"All right you guys. Gather round." Garrison entered the courtyard where the Sgt. Major had herded them.
"Whatja got Warden?" Goniff, always curious, eyed the box in the Captain's. arms.
"Weapons. You all have to be familiar with what we'll be using. I want you all to check them out. Get used to handling each one of them. Later you'll get a chance to fire them but for now I want you to learn how to break them down and re-assemble them."
Garrison watched as Wheeler reached for the heavy gauge shot gun. Figured. He was a bull and blasting was his style. Casino had a little more finesse. He went for a rifle. Actor and Goniff selected hand guns. Each stood back and fingered their weapon.
Garrison watched as the youngest member of his strange band waited just out of reach, not sure if he was supposed to pick a weapon as well. Once the others had made their selection and stepped back to examine their find, the Guardian stepped up and looked into the box. There were several weapons left, long barrel and hand guns.
Chief didn't like guns. The first time he had fired one he had been concentrating on the sounds of a rabbit that was just out of sight behind some brush. He was tracking the sound so he would know where to aim. With his hearing extended the gunshot had been excruciating. It had been days before he had been able to hear again. Being deaf and in pain had been frightening. He had avoided guns from that day on and had stuck to using his knife. It was shorter range but by developing stalking skills he had always been able to get close enough to get what he wanted.
He looked up at the man who was his new Handler. He was still unsure of where he stood with the man. At times he treated him OK and then other times he could feel the dislike radiating off him.
'I am yellow' had supervised Garrison as he gave him the shot this morning before he left. Garrison didn't seem to happy about it. Maybe he would forget to give it to him tonight or maybe he would get someone else to do it. If he could tell them he didn't want it…. It was risky. GCAT had made him watch a rogue go through it and the man had died, horribly. Did he really want that? Did he want to die? On the other hand did he want to keep living like this?
He would wait and bide his time. As long as he didn't have to kill anyone then things would be OK for now. So far he had not been asked to do anything objectionable. If things got bad then he would do what had to be done.
Seeing he was not being watched he reached into the very bottom where the two leather bundles lay. He pulled them out and turned them over. Sure enough they were leather scabbards. The first revealed a nickel plated handle. Grasping it lightly he pulled it out slowly and watched with delight as the blade was revealed. Part of his soul rejoiced at the simple beauty of the six inch long gleaming blade. Well most was shiny. Who ever had used it last had not cleaned it properly. He tipped it so the light shone along the blade. Quality. Turning it slowly he noted the edge was keen and true. Holding it lightly he checked the balance. It was a good knife, expensive. Casting a quick look around he wished for a target to throw it at but thought better. Returning the blade to its home he checked the second knife. It was about the same length but the cross guard was different. There was also a flat area on the blade just past the cross guard. On closer examination he could make out the F - S but the rest he couldn't read. Maybe it was the original owner. The other side also had markings. Maybe the maker. Nothing he recognized. He examined the blade. Also quality. The balance was excellent as well. Both blades were long enough to do serious damage to a man, sliding easily between the ribs. He hefted the knife. Both were well balance for throwing. The lack of weight would need a little getting used to but would be easily overcome with practice. The knife he used to have back on the Reservation had been a Bowie knife. Goyen had given it to him and taught him how to use it and how to look after it.
Holding the knife by the ball at the end he flipped it and watched as it dropped between his boots to the floor and stuck. It quivered slightly. Hardly a sound. He reached down and grasping the handle he pulled it free. Very nice. Again he flipped it and watched as it fell and stuck. Again he pulled it free and repeated the motion but instead this time he flipped it and snatched it out of the air with his other hand before it fell very far. Success. He had not been sure his reflexes were as sharp as they once had been.
Another quick look to see if anyone was watching and his heart sank. The Captain was watching him. There would be no chance right now to slip the knife into his waistband. He wanted it so badly. Keeping his face neutral he returned it to it's sheath and returned both items to the box. Appearing disinterested was his only defence.
Garrison watched as the Guardian looked up, catching his eye. There had been pleasure there that was suddenly replaced by guilt and then immediately disinterest. The ease with which he had tossed the knife had been encouraging. The man was proficient with knives. That was obvious from the reverent way he had handled the two blades. The only problem was the knowledge that he had killed his previous Handler by stabbing him. Would that be his fate? If the dead Handler had been anything like Iamello then he got what he deserved. On the other hand, he didn't know what the Guardian thought about him. Did he hate all Handlers or just ones that abused him? Should he ask him? If he did would the man answer honestly? Probably not. His proficiency could be a blessing or a looming disaster. Time would tell. For now he would keep his eye on him.
