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Target Practice

“Take a deep breath and release it. When your lungs are empty, gently squeeze the trigger.”

Jessie tightened her grip on the Sig Sauer and inhaled sharply through her nose. The girl’s body trembled as she held her breath, but Gordon put a steadying hand on her shoulder, prompting her to release it. She tightened her finger around the trigger, rocking through the Sig’s double action, until finally the hammer fell and the gun jerked in her hand. Twenty yards away, the bullet tore through the outer border of a paper target before embedding itself in the wooden backstop. Five inches to the left and she would have hit the green silhouette. Seven more past that and she would have put a bullet between the eyes of the would-be assailant.

“Sweet,” said Gordon, patting Jessie’s shoulder. “You scared him. Now try to stop him.”

The wind had loosed a few strands of her blonde hair; Jessie tucked them behind the earpiece of her safety glasses. She followed his instructions again, but slower this time, taking several seconds to draw in a breath. It fluttered out through her slightly parted lips, almost visible in the cold November morning. She paused to let the last of the shivers leave her hand and then pulled the trigger twice in quick succession.

The first bullet landed just inside the green target while the second didn’t even mark the paper.

Jessie thumbed the release on the side of the gun and dropped the empty magazine into her waiting hand. She inspected the chamber to make sure it was empty before placing the Sig on the foam lining of its carrying case. She stepped away from the blue barrel and open her hands to show Gordon they were empty.

He nodded at her. “First shot was on target. He won’t be hearing anything out of that side of his head for the rest of his life. Second one missed entirely.” Gordon went to a knee and looked up at the ten year old girl who just the week before had been reluctant to even pick up a weapon. “You rushed it, Jess. You breathe, you fire. You shortcut the process and someone’s gonna end up getting the better of you.”

“Sorry,” said Jessie.

“Hey now.” Gordon touched her on the cheek. “Don’t be down. I didn’t learn to shoot until I was twice your age. You’re gonna be dotting Indians in no time, guarantee you me.”

Her eyes lit up at the prospect. “You mean it?”

“Just takes practice,” said Gordon, drawing himself up. He raised a finger in the air. “I fear not the girl who has fired a thousand guns once. I fear the girl who has fired a single gun a thousand times.”

Jessie stared back, unblinking.

“Put three more in the magazine for me,” he said, handing her the autoloader.

As the girl shook three bullets out of the small ammo box, Gordon caught movement out of the corner of his eye. Coming out of the tree line behind him was the blue vest and wide-brimmed hat of Jeff Evans, the democratically elected arbiter of the Lost Pines Survivalists camp. His gait suggested there was more to his sudden appearance than the desire for an early morning stroll. He held up a hand as he cut through the benches that had been set up for spectators.

“Ready,” said Jessie, holding up the magazine.

“Slot it up, but don’t charge just yet.”

“I thought I’d find you two out here,” said Jeff, touching the brim of his hat. “Does your mama know what you’re up to, Jessie?”

The girl nodded enthusiastically. “It was her idea. She said Mr. Gordon is the best shot in three counties.”

“Is that so?”

Gordon shrugged. He had no choice but to play humble when people talked about his skill with a gun. Had it been some innate ability or something acquired through years of practice, he might have smiled and genuinely accepted the praise. But no, his abilities had come through code, had come from a shortcut he had just told Jessie didn’t exist. He had thought they might fade with time, like the muscle memory in his fingers that no longer remembered how to play the opening riff to Paradise City, but they persevered through the years, through the neglect.

“What’s he got you shooting there?” asked Jeff.

Jessie ejected the magazine, checked the chamber, and then handed the gun grip-first to Jeff. Gordon had spent two days going over gun safety with the girl, and he was proud to see her treat the weapon with respect without having to be reminded.

“Looks like this guy’s seen some action. From your personal stash?”

Gordon nodded. Mechanical arms in the video library in his head sought out the tapes of a night some twenty years ago when the Sig and its identical brother had last seen action. Before the imaginary vidscreen could flicker on, Gordon began to count, running through an ascending list of integers to keep his mind busy. The numbers incremented faster and faster, until the impulse to relive the past faded from conscious thought.

“Well,” said Jeff. “It’s a fine weapon. Why don’t you show me what you can do with it, Jessie?”

