The Time: after the Folly was attacked, but before the new Folly arrives.
With Stormy and Star down for a nap, Blackie is relaxing in one of the lounges with hir PADD. Struck by a seemingly random thought, shi taps hir comm badge and asks, “Tess, when I was transformed I had a memory stick with me. It meant a lot to me. By any remote chance, do you have any idea what happened to it?”
A familiar voice, with a definite purr in it, replies, “I knew that stick had a lot of meaning for you, little one. I have it, would you like it back?”
“Yes, please. Those were my toys when I was human, and I still consider them as such. And I feel like playing a bit.”
“Very well, it's now in your belt pouch. Have fun with your toys.” The reply has a definite touch of conspiring mischief in it.
Blackie checks hir pouch, then says, “Thank you, Traveler. That was thoughtful of you.”
With a grin on hir face that Stormy would recognize, Blackie heads off toward one of the smaller holosuites, with a stop planned at an industrial replicator on the way.
Weaver settles in at her bridge workstation, in preparation to getting back to the endless paper chase that comes with being First Mate of the Folly. As she brings the paperwork out, she immerses herself in the work.
About a half hour later, she hears snickering from the pilot stations, and she look up in puzzlement. “What's so funny?” she asks.
Cindy and Alex look at her, shake their heads, then turn their backs, their efforts to stifle their amusement futile, and a bit obvious.
Weaver shrugs and reaches for another PADD. The 'snap' of the static spark startles her, as does the distinct sting of the shock. Bending down, she picks the PADD up from where she dropped it, getting another shock. “What the??? How did I pick up a static charge here?” she asks herself.
Something appears wrong with her hand, and she takes a closer look. “Wha? Why's my fur trying to stand up?” Then the penny drops, and she jumps away from her workstation, getting a very large static bite, and a loud snap, as she does.
Standing well away from the metal around her, she takes a good look at her body and is totally nonplussed when she sees that every strand of fur on her body is standing on end, and calling her tail a bottlebrush would be an understatement. Checking her hair and face, she finds that her careful styling of the morning has been completely replaced with something that probably resembles her tail. Smiling grimly to herself, she decides how she's going to play this.
Tapping her comm badge (and thankful not to get shocked again), she snarls angrily, “Holly, you and your partner in crime get your tails to the bridge, RIGHT NOW!”
When Holly and Quickdash run onto the bridge a few minutes later with worried expressions, they both stop abruptly in surprise, their eyes wide in surprise.
“We didn't do it!” Quickdash gasps out, as both succumb to snickering attacks.
“Who did?” Holly adds.
“Do you think you can stop snickering long enough to get that static generator out of my workstation? And I have no idea. Yet.”
Holly and Quickdash nod, but are having obvious problems suppressing their amusement.
Neal, hearing Weaver's tone of voice, steps out of his ready room and looks at Weaver. “Is there a reason you stuck a finger, or toe, or something – maybe your nose? – into a power outlet?” he asks, deadpan.
Weaver whirls on him, and something in his expression stops her initial response. Growling, she stomps out of the bridge. “When I find out who did this …” she snarls, trailing off in a way that promises major retribution when she catches the culprit.
Looking at the Terror Twins and his bridge crew, he asks, rhetorically, “I suppose none of you had anything to do with this?”
Not getting a coherent reply, although he did get several head shakes, he steps back into his ready room. “Tess?” he asks.
“I'm not going to tell you, Boss” the A.I. replies. “Nobody was hurt and no equipment was damaged. There is no need for you to know. And I have a wonderful little piece of video I'm saving. For me, if nobody else wants it.”
“Oh, you know I want to see it,” he answers. “As will just about everybody else, I'm sure.”
“Just a minute here, Blackie,” Tess says, “just what are you up to with this?”
Startled, Blackie takes a half-step back. “Just replicating some toys from my previous life, Tess.”
“And just who authorized you?”
