R&D Part II: Eclectic Boogaloo
A/N: I own nothing, except a 2001 Mazda Tribute. It is not the greatest car in the world, it is just a Tribute. Buffy bits owned by the spirit of Joss Whedon's rage, Marvel bits owned by Walt Disney's frozen head
"Thanks for letting me use your dad's credit card, Wills," Xander told her, popping the last of the cherry tomatoes in his mouth.
"It was for 'things that crop up while we're gone', which this did. It's only a hundred dollars, and once you can start selling any of the five things, you'll pay me back in no time!"
"I will, totally, absolutely. Stark had this business start-up plan, where he patented several but not all of the parts of a process and started selling the end product. It worked pretty quickly. I just have to whip up an end product and talk to some people and make some sales."
"Any idea who you will pitch to?" Willow asked, turning back to the computer. She could obviously get some contact info for him while they were at it.
"Well, if this were Tony's universe, I would have a whole list of possibilities, from Roxxon to Oscorp to Hammer Industries to any number of others. I don't know what my choices are here in reality though." He picked up one of the handful of celery sticks left on the tray, but there was no dip left, so he just fiddled with it while trying to think of industrial start-ups or weapon manufacturers.
Willow was typing and clicking away on the computer. "These will let you, or whoever, make a small-scale linear accelerator, right?" she asked, and Xander dropped the piece of celery. "That's a yes, I'm pretty sure."
"You figured that out from two coil winding processes, a simple gear mechanism, a smaller capacitor design, and a new type of alloy? Or I guess adding them together, it seems pretty obvious, with the diagrams and all..." Xander hadn't thought it would be that obvious, but Willow was also ridiculously smart. "It's an arm-mounted railgun. I left out the ammo, the feeder mechanism that gearing system attaches to, the trigger, and the power source, although pretty much anything will work. And putting it all together, of course."
Willow checked, "From the size of the gear thingie, I guess you want it to launch something pencil-sized? Little mini stakes? Can you modify it for different ammo?"
Xander nodded. "I don't imagine most people need something for killing vamps, so I will have to pitch it as a quieter alternative to rifles. That part bugs me a bit."
It was Willow's turn to nod at that. They both knew how she felt about hunting, and guns in general.
"I don't know what else I could do quickly, though. Repulsors for lift are incredibly energy intensive, if they would even work here. I don't think I will be able to make anything like the ARC reactor, either. And I have to do a lot of experimenting to figure out what materials are doable here. Pretty sure we don't have vibranium to use as a base, and probably not adamantium, either." He sighed. "And I can't experiment without a lab, and no lab until I have money."
"It's a vicious circle," she agreed. "But I was thinking you could talk to some local manufacturers. People who make crossbows for hunting might like a high-tech version." He must have made a face, thinking that crossbows were purely mechanical and jumping to electronics probably wouldn't be feasible for them. "O-or the gear thingie might work as part of a gun or something, so gun makers might be interested." She looked at him with a hopeful expression, and he smiled at her. "Okay, so local gun people."
She backed out her search and typed some more, and while she did he moved his chair closer to her so he could see the results. There were lots of reports of arms manufacturers closing in California or no longer selling there.
"So, California has some pretty restrictive laws about guns," Willow said with some pride. "It looks like you have two choices anywhere close, Excel Arms in Fremont and Full Spectrum Firearms in Fresno. Let me just print off some phone numbers for you."
"Thanks, Will. You are so awesome that truly awesome people look up to you and go 'Whoa'," he told her. She beamed at him happily as she handed him the sheet of paper with contact info on it. "So, about that rump shaker..."
She blushed as red as her hair and panicked a little. "Is that the time? It'll be dark soon, maybe you should get going before the sun sets and vamps come out to play and eat you, we wouldn't want that, definitely of the bad," she babbled in typical Willow fashion.
He pretended to pout as he stood and gathered his things. She did have a point about the time. "I was good! I got veggies instead of Twinkies and everything!" She folded her arms across her chest and continued to put out twice the normal number of rads in the infrared range. He smiled at her to let her know he was teasing and then leaned in and kissed her hair. "Thanks again. You're the best."
She hugged him and mumbled, "And don't you forget it, mister," into his chest, then pushed him towards the back door.
Xander made it home without incident, and started up the stairs to his room before he remembered he had moved his stuff down to the basement last night, after getting barely coherent drunken approval from the 'rents. More space for a temporary lab, less likely to attract their fickle attention with noises or smells that would need explaining, closer access to the back door to sneak past them in the living room... he had a bunch of good reasons for the move. It would just take a bit to get used to it.
Neither parent was in evidence in the living room as he made his way through it to the basement stairs at the back of the house. He assumed they were at a party or something at one of the neighbours and didn't think about it any further.
In the basement he divested himself of outerwear and started work on his prototype railguns. He would put together three at once, using existing materials from his salvage expedition rather than the cast alloy he had submitted a patent for, since he didn't have any way of melting or casting metal at this point. He used the Marvel capacitor in the prototype he would keep for himself, and a series of regular components for the one he would give to Buffy; it was bulkier and heavier than the unit he would use for his sales pitch, but she was strong like ox, and he made a mental note to *never* say that to her in person. His demo unit had fewer capacitors, so it would only be able to do a handful of shots before they were out of charge, but as it was a demo unit, that would be no problem.