The girl looked to Gordon for permission. He handed her the magazine and nodded to the blue barrel.

“Take it slow,” he told her. “Count to twenty between each shot.”

Gordon and Jeff took several steps back as Jessie got into position. She wouldn’t be able to hear them at a distance with her earplugs in, but Gordon spoke in a softer voice just to be safe.

“So what can I do for you, Sheriff?”

“You know I hate when you call me that, Gordon. Authority is held by the people, not by the person. All I do is help settle disagreements.”

“And you do a fine job.”

A breeze cut across the firing range, prompting Jessie to lower her gun for a moment.

Gordon looked back at the sun behind him. The sky was clear, but the cold and the wind were keeping the harsh rays at bay. It was a fine day for a little target practice.

“I don’t know a lot about you, Gordon. But I do know you value your privacy. We all know that.”

The first shot rang out.

“Spit it out, Jeff.”

“There’s a woman at the gates, asking after you. Not by name, but… Gordon, the things she knows about you, the way she described you. I mean, it just fits your timeline. It explains why you walked in here twenty years ago with a single duffle bag and a reluctance to tell use your real name.”

“It’s Gordon.”

“No,” said Jeff. “It’s not. She showed me the pictures. You’re younger, but it’s you.”

“What did you tell her?”

The second shot answered for him, followed by an aborted cheer from Jessie.

Jeff cracked a smile. “I told her to fuck off, what do you think I told her?”

“Good man.”

“But that doesn’t mean I’m not concerned. Some of the things she told me, well, they might make Clemons nervous. You two already don’t see eye to eye, and this might be enough for him to stir up some serious noise. I for one wouldn’t want to see you get the boot.”

The resulting silence was broken by the third shot. Jessie put the gun down on the barrel and turned around, smiling.

Gordon gave her a little clap.

“You don’t owe child support, do you?” asked Jeff.

The memory of a hotel room at the Austonian flashed. Her saw her lying on the couch, her head rolled to one side, before the counting drowned the image out.

“Not likely,” said Gordon, chuckling.

“It makes you nervous, doesn’t it? Having someone come ’round asking for you?”

“What makes you think that?”

Jeff lifted the brim of his hat and made a show of looking down. “You’ve had your hand on your gun since I mentioned the pictures.”

Gordon loosened his grip on the Sig and crossed his arms again.

“So she was telling the truth,” said Jeff. “You really are him.”

“No,” he replied. “Not anymore.”

“Come on, Gordon. You know none of us really change.”

“Mr. Gordon! I got him in the face!” Jessie had retrieved the paper target from the backstop and now held it out proudly in front of her.

“A fine shot,” said Jeff.

“Good job, Jess. I think that’s enough for one day.”

Jessie looked like she wanted to protest, but the girl had gotten used to taking orders as one of the stipulations of Gordon training her. She showed her empty hands and then took off at a youthful run towards the tree line. “See you tomorrow, Mr. Gordon!”

Gordon waited for her to disappear in the greenbelt. “I guess that depends on what you tell Clemons.”

“I’m not gonna tell him a damn thing,” said Jeff. “But you may want to come clean to the group about who you really are. We’ve got families here depending on each other for survival. It’s not fair to use us as cover. Like you said, you’re not the man you were twenty years ago, so I think you know you have to do what’s right.”

“What’s right? Or what’s necessary?”

Jeff patted Gordon on the back of his shoulder like a father might do before teaching his son a lesson.

“That depends on which is more important to you.” He touched his hat and headed off towards the tree line, leaving Gordon alone with the cold breeze.

As he cleared the Sig and placed its various pieces into the foam lining of its carrying case, he thought about how lucky he had been to last this long. Going off the grid wasn’t something done on a whim, and staying off for good was a dream rarely realized. Thoughts of what he could have done differently ran through this head, but back then, he’d done all he could. Cutting all ties to the world, sending out false leads, saying goodbye to the technology he had loved so dearly: these were the sacrifices he had made.

“I’m not going back,” he said aloud.

If anything, it was time to go deeper. Flee to Peru or Siberia, somewhere the tech couldn’t follow him, where stories of his past had never been heard and passed around like legends. He’d find another group of outcasts to glom onto, maybe teach their children how to shoot and kill, prepare them for the coming war.

