Spark, Fizzle, Boom
When you’re Tony Stark, you can do anything. Well, almost anything, as he’s been informed, but sky’s the limit and he’s been thinking up innovations for space travel since he first glimpsed sci-fi movies in elementary school, so…
Being Tony Stark also came with a set of expectancies on behalf of other people, and seeing as he was going to host a New Year’s party at one of his properties to a hundred of his nearest and dearest – okay, so a few of them were actually near and dear to him, whereas the rest were just padding – there needed to be something that would make the evening feel like a ‘Stark Experience’.
Otherwise they could have been at any old party and how would that make him look?
Fireworks were an essential part of any New Year’s Eve celebration, a mandatory element that could not be dismissed. Whereas Tony usually contracted a renowned professional to plan and execute a particularly magnificent display of fireworks at his parties, this year he had decided he would try his hand at creating his own.
For most of November, he had planned, and as the end of December approached, he had his supplies and data at the ready.
One-of-a-kind rockets couldn’t be manufactured, as he had come to realize through trial and error, and making them by hand was painstakingly slow. But he couldn’t settle for a single dazzling rocket, either, and he was beginning to realize he may have overestimated his capability of producing a large-enough quantity for a fireworks display.
J.A.R.V.I.S., of course, had known this for a while, having studied both old-fashioned and modern firework assembly methods. The AI had also informed him of this repeatedly, but Tony had just waved it off and told J.A.R.V.I.S. that it was doable because he was Tony Stark and he could make magic happen in his workshop.
The magic was coming along rather slowly, though.
“There is still time to hire a professional, I’m certain,” J.A.R.V.I.S. attempted to suggest, clearly not believing their project could be accomplished in time for the party.
“I’ve already told people the fireworks will be spectacular this year,” Tony countered.
“And I am certain they will be,” J.A.R.V.I.S. replied rather dryly, giving Tony a clear idea what the AI thought of his efforts and the results they were currently yielding. “However, you haven’t actually told anyone that you are making the fireworks yourself, which means no one will go disappointed.”
“I will be disappointed,” Tony complained.
“Then all is lost.” The intended dramatic tone was completely ruined by the dryness in J.A.R.V.I.S.’s statement.
Tony rolled his eyes. “Ye of little faith,” he muttered and went back to trying to overcome the obstacle of too little time versus too much work.
The bots were hovering nearby, turning their clawed arms and zooming cameras on the firework ingredients and plans spread across every available surface. Now that Tony looked at it with semi-fresh eyes – no part of him could in good conscience be called fresh after the hours he had been putting in at the shop – he realized his workshop was rigged to blow with dozens of pounds of gunpowder lying around.
“Don’t touch anything!” Tony called out to the bots, who promptly looked up at him and tilted their arms in confusion.
He pondered for a moment if he could somehow use the bots to assemble the rockets, but their claws weren’t fine-tuned for such small and complex precision work.
“Maybe I need to re-invent the assembly of the firework,” he mused. “Sticking to someone else’s invention and rules isn’t getting me anywhere.”
“How many ways can there be to build a firework?” J.A.R.V.I.S. asked.
Tony smiled. “There must be more than what people are already using. Who knows, this could be a new source of revenue for us…” That would make Obie happy; he’d been complaining about Tony’s obsession over his secret project rather than the other stuff that needed to be done. It was just a few more days until New Year’s, though, so Tony had told him to just chill and trust him to deliver the other projects on schedule once he had gotten his own secret project out of the way.
“If we completely revamp the delivery system,” Tony started, envisioning a new breed of fireworks – more efficient and possibly friendlier to nature, plus safer for the people using it. “A carrier rocket that will launch the shells, extending the life of a single firework. If a little programmability were added, one could customize a single rocket to take a desired route and release the shells at predetermined intervals.”
He began to jot down weight and propulsion ratios, as well as ideas for a simple interface. How to control it before launch, or even after it had already taken flight, was a problem; Tony might have liked the latter option, but for the average consumer that might be too advanced. Also, safety was to be considered, although the first draft would only be used by Tony himself so that didn’t matter as much. He knew what he was doing.
“Hand me that mold,” he pointed to Dummy, and the bot rolled over to bring it to him, carefully setting it down on the table in front of him. Perhaps the bots knew they were surrounded by easily flammable materials.
Tony jumped to fleshing out the carrier rocket, calculating how many shells it could carry and whether he could make a single shell smaller, while packing it with more explosive material to produce a larger, more spectacular effect.
There was no reason for him to try and keep this first model compact, because all he needed was to have a final product finished for the main event. He could tinker with it later, make it more commercially appealing and functional.