“I did!” Blackie says, a bit defiantly. “I know more about the weapons I have saved in this stick than anyone on this ship, and probably fewer than a hundred people in the entire Federation can match my knowledge. You and the Traveler are the only people who even know I have this, and I'd like to keep it that way.”
A purring voice interrupts, “Let hir have hir toys, Tess. Shi is right about hir knowledge, and shi is more than responsible enough for this. Besides, shi doesn't want anyone else aboard to even know about these. They really are nothing more than “big boys’ toys”, to use a Terran idiom.”
“The boss won't like this, Traveler.”
“He's not going to explode, either. He and the Marines know that Blackie is not what shi seems. Shi is not a cub, other than physically.”
“I don't like this, and I am going to tell him.”
Neal chimes in with, “Don't abuse this, cub. I'll allow it as long as you are as responsible as the Traveler thinks you are.”
Tess unlocks the replicator, and Blackie gathers up hir take a few minutes later. After getting everything properly stowed, shi nods to hirself, and heads off toward one of the smaller holosuites, carrying hir booty.
Several hours later, shi is on hir way back to hir room, carrying a number of zippered, canvas-like parcels. Shi also smells to high heaven of some sort of chemical with a definite smoky touch.
As shi passes Zhanch in the corridor, the Marine stops dead in her tracks and looks at the chakat youth. “Just what have you been doing, Blackie?”
“Just playing with some toys,” Blackie replies nonchalantly, not slowing down.
Grabbing the gaily waving tail, Zhanch stops Blackie. “What kind of toys?” she asks more pointedly.
“Ancient ones,” the youth replies, the mischief obvious in hir voice. “Why? Do you want to play?”
“If what I smell is what I know it is, I'm more interested in how you got ahold of it.”
“I just replicated a few of my old toys, Zhanch. What's the fuss?” shi replies disingenuously.
“And where are you going?”
“Back to my room. Why?”
Still holding hir tail, the Rakshani leads the youth away.
A few minutes later … “Okay, Blackie. Tell me about your 'toys', and how you had replicator patterns for them.”
“Well, you know that I got some of my memories back during the battle, don't you?”
“I'd like to know more about that, too. You were a human – and a 'Fleet Marine?”
“Medically retired, actually. But I had seventeen good years in, mostly in covert and black ops. Those details are still plenty foggy. Then my knees got messed up and 'Fleet retired me.” Blackie sighs and looks pensive. “I enjoyed being in the Marines and I was pretty good at my job, even if I do say so myself. Being forcibly retired hurt. But I understood why it had to happen. I simply wasn't mobile enough, I had to walk with a cane; I was slow and a bit clumsy, too. And I had no interest at all in a desk job. But that's how I knew how to remote a suit.”
Zhanch sits back and just looks at Blackie. “How did you manage to wind up a chakat, then?”
“I'm not clear on that, yet. I know, vaguely, that I had problems with some group on Chakona. I didn't like them at all, but they held me hostage somehow. And becoming a chakat is tied up in that, too. The deities, the Traveler in particular, were involved. Those memories will return eventually, I believe.”
“And your 'toys'?”
“As for today, I had saved the replicator patterns on a stick, which the Traveler returned to me this morning, and Neal okayed the replication. How I got them originally, well, they were a hobby of mine. I liked playing with the old tech and seeing what it could do. So I wound up with a fairly extensive collection. I got pretty darned good with it, too.”
“Yeah, I have a memory, pretty much an isolated snapshot, of taking a shot at about a kilometer and a half and making a one-shot kill, no sighting shots either. I remember the guy was outside a concert hall or something, wearing a tux, like it was intermission. He was a terrorist big-shot and needed to be taken out. So I did. He was human, by the way.”
“With a projectile weapon at that range? That's impressive. What kind of sights were you using?”
“A simple, though powerful, passive optical magnifying scope with crosshairs. It seems like it was of a vintage with the rifle. Which was huge. It was nearly two meters long and massed at least seventeen or eighteen kilos.”
