A Christmas Story, Part II


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Scene Title A Christmas Story, Part II
Synopsis Tasha's new firearms tutor Raith shows her the big guns. It is Christmas in July.
Date July 21, 2010

The Greenbelt, Staten Island

The Greenbelt is 2800 acres of mixed urban parkland and natural preserves that have since gone wild, equal parts dying and thriving in the neglect that the borough of Staten Island has suffered. The more natural areas are primarily a succession of ridges and boulder-littered moraines beneath the canopy of a hardwood forest - beech, hickory, maples, and oaks in the main, with a variety of less common trees mixed in. At the lower points of the parkland, this forest gives way to wetland, overgrown with ferns, skunk cabbage, lady slipper, and trout lilies.

An overgrown golf course is home to unkempt grassland and a site for the island's residents to discard junk. The cemetary is similarly writhed with impossible weeds, and contains the smell of an open grave or several. Stray dogs have taken to existing out in its thicker parts, gone wild and dangerous, and there are other dangers too - desperate cut throat muggers have been known to roam the pathways, and an urban legend of a monster lurks in its shadows.

It's not impossible to get through the Greenbelt without harm, and many make such journeys every day - but its no surprise that very few desire to linger longer than necessary in the midst of dead trees, tangled weeds, and the occasional unpleasant surprise in the dark.

The Staten Island Greenbelt is home to many things, including a plethora of things that nobody wants anymore: worthless, useless junk. When the sound of a diesel engine breaks what silence existed over the area, it is exactly that worthless, useless junk that the vehicle's operator comes in search of under the afternoon sky, the sun gradually approaching the horizon. Best get out while the light is still good.

It's not the Remnant's regular truck that Jensen Raith is driving today, but one that he's been working on with his own time since the thaw, although it's not any bit prettier than the old Dodge, the black paint faded and marred by dozens of small scratches. What stands out most about it, though, is the tarp that hangs over the truck's bed, resting atop something just a few inches taller than the roof of the cab.

It's not Raith's regular route either- none of them- that takes him and passenger Tasha Renard out to the Greenbelt today. But even if the time since she climbed in and he started driving has been filled with alternating stretches of silence and small talk, what they have come looking for is finally in sight. An aging, rusted hulk of a sedan that even Gabriel Gray could never get running again, along with a scattering of several 1 gallon plastic jugs full of what is hopefully brackish water. "And there they are," Raith says as the truck rolls to a stop and he turns the ignition off, "Today's enemy." That car and those jugs surely know they're in trouble when the ex-spy climbs out of the cab and turns to walk around to the tailgate with a slam of his door.!

Tasha has sat chewing her thumbnail a little nervously, studying the scenery from the window and making small talk with the man she's only met a few times and besides Ferry, probably has very little in common with, though she respects and likes him well enough. She smirks a little as the line of jugs is announced to be their enemies. "Terrifying," she quips before unfolding her small body from where it's curled up on the seat to open the door and hop out, slamming the door as well.

"So… I donno what Colette told you," she says, pulling off the bag that holds the gun that her girlfriend had insisted she carry with her at all times. She promised that and to take lessons from Raith, but neither has happened until now. After all, part of the reason Colette was frightened is now living in their apartment, right?

"They trained me a little in Boston, but only like maybe twenty hours. And I've only had to shoot in a real situation with those dogs…" she says, voice softening a little at the memory of that nightmarish night.

"The first time's always the worst," Raith replies. His figners hook under the tailgate's latch, and with a creak, it swings opened. "You sweat like crazy, stomach knots up, heart feels like it'll jump out of your chest. Everyone's like that the first time. I was, in Panama. It gets a little easier each time." The plastic tarp is lifted and thrown back a little bit, revealing part of what Raith brought with them. To Tasha, it may well look like half the Remnant's armory, along with boxes of ammo. "So, where shall we start?" Raith asks, "Pistol, shotgun, grenade launcher?"

Tasha's eyes drop and she nods. Her hesitation worries her — it could mean the difference in life or death, for someone she's supposed to protect. Or Colette. Her eyes dart back up.

