Chapter 7: Gearing Up

“Victor, Victor.” When I woke up, I felt like I’d been on a three day bender. I sat up and grabbed my head. It was pounding.

“Here drink this.” A large Styrofoam cup with a straw coming out of it was pushed into my hands. It was a chocolate shake. I took a large sip, ripped the straw and plastic cover off, and started gulping it down as fast as I could. From the aftertaste I could tell the drink was fortified, probably with protein and vitamins. As soon as I was done another cup was given to me. It took a little longer to finish this shake. When I was done I felt halfway human.

“Victor, we don’t have much time.” I looked up; Aidan had been giving me the drinks. Tim stood behind him. I stood up slowly. When Tim rushed over to help me, I waved him away.

“How much time have we got?”

“At most, a couple of hours.”

“So what do we do now?”

“We need to lock your paladin gifts to you. Normally we would have a ceremony but we don’t have time.” Cahill handed me a charm bracelet filled with charms. My eyes were immediately drawn to a miniature AA-12. “Put this on. It will help you call your gifts and seal them to your soul. You need a call phrase. The previous Salt Lake City Paladin used ‘Christ Victorious’, another popular phrase is, ‘Justice.’ You get the idea.”

I put on the bracelet. Immediately I saw a three dimensional image of an AA-12 hanging in the air in front of me. Multiple modifications had been made to the standard AA-12. The buttstock was different as were the sights. There was a rectangular bar running under the barrel. Next to the shotgun were images of a mid to late 1960s Harley-Davidson XLCH Sportster and a black leather motocross outfit—gloves, jacket, pants, boots and full-face helmet. It was as if I was rotating through my choices in a virtual reality video game.

I raised an eyebrow. Mini-Santa grinned, “I had a feeling you would prefer this look over the usual paladin’s suit of shining armor. Every paladin has a mount. Only your shotgun and boots are indestructible. There’s a minor spell of protection and comfort on your suit. I didn’t have time to do much else. Where possible, I’ve inserted Mithril plating. I’ve linked the rest of your gear to the paladin’s gifts, when your call them all your gear will appear. Stare closely at the images, Victor, try to hold all the details in your mind, and then call your equipment to you. You can use any phrase you want, but once you pick a phrase you’ll use it forever.”

I examined the images closely. The AA-12 had a 20 round drum. The suit had a utility belt that held two extra drums and three ten round box magazines. I looked up at Aidan; he had a reassuring smile. Tim was trying his best to look calm but his Adam’s apple was positively jiggling with anticipation.

I struggled against my reluctance to call the gear. It was one thing to put spells on myself to save my life, it was another to bind myself to Jehovah’s gifts forever. The shotgun and the boots were solid manifestations of his will. It was one thing to be forced into servitude, another to accept gifts from my master.

Who was I kidding? I’d gone up against just one troll and almost had my ass handed to me, my chances of surviving 20 plus magical elves without supernatural help was nil. Death was no escape. If I died I’d be an angel and have even less free will. I was being given the farmhand’s choice of mucking out horse versus pig shit. Even with manure there are better and worse options. Pig crap is a hell of a lot worse horse shit. As a servant of God, I had the ability to make some of my own decisions. It was better than being an angel.

‘Christ victorious’, didn’t work for me. ‘Joey is a little shit’, could be a problem. I shouted, “Azam-shay!” The charm bracelet burst into a blue flame. As I watched, the bracelet on my wrist melted and dissolved through my skin; there was no pain. The flames exploded over my body and then disappeared. When they were gone, I was holding the AA-12. I was looking through a visor that was so clean it was almost invisible. The clothes I had been wearing had been replaced by the black leather armor.

Aidan waved at me to follow him. We all walked out to the hall and down to the large room below Broadway. He gestured to the far wall about 40 feet away. “Vic, we have targets so you can test your shotgun.”