“No, the rifle. The scope probably massed about a kilo or two. The magnification was variable and very high, and there was a rather primitive computer attached to it to assist with the range compensation. When I was replicating all this stuff, I included one round of ammo for that piece, just out of curiosity. Here it is.”
Zhanch examines the round, closely. “I can see why the rifle was so massive. What's the velocity on this? And do you know what it's called?”
“Around 1000 meters per second. When I saw the round, I knew I wasn't up to shooting that much rifle yet. I need to grow a bit more first. I limited what I replicated to stuff I figured I could handle now. The big stuff, both pistol and rifle, I'll play with later. I'm going to have to do some serious weight training in the meantime. I'm going to need both the bulk and the strength.”
Shi continues, “It's called a 50BMG, according to the identifying info in the ammunition metadata. I'll have to do some research and see if I can find out what that means.”
Zhanch gives the round another look. “If it's a human developed round, as it appears to be, Neal will most likely know,” she offers.
“I don't want to involve Neal right now. These are my toys, not his.”
“I see. What else do you have here?”
“I'll show you. And I think some of bigger stuff I have will interest you, you've got the mass and strength to handle them. There's a semi-auto pistol I have that has the same projectile diameter as that round. A lot less massive, but the same diameter.”
“Now that sounds interesting.”
“The next time I'm thinking about doing some shooting, I'll get one of those made up and invite you along.”
“Deal. Now, what else do you have here?”
Blackie starts uncasing the guns shi has, and shi and Zhanch become engrossed in their discussion.
Later, as they are packing the guns away, Blackie asks, “Do you think Neal would let me carry a phaser? I do have the experience and training, after all.”
“I don't see why not. Between the attack and what you've shown me here I doubt he'd give it a second thought.”
“Blackie?” Tess calls, after Zhanch leaves. “Weaver discovered your little present and she's really on the warpath. She just doesn't know who did it. Yet.”
“Are you going to tell her?”
“No, at least not for now. Maybe in a month or two, when she's calmed down a bit.”
“I guess she didn't take it well.”
“No, she didn't. Would you like to see it?”
“Oh, you bet! Wonder why she got so upset?”
“Probably the fact that she'd just finished about an hour working on her hair and fur. I think it was for Longsock's benefit.”
Blackie moves over to his console and Tess queues up the video.
A few minutes later, Blackie is laughing. “Oh, my, that's priceless!” shi giggles, sinking to the deck as shi starts to calm down. “And the terror twins … ” and shi loses it again.
“I had no idea you were like this, Blackie,” Tess muses.
“What? A practical joker? Why not?” shi says, rolling to a more upright position.
“You seem much more sober. And a lot older than you look. Especially since the attack … ”
“Yeah, I suppose. My outlook has certainly changed. But still, a good practical joke is hard to beat.”
“Until you get caught, remember.”
“Oh, I know I'll get caught eventually. And payback can be a bitch. As long as they follow the rules, though, I don't mind if they want to get even.”
“The rules?” Tess asks.
“It's pretty simple, really. My only real rule is that the butt of the joke should be able to tell the story better than I can, and do it the very next day. Nothing that causes injury or damages equipment. Nothing truly humiliating. Stuff like that.”
“Well, Weaver will get even. And she can have a vicious sense of humor, so be warned.”
“I'd called it wicked, rather than vicious. But thanks for the warning.”
Meanwhile, Weaver is in her quarters, trying to get her coat to lie back down. She has given up, for the moment, on her hair and tail.
“Can I help you?” Tess asks.
“AAARRGGGGGHHHHHHHH!” she growls. “When I catch whoever did this, they are so gonna pay!”
“Got any ideas how to get this back under some sort of control?” she continues.
Tess responds with a long spray of water, more like a mist, with a conditioner added, which lightly but thoroughly dampens the vixen's entire coat.