"A g-grenade launcher? You're kidding right? Am I even big enough to carry a grenade launcher?" she quips, though she goes to move closer to look at what he has. "Um. Pistol, I have the little bit of training on. Haven't used a shotgun." She looks a little worried at the prospect. "What am I more likely to use in any mission?" She brings her hand to her mouth, chewing that thumbnail.

"Standard rule. If it works, use it." That sounds exactly like something Jensen Raith might say. No surprise, really. "But practically, that is most likely to be a pistol or a shotgun, maybe a rifle. So, we're going to start with what you brought with you, since that is what you're most likely to be carrying at a given time, and we'll branch out from there. I assume you've got the basics down, so load your weapon and send some lead downrange. Aim for the jugs if you feel confident hitting them, or even if you don't." While Tasha busies herself getting ready, Raith picks up vital equipment, safety glasses an earmuffs and passes one of each to the girl while keeping pairs for himself to put on. Always think 'safety.' "Show me what you got."

Tasha places the goggles and muffs on, a slight wrinkle of her nose at the necessity — after all, in real life, they won't stop to put on such protection in the middle of a gunfight. "All right. Just… don't laugh, or anything," she says wryly, not a lot of confidence in her skill. Once the weapon is loaded she stands, peering at the "range" set out before them.

"If I aim for one and hit the one 20 feet away, how will you know it wasn't really bad aim?" she quips, as she lifts the gun, turning her body to the side and turning her face to follow her arm. She closes her left eye, and aims for the closest of the jugs, finger pulling back on the hammer, readjusting her aim slightly, and finally firing. Too slow of a process, for sure.

Raith waits, watches, and analyzes as Tasha goes through the motions, and finally reaches a conclusion when the bullet strikes the wood block the jug is resting on, missing its mark by not more than a centimeter, by his reckoning. "Your form is good, at least," he says, stepping forward to fill the role of teacher, "And you also need to remember that those jugs are very small compared to what you will be aiming at, which is the center of a human torso. Had that been an actual opponent, you would have hit him, and probably have killed him too." A brief pause, and then the ex-spy raises one finger in a sagely manner.

"A tip, though. The Beretta 92F, which is what you're holding, has a single and double-action trigger. You never need to pull the hammer back before you fire. The gun will do it for you. There're fourteen rounds left in the clip, so go ahead and send them downrange, and I'll get the next piece ready. See if you can hit some of those jugs with a double-tap." To illustrate what he means, Raith mimics aiming a pistol at an imaginary target and firing twice very quickly. "Pop-pop. Like that."

Tasha's brow rises. Double and single action, what? But before she can ask the question, he's already explained it. She nods. "Okay. I donno what kind I had before, but it wasn't mine, so who knows," she says. She may be a cop's daughter, but she really hasn't paid attention to the details of the weapons she's seen Vincent Lazzaro carry. She had no need to. Now she has the need.

This time she aims at the next jug, pulling the trigger twice, before shifting her aim to move to the next and down along the line, until the last pull clicks, empty, having run out of ammunition. She drops her hand after that last pull, and tilts her head to survey the battleground.

'A mix of hits and misses' is the result of Tasha's survey. Several of the jugs are even leaking liquid out through the holes punched in them! And like Raith said, if those were actual enemies, the ones she hit would probably be dead. You know, if they stood still and allowed themselves to be shot.

"Not bad." The ex-spy returns from the truck, looking to the girl and giving her an approving nod. He's brought with him one of the long arms, resting across his shoulder, although it doesn't look like the machine guns in movies, being mostly even on the bottom except for a pistol style grip and an inexplicable 'hook' on the top of it. "Shotguns. This, is the SPAS-12-" A pause just long enough to unsling and hold it vertical- "A nice little combat shotgun that functions as a pump or semi-automatic. Hook thing on top is a folding stock-" Which he unfolds using his free hand, although it is not actually free since it is holding several loose shells- "And the shells load through here-" Three quick finger taps against a hinged metal plate on the underside- "And you do that by inserting the non-metal end first, and then pushing on the bottom as far as your finger will go." The demonstration of this comes with a pleasant clicking as the ammunition disappears into the weapon. "It's pretty weighty, so it's easier if you point it towards the ground and turn is on its side. Push the shell with you thumb instead of your finger."