The buttstock of the shotgun had been modified to accommodate my helmet. I took aim through the ghost ring sight and pulled the trigger. I fired a single round. There was barely any recoil. I kept the trigger pulled and the AA-12 went fully automatic. Within seconds the entire clip of 20 rounds was gone. I changed and emptied another clip. Every round I’d fired had been completely silent. There hadn’t been any noise and hardly any muzzle rise.

“Aidan, what happened to the sonic boom?”

He beamed like a proud parent showing off a newborn. He was proud of what he had accomplished. “The speed of sound at sea level is 340 meters per second. I found stock factory shotgun rounds with a muzzle speed of 330. It’s disappointing but there isn’t enough sonic energy in a shotgun blast to melt lead. The heat generated was only enough to make the lead warm to the touch. There’s an upside because this allows us to use copper jacketed lead slugs with retractable stabilizing fins. With these finned, saboted slugs, your shotgun has a one inch minute of angle at 100 yards. I had to custom build these slugs for you. I was able to make 33 rounds. Most Redcaps don’t wear armor, but if you meet one with a breastplate, a copper jacked slug should go through it. Military Police Systems makes a frangible armor piercing round with the same kind of stabilizing fins that explodes with a 9 feet blast radius.” He stopped and gave a sigh of regret. “Unfortunately I didn’t have time to make high explosive rounds.

“Here now, why don’t you test fire a few slugs? Behind the rear ghost ring, there’s a flip up adjustable peep sight you can use when targeting anything from 50 to 300 yards. For now, since the target is only 40 feet away, you’re probably better off using the ghost ring.”

I changed to a box magazine. From 40 feet away, I put three rounds into the same hole. Was it wrong to be in love with God’s will? While shooting, I felt an intense urge to go to Pioneer Park. I’d never been there before, my urge made no sense. I decided to ignore it. I practiced switching out magazines quickly. My need to leave got stronger. I remembered Pioneer Park was where the Redcaps were. ‘Shit!’ I wasn’t going to have much time preparing.

“Aidan, I’ve got to go.”

Aidan’s expression became all business. “Tim and I need you to say we have permission to touch your gear. Give us all your clips and we’ll reload them for you. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but you have a Camelbak style backpack. You’ve got four liters of Gatorade in inside. We’ve dumped a couple extra cups of sugar in the Gatorade. You’re going to find your calorie needs are four to five times higher than they were before.”

I walked over to Tim to hand him the shotgun. He jerked away like it was on fire. “Oh yeah, it’s ok for Tim and Aidan to touch my stuff.”

As I handed Tim my gun, he began giggling, “Mr. Paladin, you gave me permission to touch your ‘stuff.’”

I looked at him with every ounce of irritation I was feeling. He kept giggling.

Aidan cleared his throat. When I looked over, he looked almost as pained as me, “Your visor is mirrored; you can see out, no one else can see in. There’s a spell on the visor to make it work like night vision glasses in the dark, another spell to keep it from getting dirty or fogged up. It’s strong enough to resist small caliber bullets.”

Tim got the hint and shut up. He turned to a table up against the wall and started reloading my magazines.

The urge to get to Pioneer Park was almost overwhelming. I knew I couldn’t leave until I had all my reloads. I started taking my helmet off. It wasn’t uncomfortable; it was just something for my hands to do but Aidan stopped me, “Vic, you’ll want to keep than on while you try wall climbing. Say, ‘Gecko’ and you’re boots will stick to whatever surface they’re on. Say, ‘Gecko’ again and they will stop sticking.”

“Gecko.” I tried to move my feet. I was able to rip one foot off the ground but I had to use all my strength.

“You need to peel your foot off starting from the heel and going to the toe like you have sticky tape on the bottom of your feet. Make sure you keep your weight forward to make the motion smooth not jerky.” I followed his advice; there still was some resistance but not nearly as much as before. When I got to the wall, I tried to curl my toes up and keep my body parallel to the wall. It didn’t work. I didn’t have enough flex in my boots and the balance point was all wrong.