When she tries a brush, again, her coat brushes out without frizzing. “Thanks, Tess.”
“Glad to help, Weaver.”
“You know who did this, don't you?” the vixen accuses.
“Yes, but if I won't tell Neal, I'm not going to tell you, either.”
“Please … a hint at least?”
“Well, okay. I'll tell you this much. It wasn't Stormy or Star.”
“It was a hint, which is what you asked for, wasn't it?” Tess giggles, then goes silent.
Weaver just growls quietly, while she gets her grooming done. Then she tackles her hair. Again.
Blackie sticks hir head into Neal's ready room. “Can I bother you or are you too busy?”
“Not really that busy, Blackie. What's up?”
“I'd like to ask a favor.”
“Yes … ”
“I'd like permission, and a permit, to carry a phaser.”
“You're a bit young for that, although I'll consider a stunner.”
“Nope, I want a phaser. I'll be keeping it pre-set to medium stun, normally.”
“I'll think about it. Anything else right now?”
“Nothing I can think of.”
“Okay. I'll let you know what I decide. Now let me get back to work.”
“Thanks. See ya.”
Leaning back in his chair after Blackie leaves, Neal asks, “Tess?”
“Remember when I told you shi might know more about guns that you do? I think we can leave out 'might'.”
“Now the question is whether or not to give hir the permit.”
“I'll endorse the permit, if you want,” Zhanch says as she enters the room.
Neal looks at her, the question plain in his eyes.
“I caught hir coming back from a practice session in one of the holosuites, and we had a long talk. That cub taught me more about projectile weapons in a few hours than I've learned in a lifetime in the Marines.”
Neal cocks an oh-so-eloquent eyebrow.
“Shi claims she was a human and a 'Fleet Marine and spent seventeen years in covert and black ops before being medically retired with bad knees. I suspect hir primary duty was as a sniper.”
“And you believe hir?”
“Surprisingly, yes. Shi knew enough, and used Marine terms fluently enough, that I have no real choice but to believe hir. Some of the terminology was obscure enough that I actually had to think about it before I recognized what shi was saying. It almost felt like shi was interrogating me. Plus, shi did yeoman work remoting that suit during the attack.”
Neal absorbs this, sitting as motionless as a statue. “What do you think shi'll do if we give hir a permit?”
“Carry, all the time. I think the human term is 24/7.”
“Even on Folly?”
“Even, or maybe especially, on Folly. Problems can appear out of nowhere, and shi is very aware of that.”
“Yeah. They can, even on the backside of nowhere.”
Zhanch pushes a form across the desk to him. “I've already signed it. You just need to endorse it.”
Neal stares down at the concealed carry permit. A 'Fleet permit, he notices.
“Sign it, or don't. Your choice,” Zhanch says, getting up. “But I won't say a word to hir if shi starts carrying, regardless.”
With a sigh, Neal signs the permit, then gazes pensively at it. Should I give it to hir? Or not? he asks himself.
He turns back to his desk, and calls up the records from the pirate attack. He watches closely, refreshing his memory, as Blackie refuses to join the other cubs, and hir actions through the rest of the attack.
That's no cub. That was a full adult who knew exactly what needed done and knew how to do it. Guess shi really is getting hir memories back. This changes everything when it comes down to it. He heaves a sigh. It sure looks like I have an adult, and a warrior at that, in a cub's body. That's going to be hard to remember, for a while. It's going to be interesting, at least, as shi gets the rest of hir memories back.
Spotting Blackie heading toward hir room, Neal calls hir over. “I've thought about this, and I'm not sure I should, but here's your permit. Don't make me regret letting you have this, or you'll regret it a lot more. Understand?”
Blackie nods a strong affirmative as shi scans the permit. “Yes, I understand. And thank you, this is quite a bit more than I expected. Did Zhanch give you any trouble about signing this?”