Gordon hesitated, but finally willed himself to take that first step towards the tree line. Soon, he had passed through the greenbelt and come out on the east side of the compound near the vegetable gardens run by Sam Reed and his boys. A dirt path took Gordon to the plaza where half a dozen men stood sipping water from canteens. Around them were ATV flatbeds loaded with freshly cut firewood. A group of younger boys were transferring the wood to wheelbarrows so they could distribute it to the roughly thirty families lived and work at LPS. Last year’s winter had been the worst Texas had seen in decades. No one was going to suffer through a cold night this year, not if Clemons had anything to say about it.

Tyler Clemons nodded to Gordon as he passed. The former golden boy at Mac Haik Temple still talked like a used car salesman, but even Gordon could detect the sincerity in his voice. If Russell Hildebrand had actually died from his pneumonia last winter, Gordon was pretty sure Clemons would have climbed down into that little boy’s grave and stayed there until he joined him on the other side.

And yet something about the man didn’t sit right with Gordon.

He managed a curt nod and continued on his way. Past the double-wide trailers, Gordon took a northerly turn and ended up near the small stream that ran through the compound. Across a newly built footbridge and up an abrupt rise was his cabin, complete with its own bathroom and separate bedroom. Those hadn’t come with the cabin when he got it, but he’d found that home improvement was just as effective as counting when it came to keeping the memories down. So he’d redone the interior, added his own water closet, and finally the bedroom, of which his twin bed filled half.

Gordon stepped inside and left the door open behind him.

The main room was big enough. A fireplace sat between two wooden rockers. Facing them was a couch with new upholstery done by Jessie’s aunt. Directly ahead, a small refrigerator buzzed from the half-kitchen. There was no stove, but the hot plate was sufficient for making a quick meal. To the right was Gordon’s dining table, not that he could remember ever eating dinner there. Most of his meals came from the cafeteria where he could sit around expansive picnic tables with like-minded individuals who had withdrawn from a world that was spiraling out of control.

Withdrawn from a government that wanted to enslave them.

From corporations that wanted to exploit them.

From a population too frightened to believe that salvation could come from within, from the innocent men and women trapped in the system.

Gordon crossed the room and stood next to the rocking chair. He fingered his belt until his holster started to slide down his leg, leaving the Sig safely tucked in his other hand. With a groan, he collapsed into the chair and put his head back. It was too early in the morning to be feeling his age, but the cold always made the creaks worse. His mind jumped forward, playing out the scene to come. For once, he didn’t start counting.

Instead, he closed his eyes and waited.

Sometime later, footsteps sounded from the door.

When Gordon opened his eyes, he saw the small frame of a woman standing in silhouette except for her hair, which burned a fiery red. From the center of the shadow, gold dots stared back at him across the gulf.

Gordon steadied the Sig on the arm of the chair.

“What took you so long?” he asked.

Hayden Island

FEED://banks.media/celebtracker {DANNY GUNS MONTREAL. Seen walking around the flower district in Portland, OR at 18:45:39 PST with TANZY. Got into I.C.E-1 branded SUV after eating at Che La Vie. DEVELOPING.}

The SUV followed I-5 north for several miles before taking the exit for Hayden Island, curling its way downward into a misplaced suburbia on the northern edge of Oregon. Well-to-do Portlandians hurried across the wide roads in their dense jogging suits, their reflective limbs catching the light from the SUV’s LEDs. Moon towers floated above retail parking lots, their pinpricks of illumination supported by tall, unyeilding stems. Danny watched the pedestrian parade roll by, took note of the few cars they passed.

Lexus. Audi. Tesla.

Real estate opportunities on Hayden Island were effectively nil, so it spoke to I.C.E-1’s power and influence that they had carved out their own little section of the moated sanctuary. Tanzy had never talked about how much money her hacktivist collective brought in every quarter, but Danny was sure it was orders of magnitude higher than what he earned in his solo endeavors.

Rusted train tracks passed over the SUV’s moon roof, briefly illuminating the interior. Danny noticed Tanzy’s hand on the knee of her crossed leg, tapping out a rhythm that was either anxiety or anticipation.