I tried keeping my feet flat to the wall, letting my body go horizontal to the ground. I was glad I had super strength. I could feel the strain on muscles on the front of my leg, thigh, and torso but it was doable. I got to the ceiling and hung upside down. I said, ‘Gecko.” As I dropped, I twisted in the air and landed on my feet. Immediately, I sprang 7 feet through the air to the closest wall shouting, “Gecko!” I landed and stuck. I yelled gecko twice, first to release from the wall and then again in the air to stick to the ceiling. I mouthed ‘Gecko’ without making an audible sound; I dropped to the ground.

I was having so much fun, I could almost ignore my compulsion to get to the Redcaps. “Aidan, these boots have to take a lot of energy. How long can they stick before they give out?”

“Believe it or not Vic, they don’t use extra energy. The boots use the same forces geckos use to stick to walls. Plastic wrap works on the same principle—van der Waals or electrostatic interaction. Your boots and a gecko’s foot have microscopic hairs called seta which are tipped with even smaller hairs called spatulae. There’s so many of these hairs causing so much surface to surface interactions, a gecko can stick to a wall with the force of thousands of yards of plastic wrap. The setae are even self-cleaning. A two ounce gecko can theoretically stick to a wall with over 90 lbs of force. Each of your boots sticks to the wall with 500 lbs of force. The only thing you can’t stick to is Teflon. Water decreases the amount of electrostatic force—from 500 lbs to about 300.

“I have to warn you. You weigh a lot more than you think. Paladin bones and muscles are much denser than a normal man’s. You weigh at least 50 lbs more than you did before you turned. There’s quite a bit of Mithril plate in your leathers. With all your gear, you are probably close to 300 lbs. Be careful on wet surfaces.”

Tim screamed, “I’m done!”

Aidan started speaking faster. “Let’s get all of your ammo, even the ones that usually hang on your belt, into your backpack. It wouldn’t do for a police officer to stop you on the way to the park. Your shotgun has a name, Sanguinis. Call her, and she will come. Say her name while holding her and Sanguinis will return to the safe in my office. We’ll watch for it. If you run out of bullets, send it here and we’ll switch out your magazine. Try to give us at least thirty seconds. Leave her here until you get to the sewers. There’s 3 extra 20 round drums in your backpack besides the two from your utility belt and the 4 box magazines. ”

Aidan helped Tim stuff all the magazines into my backpack while it was still on my back.

“While researching assault weapons, I came across the concept of a tactical light. All paladin gifts can glow. I can’t believe I never thought of using light as a weapon.” Cahill actually started chortling with delight. I was struck again by his uncanny resemblance to Santa Claus. “The inside of Sanguinis’ barrel has a mirror finish and God’s will never gets tarnished. Say, ‘Lumen’ and the barrel will work like a flashlight. ‘Lux’ will cause blast of light as bright as anything put out by a military style tactical light.”

Cahill picked up my shotgun. “See this button here by the trigger?” When I nodded he continued. “It takes 30 lbs of pressure to set it, so it’s hard to set off by accident.” He pushed it and an 8 inch bayonet shot out of the rectangular sheath below the barrel. “The blade pops out with 400 lbs of pressure.” He gave an embarrassed shrug. “You’ll have to retract it. I don’t have the strength to pull against a 400 lb spring with one hand. You brace the buttstock on your hip like this, keep the release button pushed in with one hand, and then use the other to pull back the bayonet.” He showed me how to brace the buttstock against my hip to get the leverage.

“Anything in your pockets when you switch from regular clothing to your armor and back will transfer. This includes your cell phone. If you need help, call us. While you were asleep, I worked on your phone’s antenna. You’ll have a signal even deep underground. I put my number on speed dial; it’s #9. Tim is #8.”

Aidan gestured toward the way out. I began to run until I realized that he couldn’t keep up. He made it up the stairs, huffing and puffing, as quickly as he could. When we reached the ground floor he gasped, “Whistle or call out ‘Harley’ and your mount will be waiting for you. Your compulsion to do Jehovah’s will isn’t all bad. It will lead you to where you need to go. You can depend on it to find the Redcaps.”

Chapter 8