Neal looks at Blackie, carefully. “No, in fact she filled this out and then gave it to me to endorse, unannounced. You've managed to impress her, cub. Just keep those impressions positive and everything will work out fine. Now scat.”
“Thanks, Dad.” Shi then 'scats' as ordered, thinking, I did not expect a 'Fleet permit, that had to be Zhanch's doing. I'll have to figure out some way to thank her for that. Guess I'll go get my little phaser, it'll be a lot easier to conceal. Now, where do I keep it? Not a lot of places to hide it in this outfit. Have to think about this some. Belt pouch will be okay for now, I guess. Maybe a 'purloined letter' approach?
Meanwhile, Neal is somewhat surprised. Shi's never called me 'Dad' before. Changes upon changes, you have to live through them to appreciate them. Smiling faintly, he heads back to what he was doing.
Passing an industrial replicator, the same one shi'd used before, Blackie stops. Getting out hir memory stick, shi quickly replicates an empty housing for one of the more popular cub's stunners that are available, along with a few components, then continues to hir room.
Opening hir gun safe, shi takes out a zippered case and removes a surprisingly compact little phaser. Stopping to pick up hir tool kit, shi returns to hir desk and clears a workspace before sitting down.
About forty-five minutes later, shi closes up the newly replicated stunner shell and inserts a power capacitor pack in its recess. Putting the small parts and hir tools away, shi heads over to hir sleeping area with the 'stunner' still in paw, then lies down and drops almost instantly into sleep.
Neal encounters Zhanch in one of small lounges and drops into a chair beside her.
“What do you think of our latest conundrum?” he asks.
Zhanch gives him the eye and responds, “Are you a telepath now? Shi is what I am sitting here thinking about.”
“I've been thinking too. It appears that we have an adult, an experienced warrior to boot, in our midst, wearing a cub's body.”
“It's going to be interesting, at least, for both hir and us,” Zhanch warns.
“No doubt of that. It's not going to be easy, remembering that shi is an adult. I don't imagine that it will be easy on hir, either.”
“I think shi'll have fewer problems than we will. Most of hir problems are going to be others reacting to hir.”
“One of the advantages of hir physical age, and for that I envy hir a bit.”
“Be careful what you wish for, Captain. There are deities about; mischievous ones,” she adds slyly.
“I hope they realize that I was being wistful, not wishing,” Neal says with mild concern.
“Oh, we understand, Captain,” comes from his comm badge. “A true wish we would consider, but we know the difference.”
Both are silent for a moment. “I didn't expect a response,” Neal says quietly. “But I appreciate the one I got.”
“Yes,” Zhanch responds.
“What should we do about hir toys?” he asks.
“I've been in hir quarters, and there is no need for concern there. Shi's actually more concerned about that than I am. Shi has a stout, secure locker, with a palm pad, that shi keeps them in. And shi's added a palm pad to the door to hir room. I see no risk there at all.”
“Yet more evidence that shi is not a cub, I suppose.”
“I wonder what shi's going to do for hir carry piece?”
“Deceptive and powerful, would be my guess..”
“You're probably right.”
The next afternoon, Zhanch encounters Blackie alone.
“May I see it?” she asks.
Blackie eyes her, “See what?”
“Stop playing and show me the phaser you're carrying.”
Blackie frowns, “And what makes you think I'm carrying a phaser?”
“Nice act, Blackie. Now show me.”
With a wry twist of hir muzzle, Blackie pulls hir 'stunner' from hir belt pouch. “Here's my stunner.”
“Interesting. Now show me the trick.”
“Tricks,” Blackie emphasizes. Then shi shows the Rakshani a rather counter-intuitive combination.
“Nice. To anyone examining it, it appears to be a cub's stunner. But when you activate it with that fancy paw-work, the heavy stun and phaser controls appear. How do you disable the advanced functions?”
“Just release your grip, and it's just another cub's stunner,” is the response, as shi demonstrates.
“Tricky. And well done.”