This, unfortunately, is not demonstrated. Raith simply passes over the weapon and the two extra shells. "Your turn, and get used to this kind of gun. You can find one that works almost the exact same way in any police cruiser, so you'll always know where to find one."

The mention of a police cruiser earns a nose wrinkle from Tasha, since it reminds her of Vincent and just what he'd likely think of his only child being taught to shoot a shot gun, and advised, in fact, to steal one for a police car should need arise.

But she simply nods, taking the weapon, moving it to point at the ground as he indicated, then taking the two shells to load them in, her brows knitting together as she focuses on her task.

"In movies, people my size always land on their ass from the … what do they call it… recoil? I don't even know if I can lift this thing," she says, her natural tendency to make jokes when she is uncertain or nervous bubbling to the surface.

"That's in movies," Raith says as reassuringly as he can, "And it happens because it's funny. Now, shotties do kick hard, but there's a trick. When you feel the recoil hit your shoulder, you're natural reaction will be to resist it, and that's how you end up on your ass. What you do is move with it." Again, Raith mimics firing the weapon. "You lean forward against the stock a little bit, and then flex at your waist," he adds. The motion he makes looks anything but a 'natural reaction.' "Lean back while you keep your bottom half from moving at all. Both feet stay firmly planted. You have to fight your body a little bit at first, but you pick it up quick. Pick any of the jugs, aim, rack the slide back once until it stops, and then push it forward again until it stops, and then shoot. Don't worry about falling back." The reason why she should worry about falling back once Raith moves to stand almost right behind her. "No way that thing can knock both of us down."

"It's only funny until someone loses an eye," Tasha mutters, picking up the weapon an holding it the way he mimicked, though perhaps a touch awkwardly. "Then it's freaking hilarious."

It's not an origiinal joke, and probably one too close to home to be funny for either of them, given Eileen's and Colette's circumstances. She frowns a little, readjusting her hands — it's definitely not made for someone of her size, but she's not going to complain about the awkward grips. She aims at a jug, then pulls the slide back and forward again, then pulls the trigger, trying — and failing — to remember everything her mentor told her about how to move with the recoil.

Just like Raith promised, he keeps her from falling, although he really does little more than simply plant his feet and as a soft wall he her to bump into. The jug that Tasha had aimed at does not fare nearly as well, exploding into a shower of liquid and plastic that splatters all over everything around it. "Ha ha, see?" Raith says, "Not as bad as you thought." If he thought the joke was funny, he doesn't make it obvious. "But don't ever be in front of one of these." While the girl catches her breath, the ex-spy extends an arm over he shoulder and points downrange where one of the jugs used to be, replaced now by a large, wet stain. "At five yards, a shotshell can take off a limb or most probably kill you. At twenty, it might not kill you, but it'll fucking hurt. If someone gives you a vest, even if it's just a flak jacket, wear it." A firm pat on the shoulder.

"No more shotguns today. Rack it until no more shells come out, pull the trigger once to drop the hammer, and then pick up the good shells and meet me at the truck. Two more to introduce you to, and then some more practice, and we'll call it a day. Sound good?" Whatever the answer, Raith turns and heads back to the truck to get the next piece ready.

Ow. Tasha bites her lip rather than admit that the recoil hurt to the man they playfully call Rambo. She does grin at the sight of the explosion of fluid, then blinks a little surprised that she's so pleased at her success with guns. "Right. Stand behind the giant gun that sends chunks of metal into your body, not in front of. I think I can remember that," she murmurs, trying to make sense of the directions… rack it, pull trigger, pick up good shells.

She's small and she has no super power, but she's not stupid. Most of the time. Tasha does as he says, then follows around to the truck bed to hand him the shotgun. "Just don't test me on names… I can tell you 20 shades of blue paint, but those guns, they all sound like either tax forms or mobsters."