“It was nice of you to finally come up,” said Tanzy, noticing his gaze.

Danny nodded as he turned to the window again. “It was time. You live in Umbra long enough, you start to think the rest of the world doesn’t exist. It’s nice to see there are still normal people walking around.”

“Normals. The affluent aren’t normals.” She gestured to a passing row of boats on trailers. “They’re our meal ticket. Client and victim, all in one convenient package. It just goes to show you, babe; it’s not about having the right product, it’s about selling to the right people.”

Danny bit back his own sarcasm and nodded politely. Perhaps later after they had rolled around in the sheets a bit he would say something about her schooling him on the basics of business, but not here, not in front of her driver and the muscle sitting in the passenger seat. As the figurehead of I.C.E-1, Tanzy’s authority was above question, and guests who didn’t temper their responses with the necessary deference often felt the full force of that authority.

Another flash of a streetlight. A smirk on Tanzy’s face.

The SUV made a tight turn into a row of trees that held close to the road for about a quarter mile before opening up into a large clearing. A squat, two-story building sat in the middle of the clearing surrounding by fifteen-foot high fencing tipped with razor wire. Robotic sentries stood on high pedestals at eight points, scanning for threats. As the SUV entered the clearing, low guide lights rose from the side of the road, illuminating the car from all sides. The gate opened automatically, and the guard at the booth gave a small nod to the driver as they passed through.

“Isn’t this a little much?”

Tanzy shook her head. “You can never spend too much on security.” She leaned forward to speak to the driver. “Up front is fine, Miguel.”

They stopped in front two massive, steel doors and a guard was at Tanzy’s door in an instant. Danny let himself out of the SUV and walked around it to join her.

To the left of the door, a small brass plate read simply, “I.C.E-1.”

“Welcome to my home, Mr. Guns.”

Inside, the headquarters of I.C.E-1 looked just like any other generic office space, with hallways stretching out to the left and right, carpeted with blue hexagons on a green background. Framed reproductions of the Portland skyline dotted the walls between doors. Tanzy ignored the hallways and walked through the double doors on the far side of the foyer.

The decor shifted to pure minimalism: white walls, thin black lines framing doorways, and a light gray grid on the floor. The lobby was larger than Danny’s apartment back in Umbra, and the cavernous space made the receptionist and her desk look tiny.

Tanzy gestured to the girl. “My niece, Evangeline.” She cupped her hand to her mouth. “Long-ass name, kinda rolls off the tongue like a brick into shit.”

Danny tried not to laugh as Evangeline approached.

“How are things tonight, Eva?” asked Tanzy, her voice echoing.

“Just a few messages, Aunt T. Also your guest arrived about an hour ago. I set him up in your waiting room.”

Tanzy stopped in the middle of the room. She gestured to Danny. “My guest is standing right here.”

“Oh,” said Evangaline, “I just thought.” Confusion swept over her widening eyes.

“You let someone into my office without an appointment?” She looked back at the guard standing just inside the door. “How did they get into the building?”

“Not just someone…”

Tanzy reached for her waistband under her jacket and withdrew a metallic 9mm. She started for her office doors.

Evangeline ran to intercept her. “No, no, it’s okay. It’s Mr. Coker. I recognized him from the feeds. He didn’t have an appointment, but I didn’t think you’d want me to turn him away.”

Benny Coker?” asked Danny. “White Line Benny Coker?”

The girl nodded.

“Does this happen often?”

Tanzy shrugged. “You know those types. Think they can just barge into any collective in the country and start throwing their money around. I like the money part, but I can’t stand the audacity.”

“What are you going to do?”

She slipped the 9mm into the back of her pants and motioned to a door on the left. “I suppose there’s no harm in hearing him out. You don’t mind, do you?”

“Pass up a chance to watch you do business? I can’t think of anything hotter.”

“Let me dispatch this feed monger, and then I’ll show you the meaning of hot.” Then, louder, to Evangeline, “Give me five and then bring him in.”

Danny followed her through several backrooms, including a doorway that was partially hidden behind a shelf full of empty computer cases. The door opened into her private bathroom and from there they stepped into her office. She walked to the front of her desk and turned to Danny.

“How do I look?”

