Chapter 2: Manly Bonding Time
After lunch, Kaitlyn got to work on the dessert recipe Mary’d wanted to try while Ramón took Joss and I out on a hike in the wasteland behind the family farm, back into the niche in the red sandstone that we’d previously gone to back on the 4th of July last year, for the same purpose.
This hike took us past the back side of other farms, so we’d had to dress before leaving. Alas.
I was carrying an ammo can labeled “.45 ACP” in one hand, a target stand in the other. Joss and Ramón carried the rest of the shooting accoutrements: pine one-by-two uprights, a sheaf of cardboard targets, and the range bag. Amongst the accessories in the bag was the focus of this expedition, the Gutierrez family’s antique Korean-era M1911-A1 military sidearm. We were going target shooting again!
After getting set up, I let the other two go first, Ramón because he was the host for the trip and Joss because I wanted to observe how he handled a firearm before going downrange from him, weapons to my back.
Gratifyingly, Joss treated the 1911 with respect and care. Someone had taught him properly.
As those two were getting warmed up, I was getting skinned down well back from the firing line. I wasn’t worried about being seen: no one who knew anything would be sneaking up on this box canyon while the 1911’s sharp barks were issuing regularly from the canyon mouth. We were as private here as in the farm’s retreat area.
Joss left the gun’s slide locked back on an empty mag, setting it safely down on a flat-topped rock, where Ramón spread the gun’s padded carrying case as we were setting up.
Taking that as my range-clear sign, trusting the other two men not to touch the weapon until I was back behind the firing line, I walked purposefully down-range, plucked the shot-up target off the uprights, picked up the target stand in one hand, the uprights in the other, fresh target under one arm, and hiked down to the end of the box canyon, perhaps 10 meters further on from where Joss originally assembled the target. There was a nice high dirt fall back here to catch the bullets, so ricochets wouldn’t be a problem. I slotted the pine one-by-two uprights into the metal stand, stapled my fresh target to them, and walked back up canyon to the clothed men.
There I ostentatiously picked up a freshly loaded mag, grinned back over my shoulder, faced down-range, picked up the weapon, and was about to load it when I heard Ramón ask over my shoulder, “Eyes and ears?”
I turned my head to see him offering me a set of shooting glasses and earmuffs. Being careful to keep the weapon’s muzzle pointed down-range, I told him, “No, mage here.”
My explanation didn’t appear to clear anything up for him, but I turned back to face the target anyway, clicked the mag into place, racked a round into the chamber, and proceeded to recreate the range scene from the first Lethal Weapon movie.
Hollywood wants you to believe that a man can place shots with millimeter accuracy from 15 meters downrange using a service pistol held in a Weaver stance. In the fantasy worlds they conjure, it is possible that Mel Gibson’s character can maintain the necessary two and a half minute-of-arc control necessary to produce a credible smiley face on the target under those conditions.
Here’s an exercise for you: hold a laser pointer out in front of you in the same grip you see in the movie: strong arm straight with that elbow locked, your weak hand pulling back on your gripping fist, the weak-side elbow dropped and loose to absorb the recoil. Have someone trace the size of your laser’s wobble over that distance. I doubt you can keep the little red dot within the necessary circle of accuracy over a few meters, much less the length of a typical indoor gun range. G’wan, try it!
Out here in the real world, a normal human needs a bench rest of some sort to pull that trick off, but while nude, I can do it left-handed, one-eyed, tongue between my teeth, bullseye style.
Mages in trance with Gaia have exceptional body control, which lent my arm uncommon steadiness despite supporting over two pounds of machined steel at full extension in a tight shooting grip. Atop that, I’d magically sharpened my eyesight past 20/20 years back.
The 1911 definitely counted as tech, but it was most of a meter away from the bulk of my body, and it was fairly low tech as handguns went. Not as far down the scale as a Wild West revolver, but not all that far removed from one, either. The weapon’s name is the year it was introduced by the US military for use by the horse cavalry it maintained at the time. Its most distinctive features — its cocked-and-locked slide and grip safeties — were designed specifically with a man riding a battle-maddened horse in mind. It’s no good having armed cavalry if they keep shooting their mounts out from under themselves while drawing their weapons, now is it?
If they’d given me a modern polymer frame Tupperware Tactical pistol, I wouldn’t have any advantage over a muggle, no matter how bare I was, but they’d given me one of the millions of Old Slabsides manufactured over the seventy-four year span where it was the United States’ primary military sidearm.
It’s a sliding scale, not a simple good/bad judgement. Take the pistol Mel Gibson used in the movie, a 15-shot Beretta 92F. It’s a fair bit more advanced than the old 1911, but it’s an all-steel pistol aside from the grips, so I’d still expect to be able to exert some of my magical control over one of those.