He spent an hour winding copper wire for the linear accelerator part of things, getting only half of one of the pairs of rails done, before he decided that was a fool's game, and whipped up a winding robot out of Lego Mindstorm pieces in about 15 minutes. He also womped up a AC to DC rectifier in about a minute, so it could run off of house power. He figured out how long it would take to complete a full rail, set his alarm for five minutes before that, and went to bed.
Willow called him late Sunday afternoon, just as he was putting the finishing touches on his demo unit. His wire coiler was working away next to him.
"Someone just tried to get into my computer!" She was more indignant than scared.
"Really? Tried to, you said. Does that mean you blocked them? Leet haxor chica to the rescue?"
"Of course. They were trying to exploit a known vulnerability in my router's firewall, but I patched that months ago. My log parser emailed me that it happened, and I called you."
Xander actually knew what she was talking about in computerese for once. Mostly from the Stark Side, but Ms. Calendar's class was helping him out as well. "You think it's because of what we worked on last night? The patent office getting suspicious? Or maybe someone else in the government? Hey, you don't suppose A.I.M. or Hydra exists here, do you? That would be full of egregious suckage!"
He could hear her typing while he was speculating. "I've tried to trace their IP address, and all I can find is that it is a reserved block. No location, no reverse lookup, nothing to identify them. That seems governmenty to me."
Xander nodded, even though she couldn't see it. Then something horrible occurred to him. "Wait, we're sure that Moloch didn't leave a copy of himself on the internet, right? You did some digging right after his robot body went kablooie and didn't find anything, right?"
"Right. I've been checking randomly since then, and nothing. I have a couple of scripts running at various universities and corporations I have accounts on, and they are reporting more nothing. I think we're okay on the Moloch front. Hey, I wonder if they will try something like a buffer overrun now that the easy port forwarding sploit failed? That's the usual option two on the script kittie list."
"Script kitties? You don't think they're pros?" Xander asked.
"They probably do this a lot and have a list. Or maybe not. But there it is in the logs. Fairly amateurish pros, I think." Xander heard more typing. "That was blocked too. I think I am going to use my honey trap and play with them a bit. I'll call you later."
He stared bemusedly at the phone after hanging up, wondering what a honey trap might be. He knew what it was in spycraft, thanks to various conversations with SHIELD operatives. You present an inviting target, knowing it will be taken, and you either fill it with false information or take the taker. He supposed it would be much the same thing, present a vulnerability, letting the attacker in but only able to see what you want them to see, and analyse them based on what they do.
He shrugged, and turned to making ammo for his demo unit, now complete. He calculated it would send a projectile around four hundred yards with accuracy, flying at over 600 meters per second at a very conservative estimate. With more power, he could probably get something going dozens of kilometers a second, but that much energy would destroy the framework and probably the copper coils. Going slower and lower power, he figured he could get almost unlimited shots out of the thing. His secondary coiling system would wrap the barrel with magnetically inert, high tensile strength carbon fibre to get even more durability, but he wouldn't be able to do that with his prototypes.
He had Buffy's bolter nearly finished when Willow called back. He glanced between the phone, the clock, and his work space for a few seconds before answering. Apparently he was so in the zone, he didn't notice the passage of time.
"I've been having fun," she told him without preamble. "I'm almost certain it's a government type, and completely certain this is a reaction to our patent shenanigans yesterday."
"That's a pretty quick response, isn't it? For government? I figured it'd be a big ol' bureaucracyfest, taking weeks."
"Well, I poked around the patent application web site while I watched this guy poke around my honey trap, and they have a script of some kind looking at the applications. Remember how it didn't tell us how much it would cost to apply until the last step?"
"Yeah, that was weird, according to Tony's memories. He's used to it being super easy and cheap. Probably from all the mad scientists in the Marvel universe, now that I think about it. SHIELD did a lot of monitoring of that, too, now that I think about that as well."
"Exactly! That's happening here, too!" Willow sounded excited.
Xander was skeptical. "We have SHIELD here?"
"Or something. It's cheaper to apply for patents for certain kinds of things, and some patents even get automatic approval, rather than going on to the review stage. It looks like it still makes you wait the three business days to find out, according to the script, probably to avoid suspicion. It's pretty neat, actually." Willow was generally admiring of other hackers' handiwork, and always willing to pick up new tricks.
"So... What do you think? Will they step up operations when the electronic attempt fails? Do you think we're in trouble?" Now he was worried.
"They wouldn't pre-approve patent applications if filing them meant you were in trouble. Maybe. I'm not sure. I guess we'll find out soon, though, the guy just abandoned my honey trap." She sounded a little disappointed, but with the speculation as to trouble, a little relieved as well.
"If I don't show up at school tomorrow because I've been arrested, it's been great knowing you, Wills," he told her, using a bright and cheerful voice.
"Xander!" she chided him. "Don't be silly. You can't get out of history that easily."
"Why do we need to know about the French Revolution, anyway? We'll never use that knowledge for anything."
"Who knows, maybe you will accidentally build a time machine, and then you'll need to know not to call yourself Alexandre du Lavelle to avoid being guillotined, depending on the year. I'll see you tomorrow."