Saturday, December 09, 2006

Childhood's End - Chapter 8

Trish was glad to see Rowena show up for work, but couldn’t resist mock-throwing a spoon at her; Rowena nodded with a sheepish smile and went to work. That is, what few pieces of work were left to do; Rowena knew from previous experience that the weekday workload was heaviest at the beginning and the end, and she’d already missed out on one half of the real backbreaking labor of that night. The bar was fully stocked with people undergoing paradigm shifts towards drunkards, but the rest of the tables was conspiciously empty, and soon enough Trish brought up the topic Rowena was dreading.

“How about some of that piano?”

In Rowena’s fantasy, there was a small, personal hell for Mark Simmons; she unconsciously brushed her right hand against the countertop and felt it sting again.



Rowena realized that she had closed her eyes in shock at the muzzle blast from the USP in her hand. After getting the hang of Mark’s stance with the .22, she had foolishly asked to try it with his .45, and although she blamed herself for that question, she couldn’t entirely dismiss Mark’s complicity; come to think of it, he’d worn a rather large smile on his face when he said “Go ahead” and handed her the weapon.

She tried again, this time with a double tap, but then her eyes shut again and when she looked, the pattern was a disaster.

“You’re afraid of the gun.”
“It’s breaking my wrist.”
“Well, usually I would repeat my ‘Deathgrip’ lecture here, but I think this is futile. You’re a girl.”
“Perhaps I should grab my skirt, get a perm and take Home Economy, then.”
“Kid, this is just where the HMS Feminism gets crunched against the rough cliffs of physics. The technique is not your problem. Your lack of strength and mass is.”
“Gee, that’s reassuring.”
“This is not fixable. Unless you want to end up looking like Valentina...”

Rowena fired another shot. It hurt, it really did, no matter how much she wanted to keep the gun steady, the shot was nothing but a white-hot flash of pain crawling up into her elbow, and although fatigue took some of the blame, she finally secured the weapon and laid it down. Mark was right; this wasn’t going to happen.

“I bet it works in Weaver, though,” he said after some deliberation.
“Do we use Weaver in this house?”
“Fuck yeah. When I have cover and guys backing me up, I go Weaver. The funky shit is strictly worst case.” He noted her puzzled look and nodded contendly. “’course, I get the worst case 9 times out of 10.”

Rowena raised the USP again, readied it, then let off a quick series from her Weaver stance. This group was much tighter, albeit not quite as good as the .22.

“What’s up with the double-tap?”
“That’s the USP’s character flaw, kid. The trigger reset is pretty long. Suits an old man like me just fine.”

Rowena emptied the rest of the magazine into the target.

“I could get used to it, I guess,” she finally said.
“Your primary weapon should be what you’re comfortable with, something you just point and shoot. I guess something like a .38, or a 9mm Police...”
“...or my 5.7...”
“...or the 5.7, yes,” Mark conceded grudgingly. “You know it, get another one and be happy evermore. But the stopping power sucks, the caliber is exotic and I wouldn’t bet my life on it working if I had to pull it out of the muck. That’s what your backup gun is for. Big, reliable manstopper.”
“Something like this.”
“Pretty much, yeah.”


Stupid, stupid, stupid. Why the hell had she agreed to take up training with that monster handgun? Her entire arm was hurting, but her fingers were totally messed up; she was glad that she could hold the glasses, but to her tortured fingers, playing piano would be more demanding than open heart surgery.

“I can’t,” she said. “Slammed my fingers in the door.”
“Ouch! I did that when we renovated #4 last year, it hurt like a motherfucker.”
“Language, miss,” he called out.

Rowena fixed that “he” with the paranoid eye of a secret agent and the predatory eye of a girl with hormones. He was a guy, too much facial hair to be called a boy yet not filling out his suit enough to deserve the title man. He had an unhealthy fascination with combining an earthy jacket and pants combo with a black dress shirt and a bolo tie, looking for all the world like a fashionable attempt at “emo cowboy”.

“Relax, Matt,” Trish began. “She’s old enough.”
Matt turned to Rowena. “You must have taken growth-retarding drugs.”
“I’ve got an unhealthy fascination with explosives, too.”
“Ah, it’s good to meet another disciple of Sonoda.”
“...waaah?” went Trish, whose knowledge of pop culture did not stretch quite that far.
“Not important. Forgot my manners...I’m Matt Moody.”
“Ro...Faye Rollins,” Rowena struggled to blurt out as she shook his hand. She wasn’t smitten with him, and she would have killed anyone making that claim, but damn, this guy had the deepest blue eyes ever.
“Rofaye, is that French?”
“Huh? Oh, no,” Rowena giggled, her brain fast at work to cover for her mouth. “My Dad used to call me the Ensign. I’m just Faye.”
“Okay, I got that one,” Trish said. “Hip factor restored.”
“You’re thinking of a hip replacement, Trish,” Matt shot back.

Funny, too.

“When Matt isn’t working on his Improv, he runs a PR firm around the block.”
“Shill, eh?” Rowena spat at him.
“The most legitimate form of male prostitution,” Matt agreed. “But it pays well, and I try to keep my head down in the finances and tech while I let the interns come up with the puns and color schemes.”

Rowena’s cellphone began to vibrate in her pocket. Not now, she thought, goddammit, not now.

“So, you’re new in town?” Matt asked.
“Yep. Just got here last month.”
“Where’d you live before?”

Before Rowena could be tripped up thinking of a convincing lie for that, her cellphone went off again. With an apologetic smile, she wandered off towards the small kitchen entrance and took the call.

“Two minutes,” Mark’s voice said. “Meet me out front.”

Then he hung up, and Rowena really, really wished she could just shout out a string of curses. Instead, she dumped the apron and rushed towards Trish.

“I have to go.”
“What? You just got here,” Trish remarked, trying to come across as if the whole thing was a joke.
“Just dock the pay, I didn’t really do anything...”
“Faye. This isn’t about the money.” Trish raised herself into ‘speechify’ position. “This is about you being reliable.”
“I don’t...I can’t let this go. I’m really sorry.”

Whether by accident or subconscious way of explanation, Rowena brushed her jacket to the side a bit. It wasn’t enough to show anything except the beginning of her holster strap.

Trish understood, somehow.

“Go,” she finally said. Rowena nodded, then rushed off.

“They all break your heart, don’t they?” Matt remarked as he watched Rowena speed off towards the exit. “In their own little ways.”
“How do you think I got so old?” Trish replied.

1 comment:

Valentina said...

I look damn good!
I'm just big boned; it's all in the genes (And the jeans).
You know that. =P

Also real amazons 1-hand the DE in .357. I gave up on the .50AE. Just not reliable enough.