“I also have a little nasty built in. With a different combination, I can set this up as a bomb. It becomes a very effective booby-trap. By using a special command sequence, it becomes a bomb that instantaneously releases all of the energy in the power pack when the trigger is pressed. That's also the only time releasing your grip won't disarm it. The controls revert to the basic setup, but it's a bomb, not a stunner. There is a very small indicator on the display in that case. Oh, and trying to remove the charge capacitor will also set it off. Tess can still transport it out safely, though.”
“Ouch. That's nasty, Blackie.”
Blackie's smile is grim. “If it's necessary … ”
Zhanch's smile is, if anything, grimmer. “I hope the need never arises.”
“So do I,” shi sighs. “So do I.”
“Will you show me that combination?”
“When we have the privacy, Zhanch. And, for now at least, only you and Neal will know it.”
Handing the 'stunner' back, she smiles. “I'm really glad you're on our side.”
Settling back away from the console, Blackie has a thoughtful expression as shi regards the display, which is showing a picture of what appears to be a moderately heavy rifle-like weapon mounted on a low tripod. It has a pair of vertical grips at its rear.
Neal is walking past and glances at the display, then abruptly reverses course and sits down beside the chakat.
“That's a rather ancient and obsolete piece of weaponry,” he notes.
Turning hir head to regard him, Blackie responds, “I suppose you're familiar with it? And its ammo?”
“Then do you recognize this?” Blackie replies, bringing up another picture, this one of a more conventional appearing rifle, although it also appears to be rather massive.
Neal regards it thoughtfully. “I believe so.”
“This is one of my – toys – I think you'd call them. I haven't replicated it yet as I don't have the body mass to handle it.”
“And you won't for a few years,” Neal says.
“I'm well aware of that. However, Zhanch says she'd like to try one out. And we don't have any place on board for her to do that safely.”
“How about letting Tess have the specs and do it in a holosuite?” Neal suggests.
“That would work, and I have a couple other toys she wants to try out as well. What should I do if she wants the real thing, to put in the armory?”
“Let her. If she wants it, she expects she might need it at some point. And I don't object.” With that, Neal gets back to what he was doing.
“Tess?” Blackie calls a few minutes later.
“Do you know where Zhanch is, and is she busy?”
There is silence for a moment.
“She's not busy and she'll join you in a couple minutes.”
“What's up?” Zhanch asks as she arrives.
Blackie points to the console screen, which now has the original picture on it. “This is the weapon that ammo was designed for. It's called the M2 Heavy Barrel Browning Machine Gun, and it was intended for use against unarmored and lightly armored vehicles, aircraft, and watercraft. It was invented by John Moses Browning and came into service in 1933 on the Terran calendar. It was also known as “the fifty” and “Ma Deuce” by the troops. I think it's still in use in a few places.”
Zhanch pulls a chair up to the console as Blackie moves to give her room.
“There's quite a bit of info on that site,” Blackie adds, “and I have another link there to the Barrett M107 rifle, which is what I used for that sniper shot. Enjoy.”
“I will. Thanks, Blackie.”
“Not a problem, I was curious myself. Let me know when you want to try some of my toys out. I've got some things to take care of. See you later,” shi adds as shi moves away.
“I will,” Zhanch replies, distractedly.
Entering hir room, Blackie settles down on a 'taur pad.
“Go ahead and pull the data from those two sites I gave Zhanch, will you? And let me know what else you need to set up a holosuite for her to practice with those two weapons.”
“Can do, Blackie. And a few others, I'd guess?”
“Yeah. I believe you can access the memory of the replicator I used, so you should have the data for everything else. I stopped there and replicated a couple other toys for her. Except for one or two, they're still too large for me to use now, so they're just for her.”
“I can do that.”
“Great. I don't know when she's going to want to try them out, but I'd guess sooner rather than later. Probably in the next few hours.”
“I think you're right. She's certainly fascinated by what she's reading right now.”
