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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 114: Beam 32
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“Alright,” the white-haired man said, “let’s teach you two how to use those guns. Bron, you first.”
“Why does he get to go first?” Sophia objected.
“I don’t mind going second,” Bron said. “Ladies first, after all.”
Beam closed his eyes and bit down on his jaw for a moment, letting the frustration pass. Then he attempted to explain calmly.
“Bron’s shotgun has a lot more fast stopping power than those flechettes, as wonderful as the flechettes might be. If something attacks us while I’m explaining how to use these, I’d be much happier if Bron had already learned how to blast something with the shot. Also, the shotgun is a fairly simple weapon, so I expect I can teach it to him fast. Besides, although I know how a rail gun works, I don’t actually know how to work it, so I’m going to need a few minutes to figure it out, and that means it’s going to take me longer to teach Sophia than to teach Bron, and if Bron already knows before I teach Sophia, we’re that much safer. Bron, you first.”
While Sophia fumed and Beam ignored her, Bron stepped over with the shotgun. Beam took it and walked over to the weapons cart. “Step one. These are shotgun shells, or cartridges. As I think I said, there are a lot of different kinds, and I grabbed a couple, but most of what we’ve got is, well, shot, metal pellets inside a plastic case with a gunpowder charge and a firing system.” He held one up and turned it around. Pointing to the dent in the metal back he explained, “When a pointed object hits this spot hard enough, it causes the explosion inside. However, when that happens, this is inside the barrel,” he pointed to the barrel, “of the gun, so the shot has to come out this narrow weak end and fly down the barrel and out. It’s moving very fast, so it travels rather far rather quickly; although the bullets from our guns move faster, it’s probably not a difference that will make much difference most of the time. As the pellets travel--it’s like throwing a handful of gravel. The closer you are to the target, the more gravel hits the center. On my world, people use shotguns to shoot ducks out of the sky, because enough shot will hit one duck to kill it when they’re flying together. You might actually hit more than one at that distance. From here to,” he pointed toward an irregularity in the surface of the torn up ground, “that mound over there, you’ll get a spread that puts most of the shot somewhere in the target. If you shot Sophia at this distance, you’d put a very large hole through her.”
He found the loading port. “This is a repeater, which means you can put several rounds, or shells, in it, and when you fire one you can quickly get the next ready without having to reload.” He began putting shells in, counting aloud, “One…two…three…four…five…six…it looks like that’s it, your gun takes six shells.
“This little switch is called the safety; in this position, the gun is locked and in theory won’t go off accidentally, unless you accidentally release the safety. Switch it to there,” and he did, “and it frees the trigger, which is a lever that moves the hammer so that the hammer will snap forward and strike the back of the shell. There’s actually something called a firing pin in there, so the hammer strikes the pin which strikes the shell, but that’s the sense of it. To move the shell into position, you have to slide this piece down the barrel and back up again; that will also eject the spent cartridge.
“Hold the gun with both hands, and place the stock--this piece--against your shoulder. When it fires, the explosion is going to push the back toward you, and if it isn’t secure it might hit you pretty hard, and it might fly wild, so it’s important to have the stock firmly pressed to your shoulder. Lean into it a bit, then squeeze the trigger, the little bent lever. It will make a big noise, try to wrench itself out of your hands, and throw the shot out the end of the barrel.”
Resetting the safety, he held the gun away from himself, and looked at it trying to think whether he forgot anything. “O.K., let’s have you try it. Here, take the gun.”
Bron took it.
“Release the safety, and hold it like I showed you. Make sure it’s against your shoulder. Pull back the loading system and let it go forward again.” He watched and listened as Bron did all this. “Now aim for that mound of dirt over there and pull the trigger.”
There was a loud explosion, and the mound of dirt burst apart.
“Good shot. Sorry I don’t have any skeet, but you’re going to have to learn by doing from here. Cock the gun and set the safety, and that’s as ready as you’re gonna be.
“I should mention that I’ve sometimes seen people fire one of these things one-handed, but that’s a lot harder to do than it looks. The kick can break your wrist if you don’t have it braced somehow. Now, Sophia, let me see that gun of yours.” She slapped the gun into his hand; he pretended it didn’t sting.
It had an artificial rubber coating around what appeared a mostly high-impact plastic housing, which made sense given the amount of power that must pass through the coils to fire it. There was a single indicator light, dark at present but which must indicate at least ready and not ready. He looked for a compartment for a battery, to no avail. Apart from the indicator light and the trigger, there was a port which must be for loading the flechettes, although it appeared that it only took them from a clip, not singly. He had grabbed clips, in addition to batteries and flechettes, so he grabbed one of these now. A lever by the port clicked as he inserted the clip, there was a very quiet high-pitched whine like a strobe flash charging, and the indicator within seconds went from yellow to red. “Red must mean hot,” he said, and aimed the weapon at what remained of Bron’s pile of dirt. He squeezed the trigger, and there was very little kick as the weapon hummed and a dart sailed from the barrel and buried itself in the dirt.
The light again went yellow, the squeal of a capacitor charging followed, and the red light returned. He looked for a safety but found nothing.
Flipping the lever, he removed the clip, noting that the design made it awkward to holster with the clip in place. The light blinked white before extinguishing. He examined the clip more closely, and found that there was a battery compartment at its end; it appeared to hold eight flechettes when fully loaded, and he was certain now that there was one chambered which apparently would not fire despite the fact that the capacitor had charged.
“O.K.,” he said, turning to Sophia, “I think I understand enough of it to get you started. It probably has some functions I don’t yet know, but we can load, aim, and fire it, and that’s enough for the moment.
“This is the gun. It’s probably technically a--Dawn, what is this?”
“She glanced at it and rattled off, “A hand-held electromagnetic flechette accelerator.”
“Yeah, I was going to say something like that, but I can’t easily shout, ‘Use your hand-held electromagnetic’--what she said--in the middle of a crisis, so we’re just going to call it ‘gun’ until you have another gun. This piece is called a clip.” He indicated the clip, and went through the motions as he explained. “The clip has to be aligned so that this lines up with that on the port, and it clicks in place like this, and then you’re ready to fire. To disable the weapon so it won’t fire accidentally, you remove the clip by shifting this lever. O.K., do it.”
He handed her the gun and the clip, and with a bit of fumbling she got the clip attached to the gun, the red light quickly ignited, and just as quickly extinguished as she removed the clip again.
“Good,” he said. “Now, insert the clip, and carefully point the barrel--the long thin part--toward that dirt mound we’ve been using as a target. Place your pointer finger of your good hand on the little lever we call a trigger. You will get a more accurate shot by using two hands, but this gun has only a very slight kick so you will probably usually use it one-handed once you’re used to it. Right now, hold the barrel from below with your left hand, point it at the dirt mound, and squeeze the trigger with your right.”
A flechette flew from the weapon and sailed over the dirt mound and beyond.
“Yeah, well, we’ll have to work on aim, but you’ve got the essentials. I’d love to practice, but we don’t have unlimited ammo and I’m not sure when we will be able to--O.K., what’s going on?”
“What’s going on what?” Bron asked.
“The both of you. You keep looking over that way, like there was something there.”
“Sorry,” Bron said. “It’s just that when I’m relaxed I feel like I left something over there. Crazy, right? I’ve never been over there.”
“But,” Sophia said, “I have the same feeling.”
Beam stopped and calmed himself, and realized he, too, felt like he left something that direction, one of those ‘the car is this way’ kinds of feelings he often had when he came out of stores. “Well,” he said, “I guess we should go find out what’s over there.”
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twelve other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #313: Verser Solutions. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: