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July 14, 2013
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(Contains: strong language)
                     Targets

Devon Carter hated guns. Not all guns, but ones associated with killing people: assault rifles, small caliber handguns, tactical shotguns, guns like those. He always came across as a pacifist, and vehemently refused to allow Carlton to bring his guns into the house. He had been grateful when Carlton brought his arsenal, but that was because to Carter, those weapons seemed necessary. But the request Carter made at the end of that talk took it even further, so far that Carlton began to worry.
    “I want you to take my family to the gun range,” he said. “Make sure they have something with enough killing power that they can take care of themselves with things go south.” The request was completely out of character; Carter would never let his daughter handle a gun. He had to ask if he was sure.
    “Without a doubt,” Carter said. “It's pretty much anything-goes at this point, and if they're going to fight dirty I don't see why we can't.”
But Carter did seem unsure about something, although Carlton quickly realized it was unrelated to his request. Carter's insistence seemed to imply that he thought it was necessary, that somewhere down the road he envisioned gun skills being vital to their survival.
    “Has Fiona ever shot a gun before?” Carlton had asked. He knew Steven had, and he wasn't too bad of a shot, and while Pepper may not have had much experience it was clear she knew how to handle a weapon. But like her father, Fiona disliked guns. She may have hated them even more, and with Pepper using the Wonder Nine Carlton didn't have any weapons suitable for a beginner.
    “Let her pick,” Carter had said. “I'm sure you have something she'll take a shine to.”
    Now, Carlton's unease was being replaced with awe. They had only been at the range a few minutes and Roderigo had just finished emptying a few moon clips from his Bulldog. Despite the stiff kick of the .44 Special round, the gun had seemed tame in his hands, and all of the shots were dead center on the target. He had now put it away, and was loading a clip into the marksman rifle. After taking a few seconds to adjust the scope, he fired the first round, nailing the bull's eye without the tiniest hint of surprise.
    On the other side, Steven was speed firing the Tac-85 shotgun, and doing a decent job of hitting the target. From the look on his face, Carlton could tell he was either using a magnum round or a box of his Brenneke slugs; both were nasty kickers, but fitting loads for what they were up against. Beside him, Pepper rapidly emptied the Wonder Nine's sixteen round clip, placing each shot into a five-inch circle in the center of the target. She wore a nearly sadistic smile, a twisted expression of glee that made Carlton's blood run cold.
    Fiona on the other hand was busy with his old Model 1895. As she stared down the sights, she seemed extremely nervous--her legs were stiff, her body pulled nearly sideways, and the rifle rocked with each breath. Putting his hands on her shoulders, he he attempted to guide her body into the proper position. "You want to try to keep your body squared," he said. "Feet shoulder length apart, left leg slightly forward and a little bent, and the right leg should be straight. Don't stiffen it."
    “Okay.” She readjusted her position and swallowed hard.
    “This gun has a hard kick,” Carlton said. “I can get you some factory ammo, which should cut that down a little.”
    “I'm fine,” Fiona said. “Let's get this over with.”
    “Okay, aim down the sights. You want the front sight to be level with the rear, but don't focus on it. Focus on the target instead.”
    “Got it,” Fiona said.
    “Okay, you want to squeeze the trigger,” Carlton said. “Don't yank it; that'll lift the gun. Squeeze, like you would a lemon--”
    The thunderous boom of the rifle filled the room. The barrel snapped upward, and the heavy thunk of the round echoed as it hit the wall on the other side of the target. Steven stopped shooting and whistled. Even Pepper turned to catch a glimpse. Fiona herself seemed fairly unfazed as she lowered the sight back onto the target, flipping the lever and ejecting the spent round. “Interesting,” she said, squeezing the trigger again. As the echo subsided, Carlton could hear Steven say, “Sweet Jesus.”
    Carlton couldn't believe it. The highest amount of recoil beginners were comfortable with was around 20 pounds--his custom load approached thirty--and she'd fired that second round without so much as a flinch. As he watched, she fired the next round with equal accuracy, placing the bullet very close to the target's bull's eye, and with a quick flip of her wrist she fired the fourth and final round without so much as a grimace. After cycling the round, she looked up at him and said, “That's the last one isn't it?”
    He gazed at the target--the pattern was about three and half inches wide, which was damn good for someone who'd never fired a gun before. With a smile he pulled several rounds out of his pocket and said, “Now let's reload and do it again.”
    “Okay.”
    “This gun reloads a little differently,” he said. “You want to open the lever, and set the bullet in like so.” He placed the bottom of the cartridge into the top and slid it to the rear. “Now, you rotate the top of the bullet down, like this.” And he flipped the bullet forward and pressed down until they heard a soft click. “You try.”
    With surprising ease, she inserted the bullet exactly as he had shown her, and within a few seconds she had placed the remaining three rounds into the magazine.
    “That's... pretty good,” he said. Carlton was amazed at how quickly she had taken to the weapon. He admired her natural talent, and watched with a crooked smile as she raised the gun back onto the target and fired another round.

                            * * *

“They make good paperweights is all,” the man said, handing the paper bag to Carter. “Carrying them around is risky. Don't let the cops find you with them.”
    Carter pushed his glasses up. “I know... collectors only. Relax, I don't intend to use them on anything human.”
    The shopkeeper flinched. “Hybrid then?”
    “Of course not. If it bleeds red, it won't ever see them.” He gazed over at the ammo counter. “How much are the magnums?” he asked, pointing toward a blue-on-silver box labeled Seahawk Custom.
    “What caliber?”
    “.500 Smith & Wesson Magnum,” Carter said. “350-grain hollow point.”
    “Fifty-six bucks,” the shop keeper said. “I thought you said you weren't going to hurt anybody?”
    “Nothing human,” Carter replied.
    “Right.”
    Carter pulled his credit card out and motioned to them. “Three boxes,” he said.
    As the shopkeeper grabbed the boxes, he kept an eye on Carter. He was obviously wary; Devon Carter being in his shop was unusual enough, and he couldn't help but wonder if it was some sort of sting. Carter noticed, but said nothing. The less this man knew, the better off he'd be.
    As Carter left the shop, he stared down at the bag. Opening it only a little, he took out the jar of gunpowder and the box of primers. He may not have liked Steven's idea, but there was nothing else they could do; they had to fight back somehow.
    He just hoped the effort was worth the risk.
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