April 23, 1951
The Big Reveal
In the area known as Cough Town, also known as the industrial sector of Blackberry, there was a circus of activity. A stage had been prepared in the only warehouse clean enough and sanitary enough to house the nearly three dozen spectators of various departments from Washington. The bigwigs were hoping to turn this into a government success story.
The thought was enough to frustrate Fred Walsh. This was his personal triumph and he'd be damned if they used it only to fuel their own ego. 'They want to turn my success into their own trophy...something to boast about.'
After weeks of testing at Test Site Delta, Doctor Fredrick Walsh was excited to be releasing his pet project. He couldn't wait to show the big heads in Washington what four years of his life provided for the welfare of his country.
So, here he was, on a cool brisk spring morning in eastern Massachusetts with a large metal box and at least a half dozen assistants and a waiting radio and television crew ready to see what he had been working on for the last handful of years.
That was what was in the nine foot tall rectangular metal case.
"Dr. Walsh, the news anchor is getting antsy. Might want to hurry it up..." said an assistant; name was Burk something-or-other. He was finicky with the details on everything Walsh assigned him to. Made him more than perfect to handle the media.
Fred had a simple solution to this situation. "Don't worry Burk. Let the media wait. The end result will be their excitement going through the roof of this place when the prototype is revealed."
Burk nodded twice and went on his way.
Fred went to make one last inspection of the box. "I know you won't let me down, Jack. You'll knock their socks off." He tapped the box with his right hand before moving on with his work.
Burk did his work with gusto, keeping the media crew busy until Fred was ready for them. When the time came Fred took his place at the podium atop the stage. Government agents and representatives took their seats in the front row in front, while the television camera crew got in the middle. The scientists took their seats just off to the left of the stage.
The box was ready in the center of the stage behind its creator.
The cameras were turned on; flash photography began in a few moments. After a big breath to assert his confidence, as well as a hand to remove the push back the short black hair on the top of his head, Fred began to speak.
"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the future. For years America has been clamoring for safety in light of the wars in Russia and China. Though we have our Jericho Wall surrounding the entire country, fear of the evil foreigners continue to threaten the peaceful existence America is enjoying. Last month, saboteurs from a foreign nation destroyed the shipping yard in New York City, setting the business in that district back months and costing the lives of hundreds of hard working men just doing their jobs. As stated before, the wars in the world have our fighting men on edge and they are ready to repel any and all attacks. But what of suburbia? What of our cities? They have the police! That is what you would say. If they fail we have the National Guard! But what if that is not enough? For four years my team and I toiled to answer that question. Using the latest in modern technology and advancements in science, we now have an answer."
Fred turned to the giant box behind him. "Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the first working prototype of Project Hammer. His name is Jackhammer."
The seams on the four corners of the metal box were released and the box fell apart into the four directions of the compass, revealing what had been inside.
What was shown was right out of a science fiction novel. Standing between seven and eight feet tall was a human shaped suit of metal. Robust and bulky at the same time, the armor made him look intimidating even with its simplistic design. On the being's back was a small diesel engine that was as quiet as it could get. The face had two yellow lights representing its eyes but no mouth or nose. The body wasn't proportionate like a normal human, which was the only indication that whatever was standing on the stage was not human at all.
The crowd had gasped loudly at first then the cameras started to flash and the news crews started to report as best they could what they were seeing.
Yet from inside the helmet of the being known as Jackhammer, through a radio system that sent what the unit heard and saw back to a building deep within Blackberry's commercial district, the video feed was in black and white but from where he stood Jackhammer felt...nervous.
Wait, if he was an automaton, how could he feel anything?
Dr. Walsh would want to keep that detail secret, just something he knew and would take to his grave, but he knew Jack was most likely nervous at what he was experiencing. Little movements to look around, to process that he had been revealed to the world and they were taking in their newest protector.
As soon as the crowd calmed down enough Dr. Walsh went about with what he had to say. "Now, I will take your questions, one at a please if you would be so kind."
The first to raise his hand was a male reporter with thick glasses, middle aged and with too many watches on his wrists. "This Jackhammer, what exactly is he?"
The doctor found the question humorous. "To fully explain would be...convoluted, to say the least. In simple laymen's terms, Jackhammer here is an automaton. A self-aware being that is just as human as you and me but special in his own right. He is packed with weaponry meant to protect us from those who want to do us harm."
A female reporter raised her hand and stood up, "Can't he speak?"
"No. That was one part of his creation that we failed to make progress on. He can make grunts and the like, but not fully formed words."
"Then how should we take him? Surely it would be hard for him to do what he was designed to do if he couldn't speak."
"We figured out that issue early on." The doctor turned to Jackhammer. "On his back is a small radio and video set up, which allows us to hear and see what he sees. From there the signal is sent to our Headquarters here in Blackberry which then he will receive instructions from our experts on his course of action."
"Whoa there, chief. Is that what I am supposed to do? Thought I was supposed to be this lugs' eyes an' ears?"
The sound of a small whirling engine was heard along with the distinct Georgian accented voice before a small flying contraption came into view. It was a bot. Small, light green paint job with a small set of propellers at the top to keep it in the air, and a single camera lens for its 'eye'. It had small antennae on the top of its head with little lights on the tips. It looked like a bug and everyone tried to make sense of what they were seeing.
Dr. Walsh looked at the new bot, "Ah, I was just about to introduce you. Everyone, I want you to meet Jackhammer's assistant: a flying camera unit, or FCU for short, who goes by the name Shutterbug." He gave an audible sigh at mentioning that name, like he wasn't pleased to christen the device as such.