“You'll want to calculate some force fields for the holosuite to stop those rounds. Anything that will stop the fifty cal will handle everything else.”
“Done. And done.”
“Happy to help, Blackie.”
Stopping at that same industrial replicator, Zhanch waits patiently while Blackie slots in hir data stick, then starts entering parameters. After a few minutes, as the replicator starts its run, shi steps back.
“Tess?” shi asks.
“Access the shotgun identified as 'KSG' on my data stick, scale it up to standard Rakshan dimensions, chamber it for Zhanch's preferred gauge, and make any internal structural changes necessary for that gauge. Then send it to the replicator and save a copy on my stick.”
“Can do, Blackie. Anything else?”
“How much shotgun ammo do you want, Zhanch?”
“Let's say a hundred rounds for now.”
Picking up their booty, they then head off to their reserved holosuite.
When they enter, Zhanch sees the M2 Browning set up on a sand-bagged tripod on top of a berm that brings the spade grips to a comfortable height for her. Nearby, she see the Barrett rifle set up next to a sniper's pad on the deck. There is a table nearby with several pistols laid out on it, along with ear muffs and safety glasses, as well as what appears to be cleaning supplies.
After they lay their shotguns and ammo down, Blackie grins, and asks, “Where do you want to start? And these are the actual weapons, not holodeck replicas. Tess has force fields up to prevent damage.”
“So I can take them out of here?”
“That's why I did it this way.”
“Okay … Let's start with the big boy.”
Blackie takes Zhanch through a familiarization and safety briefing on the big machine gun, then demonstrates it for her, showing her the 'walk-onto-the-target' sighting method that is typical for the piece.
“I've set it to slow fire, just a couple rounds a second. It's easier on the ammo supply, and better for training, and the tracer rounds will make it easy to see where you're hitting. High speed is about ten rounds a second. A single shot mode is also available. Let's see how you do.”
Zhanch sets herself behind the gun, does a quick mental review of procedures, and racks a round into the chamber. Setting her hands on the spade grips, she fires off a short burst, then watches the rounds arc down-range. Picking a target, she tries again, and grins when her second burst hits the target.
“Some practice, and I can see where a good gunner can just aim and hit her target the first time,” she says. “This is a nice design.”
She settles in and burns up the rest of the 250 rounds Blackie had replicated, the last hundred or so at high speed, then turns and smiles. “I like this thing. I want one, can I have this one?”
“Sure. What are you planning?”
“You'll see. What's next?”
“The sniper rifle. The fancy scope is on it, but you won't need to use the computer portion. That takes some time and study to master, and it isn't needed here. I do have the manual for you, though.”
The briefing this time is a lot shorter, and Zhanch settles in behind the heavy rifle.
She pauses after the first round, to rub her shoulder, which causes Blackie to smother a snort. Glancing at hir, she says, “Don't look at me in that tone of voice, cub,” then gets back in position as Blackie smirks.
The remaining nine rounds in the first magazine are sent down-range, and she stops.
“An interesting piece, and I can see its utility as an anti-matériel weapon. I also see why you like it. Mine?”
Blackie nods. “Shotgun next. This is a design that came out in the first decade of the 21st century. Notice the dual magazines. This is a pump shotgun, very much like what you already know. It's a bullpup design though, which makes it much more maneuverable, especially in tight quarters. It's also completely ambidextrous, since it ejects down. In my version, it's a 12 gauge and carries either six or seven rounds per magazine depending on what ammo I choose. For yours, which is a Rakshan gauge, I'm not sure but it should be similar.”
“It loads, and ejects, through the bottom, thusly,” shi says as shi demonstrates. “The magazines are selectable, and have to be selected manually, with this lever. The third, center position, here, disconnects the magazines and allows you to remove a chambered round, or hand-load an individual shell.”
“The safety is here, and the slide release is here.”