I only had 7 shots to recreate Martin Riggs’ fictional feat, without one in the pipe to start, so my smiley was a little ragged, but Ramón led Joss in a polite round of applause shortly after the slide locked back on my empty mag, his middle-aged eyes squinting to see what I’d done that far down-canyon.
Then I picked up a fresh mag and filled in the gaps between the dots, turning back at the end with a flamingly smug grin to face the other two men, jaws slack, mouths agape. Ramón’s eyes were wide now, not squinting.
They remained silent, so I told them, “Excuse me while I go retrieve my target.” I pasted a solicitous smile on my face over the smug one and added, “Want me to move the stand back up to the five meter line for you?” I walked back down-canyon without waiting for an answer.
On my little hike, I healed my eardrums, ringing from the shooting. I’d refused Ramón’s offer of protective gear knowing I could fix the damage soon afterward, and I’d wanted as little tech interference as possible for the demonstration. This wasn’t in any way practical shooting, this was exhibition shooting…in both senses of the word!
When I got back to the firing line, I handed the target to Joss, saying, “Just in case you weren’t yet sure whether I was a mage.”
“Yeah, that’ll do for proof,” said the younger man, who’d barely put his shots into a 15 cm circle at 5 meters, the prior shooting distance.
Pretty good shooting actually. For a muggle. ?
Through the rest of the outing, I wore eyes and ears. Sure enough, my accuracy decreased significantly with them on. Ramón and Joss prevailed on me to dress again shortly after I punched a ragged 5 cm hole out of the center of my target. After that, I was just another mortal, shooting only a little better than they were, that slim advantage down to the breath control I’d earned from biking and meditation.
Ramón drawled, “Wal, let that be a lesson to ya, son: if you’re going to get yourself into a gunfight, be sure yer in yer skin first.”
I smiled back, saying, “Between mind, magic, and martial arts, I hope never to have to put a bullet into someone anyway.” I added with a sweep of my hand down-range, “This is a sport as far as I’m concerned, not practice. I hope never to get good at poking projectiles into people.”
“May you live to realize that hope,” he replied reverently.
Joss bowed his head in prayerful agreement, then spoke, “So, martial arts?”
“Yeah,” I said, “Kaitlyn and I have been teaching ourselves. We got a Krav Maga studio up in Salt Lake to give us blue belts last month, telling us they couldn’t do better because our style is so idiosyncratic. That’s about halfway up the scale, you know. Pretty good I thought, since we’d only been at it about four months at the time. We drove past a Brazilian jiu-jitsu studio on our way over, and I’ve got Kaitlyn half talked into joining. I expect we can get past blue if we focus on a single discipline for a while, which we can now, with our massage classes out of the way.”
“Show me,” he said, dropping into a warrior pose and making Morpheus’ come-at-me gesture, straight out of The Matrix’s dojo scene.
“You serious?” I asked.
He repeated the gesture, adding a cocky grin.
About half a second later, he was on the sand, air evacuated from his lungs by the fall.
As I was helping him back up, he tried a judo throw, but we’d trained for this. I tumbled across him, turning his throw into one of my own, curling him up over my back and throwing him a good meter down the wash toward the canyon mouth.
When I got to Joss, tears were leaking from the corners of his eyes, he could hardly breathe, and he was holding his arm protectively in towards his body.
“You’ve never done martial arts before, have you?” I accused as I quickly stripped back off. He shook his head in anguish, unable to get any words out. I grasped his bare forearm, slipped a magical tendril up it, and found what I’d expected: he hadn’t known how to take the throw properly, so I’d dislocated his shoulder. “I’m going to have to rip this shirt off to get at the injury properly. I’ll never get it over your shoulder as it is otherwise.”
Behind me, I heard the snick of an opening pocket knife. It appeared over my shoulder handle first, blade outward, safely presented for my use by Ramón. I took it from him with a grateful nod, cut Joss’ shirt away and healed his shoulder quickly. I’d gotten some practice diagnosing and healing this particular injury during our backyard martial arts classes up in Salt Lake.
“Sorry, Joss. My control’s a little rough. I did say only blue belt, but to be honest, you also need to take this as a lesson: don’t try martial arts stuff you haven’t practiced properly first, okay? You’d have spent a few painful hours in the hospital with that shoulder and weeks recovering from it afterward if you’d been horsing around with a normal person.”
He was nodding, rotating his arm freely, the damage completely healed. “Got it,” he said, his rib muscles also now healed.
Ramón was looking at me seriously, and I took a guess at the reason as I handed his refolded knife back to him. “Trust me to take care of your daughter now, even without a pistol?”
“You’ll do,” he said simply, accepting the knife and pocketing it.
I re-dressed, we packed up the shooting stuff, and we began our return hike, all nicely male-bonded now.