Shutterbug was far more enthusiastic about his name. "Yup, howdy there folks!"
Cameras flashed crazier than when they had first seen Jackhammer.
"So...is he moving on his own?" asked one reporter.
"Fully automatous from us. He will make sure that Jack here does his job right and makes sure that people feel safe in his presence. That and he will speak for him since he doesn't have a voice of his own."
An enthusiastic holler from Shutterbug was heard, "We serve and protect YOU, 'Merica!"
Two weeks passed after that 'successful' reveal, and nothing happened for the new 'protectors of America'. Dr. Burk went ahead and provided the details into his audio diary with a somber and frustrated tone.
"Observation Recording Number 13. The date: May 5th, 1951. It's been over two weeks since the fruits of our labor were revealed and the results were supposed to have been worth it. The blood, sweat, and tears we paid for to bring the two into this world should have been repaid in full within the first few days. Instead the head honchos of Blackberry are hooting and hollering about the costs to use them! Jackhammer and Shutterbug are supposed to ensure security to the citizens, to show them that they are the protectors from our foreign enemies. Yet...they treat the two as nothing more than props to show off! Idiots! These two are itching to get out of the House and show the country what they are made of and the mayor wants to use them for his reelection campaign like they are his own version of the Secret Service. It frustrates me. (Sigh) Dr. Walsh keeps telling me to make sure they are ready for continued field testing in the meantime. I'll do so, as long as I can keep Shutterbug from talking to me. His constant nagging gets annoying but Jackhammer just seems to think little of it. Speaking of which we found out recently that Jack's voice has suddenly started working. Apparently I forgot to flip a switch during his start up process. Whoops."
He pushed the button to stop the recording just in time to hear that all too familiar whirling of Shutterbug's diesel engine. "Hey there, Doc! What ya up to?"
"'Bug, I really do not want to say anything at the moment," said the doctor as politely as he possibly could. It was no secret that the doctor and the 'Bug didn't have the finest terms of friendship. While 'Bug's constant talking was humorous at first it quickly became like a bad joke to Burk.
Too bad the little flying automaton didn't get the hint. "Feeling down and out? How 'bout I sing you a song? That ought to cheer you right on up."
Burk's eyes went wide and he shook his head, "Please no-"
As loud as his voice box could handle the bot began to excellently butcher a song from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, while being oblivious to the doctor covering his ears with his hands. He pressed his hands so hard against his head that he could have popped his brain like a zit and he wouldn't have cared.
A heavy-handed fist came down on top of Shutterbug's head, sending him to the floor and sparks flew as his gears tried to maintain functioning from the pressure.
"Knock it off, 'Bug," said Jackhammer who had somehow snuck up on both the doctor and his partner without so much as a warning. Despite weighing over five hundred pounds and being nearly eight feet tall, Jackhammer could be as quiet as a sprinkler when compared to the fire hose his partner tended to be.
As expected Shutterbug wasn't happy. "You big palooka! Why'd you do that?!"
"Time to do more tests, says Doc Walsh. Let's go."
Burk lowered his hands, glad to hear the distinct Brooklyn accent of the hulking Jackhammer. Burk hadn't set his voice to that but as he couldn't change it he left it the way it was.
"Fine, let us be off an' do business, I guess," said bug, his diesel powered engine kicking back into the right gear.
Burk was glad that he could be left alone. The room shook as Jackhammer made his exit with Shutterbug flying near him. He loaded a new reel of audio tape into the recorder. He had to do one more log before returning to the main lab. He pushed the button to record his message before speaking.
"May 5th, 1951. Ever since the reveal critics have lambasted Doctor Walsh for Jackhammer's design, saying it was too bulky. The engine on his back made him look too much like Quasimodo instead of Hercules. The way of the future is diesel power. Sadly as much as we have given into that sort of power it was still a drawback. The engine was made slightly more compact and moved to Jack's chest, though parts of it still stuck out his back slightly such as the antenna for the radio/video communications, but such an obvious vital organ needed to be reinforced otherwise he wouldn't make it far in Blackberry. We encased the engine with a thick shield of titanium and that solved that problem. Now he looked like a medieval knight with his new armor redesign. Children called him 'Tin Man' upon seeing him for the first time. However there was one other issue that needed to be addressed: fuel consumption. On normal diesel fuel Jack could run for approximately three days without refueling. This drastically changed after his first day of combat testing. He performed exceptionally well, but seemed to be exhausted after that. Doc Walsh asked that I discover a way, any way at all, to ensure he could run for as long as possible to avoid complaints from the spooks in Washington about fossil fuel costs. I did, though it did not sit well with him once he found out. Recently I discovered a power source in the form of a stone buried in an old subway system under New York City. It glowed amber red, and while it seemed to be nothing special I still took it back to my lab and did some tests. It was an amazing find, it enhanced diesel fuel to perform nearly one hundred times better than normal. It also lowered Jack's consumption to near zero. So, I took it upon myself to replace Jack's outdated power core with the stone and attached all the wires and tubes to ensure his entire being was attached to it. The next combat trial proved to be beyond explanation. Much like the heart in any living creature, should the core be removed he would cease to function. Luckily he would have to be incapacitated to be able to get close to him and he isn't one to let others get too close. Combat trials will continue until we get the word to the send the duo into Blackberry for their first tour. In the meantime, there's a design for an automaton I am in the process of finishing. I think Jack and 'Bug as well as Doc Walsh will get a kick out of this once it's done. This lab needs a woman's touch."
He pushed the STOP button and went to archive his recording, forgetting to put the folder on his desk away. The word 'Dahl was on the cover in big red letters.