Target Practice

a story
flash-fiction
2021-04-01 14:33:40
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Another gunshot rang out. A bottle smashed and glass shards went flying. Gwen smiled and whooped. She had hit another one.

"Alright," said Arnett, "Now let's pick up the pace. Let's shoot every one of them."

Gwen raised the rifle again, this time easily zeroing in on another bottle and pulling the trigger. This bottle, too, was shattered in a moment.

"Alright, I think I got it, now," said Gwen, "How about cannon practice, huh? I need to learn to use that big one!"

"You need to learn to use a rifle," said Arnett, "You shot a few bottles. Let's hold back on the bragging rights.  This is completely different to when they shoot back."

"How often does this happen?" asked Gwen, "I mean, you've managed to survive for years out here. How hard could it be?"

"Why don't you ask Joseph," said Arnett.

Gwen lowered the rifle and turned around, glaring at Arnett. Arnett shrugged and took another swig of the old wine they had nicked from a wreckage the day before.

Gwen lifted up the rifle and fired a shot. The bullet whizzed clean past Arnett, however it did cause him to drop the bottle mid swig, his hand shooting to his pistol, drawing it in a quick action. The hammer was already clocked back before Gwen cocked another round into the rifle.

"What... did I say... about shooting at me?" said Arnett in a cold, even cadence.

"How could you be so cruel?"

They stared at each other for quite a long time before she turned away from Arnett, wiping at her eyes. Arnett sighed, holstering his revolver again.

"Look... I'm sorry."

"How could he even stand you?"
"He never tried to kill me."

"The miracle of the question still stands."

"Look, it's not all spinning revolvers and shooting Goblins out here. You don't always get to chose when to fight or not. Where it happens. How it happens. Sometimes not even what weapon your fighting with. This is all about practice, and sadly the best practice you are gonna get could get you killed."

"I get that, but when that moment comes the best place for me to be is the Scorpios," said Gwen.

"Two!"

"And I won't be much help in said ship if I don't know how," said Gwen, "You must've done this before. Did you ever have to drill your other partners?"

"Not... in the same way. Maybe Joseph in the beginning," said Arnett, "Not in the same way, I suppose."

"But you had to teach them the controls," said Gwen, "You can't just keep doing it yourself."

"I've survived this long," smiled Arnett.

"You haven't been alone," said Gwen, she propped the rifle up on her shoulder in boredom, "This ship is barely working as is. I honestly feel like it's built for a crew. Not us. I mean, do you really feel we can take on a serious threat if one were to pop over that hill and decide to take us on?"

Arnett crossed his arms. He shook his head, looking over the far hill. In the far distance he could see the dot of some airship, on its way to its next destination.

"What happened to them, Joel?" asked Gwen, "Where is your crew before me?"

"I... don't know," said Arnett, "I'm not even sure if I have a crew. I have no idea where they would be."

Arnett spun around and leaned on a guardrail of the ship, staring into the desert.

"Off working other jobs. On other ships. Maybe they found something they were good at. Nina wouldn't've stayed out of work long. I hope."

"Nina?"

Arnett nodded "Ninatovich. A Vibranni I had working with me. Strong, independent, reliable. She had my back."

Arnett turned to Gwen, "And I let her down. Hard. She needed me. She had found a job... it didn't pay much, if at all. But it meant a lot to her. And I fell into a pit."

Gwen frowned, "A pit?"

Arnett sighed, checking a damaged pocket watch, "You know, enough of this for today. I want to see those bottles gone, then we'll call it quits. We got to reach our next stop sooner or later."

Gwen shook her head, looking back out at the bottles.

"You know, we've been at this a while now," said Gwen, "When are you going to start trusting me on this Landship? It really feels like... you are waiting for me to leave."

Arnett took a long breath inward. He walked past her, slowly, towards the bulkhead to get into the ship.

"One day, you will leave," said Arnett, "Eventually they do, one way or another. It's for the best, you know. You don't... belong here."

Gwen chewed on her response, glaring at the targets.

"No one does, it's a desert," she spat back, "And I ain't got no where else to go."

She raised the rifle to her shoulder, and she fired a shot. A bottle turned to shards as she ratcheted the lever and fired again. Another bottle smashed. She moved the lever a third time and fired again. The last bottle chipped, but the force of the bullet sent it toppling backwards. 

Arnett allowed himself a smile, "I don't have anywhere else to go either."

Arnett stepped inside the Landship, shouting over his shoulder, "You're getting better!"