There was only one different thing to try. Of all the things she owned, it seemed she cared more about that than anything else. It was the only thing she had left of her old life.
“I don’t…” I really don’t want to fuck it up.
“It’s made to be used. It’s tough.” She held it out to me. “You’re not going to break it.”
I took it, handing her back the now warm to touch pistol. Of course, I checked there wasn’t a bullet chambered, and flicked up the safety before handing it over. She seemed content with that.
The thing was smaller. Noticeably so. Fit in my hand better. I might be strong, but compared to most of the guys I fought my hands were pretty small. I guess it figured that Beth would have something more suitable to my stature. Lighter too.
“This is a twenty two, smaller calibre.”
“Calibre… size of the bullet?” The base of my knowledge had been nurtured only through media, and it wasn’t like I had really paid much attention to stuff like this. I only know what I’d managed to sponge up, even if it was correct in the first place.
“Yeah, diameter.” She returned to her perch on the larger-than usual chunk of broken concrete. An improvised seat to watch my practice. “Its point two two of an inch.”
“Inch? How old is this thing?”
“They didn’t re-bore every gun when they switched to metric, Alex.” She rolled her eyes, but I caught the hint of a smile. That was more satisfying than hitting any target. “It’s about 5.6 millimetres”
“And this is? Nine?” I guessed.
“Actually it’s a four five APC, much higher kick. Better penetration.” She swung her legs, kicking her heels into her seat.
“Oh. So it’s better?”
“Not necessarily. Go on, give it a go. See what you think.”
I gave the gun a good look over before I even started to aim, there was a safety – on. I clicked it off, chambered a round and aimed.
The trigger was much easier, there was little or no resistance but for a slight barrier just before it fired. It was smooth, easy. Again, I noted how quiet it was in comparison. There was less noise, less flash. It didn’t jerk so much in my hands. A much more pleasant experience.
But… a pleasant experience wasn’t the idea. It was less powerful.
“Now try three shots.”
I shrugged, and I did.
All three hit within inches of each other.
“Huh.” So less power equals less recoil. Less recoil, better aiming.
“If you’re targets moving, you’re moving, you’re likely to miss your first shot. Miss you’re first shot with this?” She waved my stolen gun in the air with distain. “Much harder to hit with your second. Power isn’t everything. Other than penetration, the main advantage of a bigger bullet is distance. We’re not dealing with assault rifles here. It’s difficult to hit anything over fifty meters, and that’s pushing it. The power isn’t the limiting factor. Shot placement can be just as important, and a twenty two can be just as lethal as a four five. It’s also much easier for a beginner.”
Was she enjoying herself? I hadn’t seen her so animated for days… or at least since she was firing the thing, but that doesn’t count.
I looked down at it in my hands. It was a little too comfortable, now it had warmed to body temperature – I hardly noticed it.
“How many bullets does it fit?”
“Fifteen. Straight track magazine, aftermarket. There’s enough space for more in the grip but rimfire is a bitch to feed. I like to keep it simple. Plus it keeps the weight down.”
“Is it okay that I didn’t understand half of that?”
“Yeah.” She pulled out a whole new box. The tight-rattle of metal-on-metal suggested it wasn’t empty. “You just need to shoot.”
We repeated our regime, only stopping when we were down to the last few bullets like before.
The gun didn’t jam, not once. Every shot I fired hit the wall, most were within a six inch circle. We’d chipped off fair chunk by the time we packed up.
I made Beth’s gun safe and held it out for her.
But she held up her palm. “No, keep it for now.”
I felt a jolt of panic, “I can’t, Beth. It’s yours.” She’d never forgive me if I lost it, or broke it. I really wasn’t good at looking after stuff. Bad things happen to me. I didn’t want that kind of responsibility.
“I care about it, Alex. Look after it. But I care about you more. You saw. It’s better suited to you than it is for me anyway. I’ve kind of grown out of it.” She held up the ‘my’ gun. “This thing is unforgiving for a beginner. I’ll manage until we can sort something decent for you and me both.”
“I…” She leaned in to me, the sudden movement made me pull back, but not before her lips touched my cheek.
“Shush. Let’s go home. I’m freezing.”
“Alex!” Jack burst into the room without knocking. I needed to get a lock on that door. Luckily neither of us were in any state of undress, not that we were ever in any state of undress. Though I wouldn’t m- “Shit’s going down.”
Oh, yeah, someone bursting into our room shouting my name. Must be important. Tone of voice… more excited-worried than oh-shit-someone-just-died worried.
I was on my feet regardless. Jack and his little group of rag-tag kids had been keeping a not-so-steady eye on the surrounding area for activity. He’d lead us to the worst offenders. We’d given them the message.
That had been planned, we organised that around a table and everything. No jumping into rooms shouting names.
He was gone before I could ask any questions, no doubt to go shout other names in other rooms.
“What’s going on?” Beth was awake, sitting up in the bed. The cover clutched around herself.
“No idea.” I picked up my armour and started belting it together. With Beth’s help I was out of the door in a minute flat. She trailed behind, giving the stuff on my belt a quick check before handing it to me as we reached the room with the aforementioned table.
Mike was already sitting at it. Danni came down the stairs from above, towelling wet hair, but otherwise ready to go.
“Trouble near dad’s.” Jack blurted out, as soon as we were all in the room. “Someone getting roughed up pretty bad, by the sounds of it.”
“Not far,” Mike said, “But how long did it take you to get back here?”
“Wasn’t me. Pete saw it. Called me, two minutes ago?” he was almost jumping with nervous anticipation, hands on the table, feet hanging in the air as he leaned forwards.
“No reason to wait.” I said. “So we get there too late, we might be able to help him out with the aftermath.”
“Danni?” Mike looked to her.
“Fuck it. Let’s go.”