"Well, that might get better in a minute." At the truck, Raith brings out the next monstrousity. Which, really, is hardly monstrous at all, looking to be barely a quarter of the size of the shotgun, although visually it looks perhaps more like the machine guns that Tasha has seen in the movies, with the addition of a forward handgrip. "Dies ist Maschinenpistole Fünf Kurz. That's 'MP5K' for English speakers. This is a compact submachine gun, one of my favorites. It's a selective fire weapon with two settings, single, and rock 'n' roll. Twice as heavy as your pistol ,but it uses the same cartridge, so it has even less recoil." Of course, Raith then raises up the detached magazine for it, a skinny little metal thing not much wider than the ones for Tasha's Beretta, even if it is considerably longer. "Mag goes here-" Two metallic taps against the opened well on the underside of the gun- "Yank the charging handle on the side back and let go, select your setting and have a blast." Yes, it's true. Jensen Raith is giving Tasha Oliver a fully automatic weapon to play with. It's just like 'A Christmas Story Part 2.'

"Okay, that one doesn't sound like a mobster but a Nazi and an IRS form slash charity walk-run all rolled into one or something," babbles Tasha, which means that she's nervous of course. She never even held a gun in her hands in her life until March, and now she's going to shoot a fully-automatic weapon?

"Is there a punk rock setting? I really like punk…" she murmurs, even as she reaches to take it, turning it to look at the components Raith had pointed out. The gun is heavy and droops until she supports it better, then raises it, her left hand to the rear, right hand steadying it. An eyebrow arcs at him, as if to say 'You're really letting me shoot this?' before she adjusts her aim, and pulls the trigger.

The rapid 'pop-pop-pop-pop!' of the weapon discharging i either very scary or very satisfying, depending on which end one is on. Tasha likely finds the latter to be true. Or perhaps, she finds it unsatisfying, because after exactly one second of bullets striking wood, plastic, water, and metal, the SMG clicks empty. Just one second to send 30 rounds downrange. It took longer to get the gun ready to fire than to actually fire it. And all Raith does at the end is stand back by the truck and chuckle to himself. 'Rock 'n' roll' indeed.

"Put another dime in the jukebox, baby!" Tasha sings cheerily, dark eyes sparkling and cheeks flushed from the excitement of the rush of power in her hands. "Holy shit. Can I get one for Christmas?" she turns to look up at him, long lashes batting playfully before she hands the gun back to him, careful to turn the weapon so that it's not accidentally pointing at either of them.

"No, my dear. This year, Christmas comes in July." Without an explicit explanation, Raith climbs up into the bed of the truck. "When we all got a look forward in time, I saw a lot of things I didn't like. Things we weren't prepared to handle. So, I had a little chat with one of my friends downtown. Let it never be said that he doesn't deliver.

"Ms. Oliver," the ex-spy says, gripping the tarp in both hands, "I'd like you to meet Ma Deuce." With implied fanfare, the plastic is pulled away to reveal an enormous weapon at least as long as Tasha is tall, supported by a large mechanical assembly bolted down into the bed of the truck. There is absolutely no way anyone without superhuman strength could even carry this thing, much less hope to fire it. Raith doesn't see fit to stop at 'Ma Deuce,' enlightening the girl as to exactly what she is looking at: "This, is the Browning M2 heavy machine gun, and it is the baddest mother fucking piece of hardware you will probably ever touch."

Frowning at the mention of the visions, Tasha nods, solemnly, in tacit agreement, then giggles a little at Raith's dramatics in "introducing" her to the weapon. Her eyes fly open wide and she takes a step back. "Holy shit. That's like what they have on tanks and shit, isn't it?" she manages to say, moving closer to peer at it, leaning her arms on the frame of the truck bed as she peers up at the machine and Raith standing near it.

"You… actually want me to shoot that? Today?" Never mind it probably takes less skill than the others, since it's not like she can lift and steady it, right? The fear is perhaps just a touch illogical, but … the weapon is bigger than she is, after all.

"This weapon is probably the single most widely-used, long-lived machine gun in the entire world," Raith says, giving the mighty weapon a pat, "The first one was designed by John Browning in 1918. Every one produced since then has been exactly the same, with only some small updates to improve its killing ability. It is chambered in .50 caliber Browning Machine Gun, one of the most powerful cartridges ever produced, with enough muzzle energy to lift four sedans one foot off the ground. It is capable of disabling an armored car. Maximum effective range is one-point-two miles. And you get to play with it."