She wore dark jeans that hugged her legs, a white shirt that hung loosely over her waist, and a black jacket of luminescent leather. A hand-knit scarf of purple and black wrapped around her neck. Wavy hair framed a natural face, its color matching the plastic frames of her glasses.

“Like the queen of Portland. A pleasure to be in your company, your Highness.”

Tanzy rolled her eyes, smoothed out her shirt, and gave her breasts a quick lift with both hands.

Two short raps came from the door, and then they opened to reveal Evangeline and a middle-aged man in a dark blue suit. He removed his sparkling white cowboy hat when he saw Tanzy.

“Now what is owner of the third-largest media feed in the country doing so far from the Jersey Shore?”

Benny smiled in return, nodded to Danny. “Sorry for dropping by unannounced. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Ms. Tanzy.” He held out a hand in greeting.

“Please, just call me Tanzy,” she replied, shaking his hand. She jerked her head towards Danny. “This is Felipe, my sex slave. You may call him slave or boy.”

“Oh, no,” said Benny, chuckling. “I’ve seen enough feed to recognize Danny Guns Montreal when I see him. I meet celebrities all the time at my casino, but I can honestly say this is a real pleasure.”

Danny shook hands with the man, felt the sweat already building in his palms.

“If you ever get out to the East Coast,” continued Benny, “give me a ring. I’ll set you up at the White Dragon, on the house.”

DIY Gladiator Garageworks Mini-rails

Because the price of rails is too damn high!

If you called me up and said Hey Daniel, these guys are gonna kill me unless you cut me some French cleats free-hand with a circular saw, I would calmly reply well you better go to your happy place because you’re about to get straight-up murdered.

After viewing April Wilkerson’s French Cleat System video, I thought to myself maybe this is the excuse I need to finally get a table saw! But at over $300 for a good one, I decided to put off this purchase and try doing the 45-degree length-wise cuts myself. As you can see from the photo above, I failed miserably.

Dejected, I decided to just order some new bins for my existing Gladiator Garageworks system ($). As I was adding the new rails (which honestly aren’t that expensive), I realized they are overkill for what I wanted.

So I just ordered the bins direct from Whirpool (Amazon doesn’t have them in stock) and waited for them to arrive.

Then, PROJECT!

Measuring for mini-rails

Since screws and nails don’t weigh that much, we don’t need the full Gladiator rail system. All we really need is a lip on a mount. Lip on a mount. Lip on a mount.

That’s fun to write.

Cut the lips

I had some scrap wood (I think 1/4″?) that fit nicely into the tabs on the back of the bins. So I cut those into 2 1/4″ strips.

Man that scrap wood is terrible. Splintering all over the place. Thank god for eye protection.

You should test the fit of the scraps you cut. If you want to be fancy-pants, you can make the strips actually fit snugly. It’s a game of eights though, so be careful or you’re gonna have to do some sanding.

Cut the mounts

Use a thicker piece of scrap to cut the mounts. I believe I chose a 1/4″ as the lip depth, but who knows at this point? I wasn’t really keeping track.

Glue those bastards together. On the first rail, I used the smallest screws I could find. Then I discovered you can use brad nails, which is so much more fun! Find the shortest brads and put one in each end. Then cut the excess off with some dikes.

Make sure you use some glue. That’s what all the pros are always saying, anyway.

Repeat the process

Build as many rails as you want. I did six before I got really bored with this project and wanted to go inside to play video games.

Find a place to mount the rails

Again, stealing an idea from April, I decided to mount the rails on the inside of the door to my water heaters. That would keep them out of sight and make the garage look cleaner. Double win.

Take note that if you’re gonna do this, you have to account for the lip on the doorjamb as well as the length of the bin (where it might hit another door or jamb as it closes). I was able to fit 4 of the Gladiator bins on each row under these constraints.

Done!

After mounting all the rails and the bins, take a step back and admire your work.

Do not be fooled by the angle of the picture. I assure you they’re level. Probably.

24 new bins for holding stuff! How exciting. I was running out of space in my old bin storage unit. If I fill up these guys, I’ll repeat the process on the other door. Now you know.

Alright, I think that’s enough BSIY posts for this year. I should probably get back to writing a new book or–gross–exercise.