“That's a clever design. The two magazines allow you to have two entirely different loads available simply by flicking the lever. And doubling the capacity is nice, too.”
Blackie grins, “I have some specialty ammo, too. These,” shi says, pointing to a box, “are flechette rounds. Quite effective against soft body armor, and just the thing for breaching a door.”
“These, on the other hand,” shi says, pointing at a different box, “are also flechettes, but the flechettes are constructed from an explosive that detonates after impact. They typically explode after penetrating approximately their own length. Usable aboard ship, just barely, they shouldn't breach the hull or so my calculations say, but you'd best be careful with them.”
“Do you have any with a heavier payload?”
“Pretty much any shotgun load, including buckshot and slugs. And those can be made with the same explosive. Definitely not safe on-board in any case. I haven't replicated the explosive slugs or buckshot.”
Blackie adds, “The explosive flechettes should be effective against space suits, including light armor. I haven't tested them, though. Didn't want to waste any of our armor suits.”
“Oh, and this,” shi says, pointing to a small boxy shape attached to the barrel near the muzzle, “is a laser sight that projects a ring of dots with approximately the same spread as the load.”
Zhanch pauses a moment, then laughs. “A psychological weapon as well. I like how you think, cub.”
“Do these have Neal's rail gun adaptation?” she asks.
Zhanch explains Neal's modification of 'Betsy', then watches Blackie's face as shi works through the concept.
“I can do that, but I'll need to see his design and specs, and check those against the specs for these. It's do-able, and probably won't require too much modification. Thanks for the info, I can use it.” Might be useful on the Ma Deuce, too, not so much on the Barrett, shi thinks.
Zhanch waves a hand. “Don't worry about it.”
“What do you have for aerial targets, Tess?”
After a bit of competition between the two on the aerial targets, Zhanch moves on to the other rounds, exploring their effects and use.
“And finally, last but not least, these are the .50 caliber handguns,” Blackie says.
“I have a semi-auto, here, and a revolver, here.”
“Other than the obvious, what's the difference?” Zhanch asks.
“The revolver has an extremely high reliability factor, but lower capacity of six rounds and a more difficult reload. Although with the right accessory and enough practice, it's nearly as fast as the semi-auto. Without the speed-loader, it's very slow to reload, as you have to handle the individual rounds.”
“The semi-auto has one more round and faster reloads because it uses magazines. But it is more susceptible to failure, as it's more complex.”
“I see. And the revolver is the older design, I'd guess,” she says as Blackie nods in agreement.
“And the recoil is much more energetic, compared to a rifle or shotgun. Be prepared for that,” Blackie adds. “Let me demonstrate.”
Picking up the revolver, shi loads two rounds, then takes a two-handed stance and fires.
Zhanch's eyebrows rise at the recoil displayed.
“It'll put a divot right between your eyes if you aren't prepared,” shi says.
“I believe it. Thank you for the demo, it saved my face,” she says. “Is the semi-auto the same?”
“Pretty much, although the ergonomics are different. The difference is the different grip shapes and angles, and the height of the barrel above to the hand. I chose the revolver to demonstrate because the semi-auto's grip is too large for my hands right now.”
After another briefing on technique and safety, Zhanch has her turn with the pistols.
“That's all of them?” she asks.
“Yep. Now comes the fun part. Cleaning.”
Zhanch grins a trifle ruefully. “Yeah, we got 'em dirty, we need to clean them.”
Blackie starts hir final instruction, on disassembly, cleaning, and re-assembly. Chatting amiably, the two complete the chore, and Blackie assists as Zhanch packs up her new toys, other than the big Browning, which Tess transports to the armory.
“The other Marines are gonna be so jealous,” Blackie notes.
Zhanch chuckles, “Their problem, not mine.”
“Oh, and thanks for the permit,” Blackie adds as they exit the holosuite.
Blackrose and story copyright © 2014 Chuck Percy
The Chakat Universe is the creation of Bernard Doove and is used with his permission.
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