Tasha moves from the side of the truck to the back, still a little hesitant to climb up with that thing. "More than a mile?What if I shoot someone I can't even see on accident?" she protests, though she clambers up into the truck, first one Converse-sneakered foot and then the other coming over the side of the tailgate. She chews her thumbnail as she stares at the machine, then lifts dark eyes up to the ex-spy, about to ask the question the machine gun puts foremost in her mind: What the hell did he see?

"Okay but help me aim. I don't wanna kill someone a mile away or ruin someone's sedan," she says, instead.

"Don't worry about that." With a grunt, Raith hefts up a green-colored steel box and places it into a square hoop mounted on the left side of the gun. Flipping the top of it opened reveals a small amount of brass-colored bullets linked together by small, steel links. "That's what the car out there is for. The ground behind it rises up some. As long as you are careful where you point the barrel, you won't break anything you don't mean to. Now, loading is easy but takes some practice. The top of the gun is a cover that latches in place. You can see the pin on the back. Unlatch and flip it up. There's a partially exposed gear inside. Take the first round in the belt, and insert it between the teeth that are furthest to the left. Close the cover, pull the charging handle on the right side of the weapon all the way back and let it go. Then aim and press the butterfly trigger down to fire. Tight, controlled bursts only. The truck will absorb the recoil, so don't worry about that." Those are all of Raith's instructions for this monster of a gun, this cannon. He steps to the side and allows Tasha access to the weapon proper, although he is still in a position to give her additional directions if she needs them.

The petite teen peers out at the car and the landscape behind it, chewing her thumbnail nervously before nodding, her fears of killing someone accidentally at least set to rest. She moves closer, looking for the components Raith described. She unlatches the pin, flipping the cover open and peers at the gear, then reaches down for the ammunition, tilting her head to see and shoving with her free hand her hair from her eyes before she manages to fit the round where it goes after a few tries.

Closing the cover, she pulls the charging hand back, glancing up at him to make sure she's following the process accurately. Finally it's time to shoot. Her brows knit together in the worried expression she often wears, and Tasha takes a deep breath, aiming for the car, then double-checking her aim twice. She gives him one more glance — last chance to stop me, buddy! — before pushing the trigger down for a little three-second burst before letting up, followed by a second three-second burst, then stops.

But only because she's pretty sure that ammunition isn't cheap — Tasha could do this all day, from the look of excitement on her face.

"Ha ha, 'atta girl!" Raith claps his hand on Tasha's shoulder, all praise and no scolding. "That's the way. Bursts are running a little bit long, but otherwise, that was perfect. Absolutely perfect. And hey, you want to know a little secret? Since I bought this, you're the first one who's gotten to shoot it. How's that for Christmas in July? Don't tell anybody, though." Comically glancing around, Raith leans closer and whispers at an ineffectively loud volume, "They'll get jealous."

Raith's excitement and mirth are contagious, and Tasha laughs merrily as well. "And you, sir, are Santa Claus, but we can't tell Doyle. He thinks he has a monopoly on that role," she says a little impishly, grinning up at her new mentor.

Without warning, she suddenly swings her bare legs over the side of the truck and hops down, running around the truck and across the "range" to the target car. "I wanna see the size of the bullet holes in that thing!" she exclaims over her shoulder. This is way better than a Red Ryder BB Gun.

Like a kid in a candy store. Moving the weapon's barrel up towards the sky, Raith kneels down and picks up on of the spent shell casings, pushing it underneath the butterfly trigger as an improvised safety since the M2 lacks one. He then pops the top cover opened and extracts the belt of bullets so they won't do any accidental damage before he hops out of the truck bed and follows after Tasha. It's a little different than breaking in new recruits back in the Army, but in a way, it's better. And in a way, it's practice. After all, he's missed the last couple chances to see Liette due to unexpected 'excitements.' In the long run, a little practice, even if he never actually takes his girl to a firing range, can only help him out. Right?

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