guessed he would find out in six months.
Lee continued rattling off specs, “That baby weighs in at 4.2 kilograms, which is a massive 1.1 kilogram reduction in the original M32’s weight. Believe me, you’ll appreciate it in the field. Fully extended it measures 780mm, two mil longer than the original. I just like rounded numbers. With the stock folded down, that length can be reduced to 565mm. Perfect for front the passenger’s seat of your car. It fires between two and three rounds a second, with a maximum of eighteen rounds per minute if you’re quick to reload. Terminal velocity of a pointed round is seventy-six metres per second. 40mm shotgun rounds will of course be a bit faster, and grenades a bit slower. Depending on the type of round used, range is between three hundred and eight hundred metres. You’ll get three hundred and eighty metres out of most rounds on a good day. What else would you like to know?”
“You made grenades?”
Lee snorted. “Of course I did. Why else would I make a grenade launcher? I just so happen to have an excess of grenades, and I want to get rid of them quickly. They’re taking up too much room in the house.”
O’Roarke would have questioned that, but he really, really did not want to, just in case Lee gave him an answer.
Pleased his customer had no further questions, Lee ushered O’Roarke to follow him. He led the way to a steel bench stacked with guns. Lee swept the guns onto the floor to clear space on the bench. He smiled at O’Roarke.
“Just sit her up here,” he tapped the bench. “I’ll show you how to load the grenades.”
He pulled open a drawer in the steel bench, and proceeded to stack grenades alongside the launcher. O’Roarke watched in morbid fascination. This wasn’t the first time he had tested weapons for Lee, but it was the first time he had ever had to stand on a pile of guns while the person beside him pulled grenades out of a drawer.
When there were a dozen grenades rolling around on the bench, Lee closed the drawer. He plucked one up for O’Roarke’s inspection. “This is a standard 40mm smoke grenade.” He took another. “This is one of my 43mm demon purging rounds. Don’t ever get them mixed up: if you load a 40mm round into the 43mm chamber by mistake, the stock will explode in your face and probably take your entire head off. Not to mention what it would do to my grenade launcher.”
As far as O’Roarke was concerned, the two grenades were identical. He took them, and found they weighed as much as each other. He turned questioningly to Lee.
“One is fifteen grams heavier than the other,” Lee told him, catching the look, “Don’t tell me you couldn’t pick that.”
If O’Roarke couldn’t pick three millimetres of potentially lethally different diameters, there was no way known he was going to know which of the grenades had fifteen more paperclips in it than the other. He shrugged hopelessly.
There was a clutter from the shed door, and Midori blustered in. She was wearing oven mitts and carrying a smouldering tray of a dozen pieces of charcoal. She wandered over to Lee and O’Roarke.
“I heard everything,” she declared. “Lee, just give him the 43mm rounds and the 43mm chamber. He doesn’t need to blitz London. We’re just sending him out to the Nest, aren’t we?”
“I guess so. It would be better if he could pick one from the other. You never know what sort of situation will arise out there. I don’t expect you to know, Midori. You don’t have an exorcising bone in your body,” Lee said.
“And all you’re good for is making deadly weapons,” Midori retorted. She looked Lee up and down and licked her lips. Her voice was suddenly less inured wife and more smoky mistress. “And that’s the reason I married you.”
“Guys, please,” O’Roarke interjected, before Lee and Midori could leap on one another like a couple of squirrels in spring. “The grenades.”
“You’re right,” said Lee, “I don’t want them to see any displays of human kindness. It will make them think twice about killing people.”
Midori set her tray of ex-cupcakes on the bench. They fit right in alongside the grenades. She fetched a 43mm round from the counter, snapped the launcher open, and placed the round in the chamber. “Operation is straight-forward. Aim and fire. These are an assortment of the 43mm rounds we developed. All are geared to do maximum damage to demonic targets whilst minimising impact on allies. That’s not to say it’s safe to fire this at your guinea pig friends. One round is filled with blessed oil, for example; it’s designed to break down the defence forces of a gathered demon horde. But it will also ignite on impact, so any human in range will also be burnt.”
“We call that one the Unholy Hand Grenade,” Lee added happily.
“Why unholy, if it’s blessed?” O’Roarke asked.
Lee shrugged. “Midori thought Holy Hand Grenade might be copyrighted.”
“We’ve also developed a frag round which expels silver crosses on impact,” Midori provided, loading more grenades into the chamber, “The crosses have a range of about fifteen metres from point of impact, though preliminary tests show they can travel up to thirty metres, and perhaps as far as seventy-five. You’ll want to steer clear of range of that one. Meanwhile, the sonic burst is very human friendly. It will temporarily alter a demon’s wavelength, making it vulnerable to attack, and also render it unable to defend itself.”
“Then there’s the depleted uranium and tungsten round,” Lee chipped in. He glanced at O’Roarke. “I really just stole that idea from the military. Basically what happens is-”
O’Roarke held up a hand to silence the other man. Against the fire in his throat, he said, “No. No depleted uranium.”
Lee’s smile faltered. “Wh- why not?”
Midori clucked her tongue. “I told you these Australians are too eco-minded to agree with the depleted uranium round. We should have sold it to the Soviets when they asked for it.”
Lee protested, “But I’m Australian, and I agree with it!”
“I don’t,” O’Roarke rasped, “Now put it back in the drawer.”
Grumbling, Lee obeyed. Midori considered the grenade launcher ready to go with only five rounds loaded. She snapped it back together and handed it to O’Roarke.
She beamed at him. “There. You know where the Nest is. The quad bikes are parked at the back of the shed. Take one and enjoy a peaceful afternoon exploding demons with experimental grenades.”
“Yeah,” Lee gave a sinisterly sunny laugh, and nudged his wife. “And if the grenades aren’t any good, you can always fire some of Midori’s cupcakes at them.”
And that’s all she wrote! We’re blazing through the story now. Let me know what you thought, and I’ll catch you for tomorrow’s video review!