He put the chassis together and worked on the tiny mortar that would launch the shells, making the barrel rotate slightly so as to achieve different angles. He had decided that it would be easier to make the rocket launch off the ground, then hover at a desired altitude. From there, it could launch its payload one by one, perhaps slowly rotating in the air for full effect. The delivery system was a bit clunkier than he would have liked, but as long as it didn’t get stuck, it would work.
Tony went to take a small nap before he moved on to craft the shells themselves, stacking them into the rocket to make sure they fit, then started to work on the propulsion and ignition system. He had to be able to isolate the ignition to the desired amount of shells and not make them blow up at once, obviously, and in the tight space that wasn’t as easy as one might think. He needed to separate a chamber from the rest of the interior, from which the shell would be instantly pushed into the mortar and launched off into the sky before they exploded.
After some rearranging and adjustments, as well as modification to the whole interior of the rocket, he thought he was finally there. J.A.R.V.I.S. had been running calculations for optimal ignite-and-release times, as well as coding a simple guidance software according to Tony’s specifications.
He was getting pretty close to a reliable ignition of the shells when he got a hankering for a snack, and got up to locate some in the workshop’s fridge. Just as he was pulling his head out of the fridge and placing some smoothie ingredients on the table, he heard one of the bots bleep in alarm. He turned his head to see what they had done now, then followed You’s line of sight towards the table where he had been working.
The cylinder with the built-in ignition was steadily rolling towards the edge of the table, and Tony felt his body freeze in dread. Crap, crap, crap! went through his head just as the cylinder reached the edge and fell down. He braced himself, cringing and turning away slightly, but then nothing happened.
Carefully peering over at the cylinder, he saw it rolling across the floor quite harmlessly, continuing with its momentum. Nothing had ignited, and he wondered if it had perhaps broken during the fall. “So close,” he muttered and started towards it – then froze again. On the floor, where the bots had been sweeping up a mess of abandoned firework parts, was a noticeable roll of fuse, unwound from its spool. His eyes followed the fuse line to a metal trash bin, where the bots had clearly been cramming the abandoned bits and pieces.
Relatively safe, he decided.
The cylinder hit the small obstacle of the fuse thread, its motion halting. Tony once again resumed his efforts to pick it up, just to be safe. Three steps in, the cylinder suddenly spat out an angry spark, and the fuse began to fizzle, the thread burning brightly and then traveling to the trash bin at a pace that seemed accelerated, almost, as Tony’s eyes followed it.
The bots screeched and backed away towards the far corner of the shop.
As the burning line climbed up the side of the bin and disappeared inside, Tony held his breath. There was some smoke, but that could just be the fuse line burning and then smoldering into nothing but a pile of fine ash.
Obviously he had been discarding something flammable, though, because just as he dared to inhale again, the metal bin exploded. Tiny little burning particles flew everywhere, the bin itself flying through the air and then landing a few feet away, spinning around until whatever had exploded inside it had exhausted the available fuel. The flying embers, however, reached some critical parts of the work area, and Tony barely had a second to dive down before his experimental rocket released its payload in one, glorious, deafening boom that left his eyes spotty and ears ringing.
Funnily enough, once he began to regain his senses, he tasted the particular tang of heavy-duty fire retardant foam on his tongue.
New Year’s Eve
Tony watched the fireworks display with a glass of scotch in hand. He felt like he could still smell smoke on his clothes, which continued to permeate his entire Malibu home despite excessive ventilation to air out the place. The smell of gunpowder had a very distinct flavor to it…
Rhodey walked over to him. He had come late to the party, having just missed the turn of the year. “Nice fireworks,” he said.
Tony hummed. His own creation would have been nicer…
“You don’t seem to be in a party mood,” Rhodey observed. He had grabbed himself a glass of champagne, which probably meant he was staying for the rest of the night and not just to wish Tony a ‘Happy New Year’. “I saw Obadiah on my way in, said you’ve been holed up in your workshop lately. Anything interesting?”
“Nope,” Tony replied, swaying his balance from the balls of his feet to the heels and back. He thought he could still taste the fire extinguisher foam Dummy had sprayed him with seconds after the initial explosion. For once, he hadn’t even been angry, because anything flammable had been pretty toasted once he got it under control.
Well, at least he could start the new year by re-decorating… that was always fun.
Rhodey leaned closer to his face suddenly, squinting. “What happened to your eyebrows?” he asked.
Outside, the professional pyrotechnician launched the final volley of fireworks, and Tony downed the rest of the scotch in one gulp.
Happy fucking New Year.