After having the men practice disassembling, cleaning and reassembling the assorted weapons he led them outside to the area where the Sgt. Major had set up targets. With guards standing by, the men waited their turn to load and fire. Chief made sure he was at the end of the line and had pulled in his senses as tight as he could. He watched as the others took their turns. The sound barely registered.
Actor, for his many guises, had learned to shoot at an early age. He was proficient with many types so had no problem. With his preference for perfection he took his time firing. He scored well. Little help would be required.
Casino was next in line. He had grown up on the streets of Chicago but had spent several summers working on various uncles' farms. It was there that he had stolen his first tractor. He had also learned to shoot rats and various other farm vermin so was familiar with fire arms. Having used a scatter gun the most he was proficient but his accuracy was not quite as good as Actor's. That would come with practice.
Wheeler was next. He bulled up to the line and blasted. He was gong for speed. That was all well and good but his aim was poor. Garrison had him slow down and repeat the session. His aim was better but would need practice.
Goniff was a quiet man. His weapons were 'slight of hand' and being able to blend into a crowd His build and mannerisms made him invisible. Guns had never figured in his plans or crimes. After exaggerated care at aiming he tended to pull the trigger after tightly closing his eyes. He would need coaching.
Then it was the Guardian's turn. He stepped up and waited while he was handed the rifle. Imitating the stance he had seen Garrison use, he squeezed off a shot. The recoil startled him and caused the shot to go high but he adjusted for the next shot. He eyed the target and was about to pull the trigger when a hand on his shoulder startled him. With out thought, he swung around pulling away from the touch and bringing the gun with him to use as a bludgeon. Before he could connect, the lights went out.
Pain in his head and the sensation of laying sprawled on the cold hard ground brought him around. He tried to move but as his vision cleared he saw the gun barrel in his face. He froze. Silence. Garrison's face came into view. His mouth was moving but the words were muffled. It was then he realized that he had closed his hearing down. He opened his hearing.
"… like that and you're gone! You understand?"
Figuring it was best to agree, he nodded then seeing the barrel retreat he got up slowly. He desperately wanted to rub his head. It hurt like hell but he refused to let anyone know he could be hurt. Not knowing what to do he watched Garrison from under lowered lashes. Never look a Handler in the eye unless you wanted more of the same. Garrison stood holding the rifle. He waited. Was he to try again or was he dismissed? He waited while Garrison eyed him. He was being judged. Was Garrison going to let him stay or ship him back. He didn't care what happened. To not care meant never being disappointed, only this time he did care, a little. He wanted to stay. The others left him alone. Garrison hated him but treated him the same as the others. He had it good here. If he had a choice he would like to stay. What could he do to sway things in his favour?
Keeping his voice low and his eyes on the ground he licked his dry lips and spoke. "I - I wasn't tryin' nothing." Fortunately no one noticed the slight twitch. Speaking with out permission usually resulted in being hit. "Y...You startled me." He had to make sure he knew he didn't mean it. He wouldn't hurt the guy less he was askin' for it.
"I told you to give me the weapon. Why didn't you?"
"I didn't hear you. I was … was tryin' to block the sound of the gun." He chewed the inside of his lip as he waited for Garrison to think that over.
Well that made sense to Garrison. He handed him the rifle again but with a look that said he had best be careful and showed him how to position it to absorb the recoil. Chief rejoiced that he still had a chance.
He returned to the line and keeping his hearing open just a little he took aim and squeezed the trigger. Using his superior eye sight and steady hand he hit the target every time.
Once every body had a second turn he put the guns aside. Pulling out one of the Army issue knives he proceeded to demonstrate on the St. Major the correct method of killing the enemy from behind. All the men enjoyed the frightened look on the Brits face. He might trust the American with many things but putting a knife to his throat was not one of them. When he finished he asked if there were any questions and of course Wheeler asked if they could all take a turn killing 'the enemy'. Laughter erupted when they heard the audible squeak from 'the enemy'.
"All right everyone. Take your place in line. You will be given a weapon and ammo. You will load, fire five rounds then pass your weapon to the man on your right. The guard behind you will hand you ammo for the next weapon. The St. Major will take the end weapon to the other end of the line. Then on command, you will repeat. Private Gibbs will be keeping score. And remember, there are seven guards behind you so no funny business. Got that?" The smiles that had appeared melted and they nodded.
"Chief." All the men turned to look but a stern glare from Garrison sent them on their way. The silent one remained standing where he was. The command had been neutral so he had no idea if he was in trouble or was being singled out for some thing he did or didn't do. His stomach clenched.
"You've used a knife before." Again the tone was neutral. He didn't know if that was good or bad. He hesitated. Did Garrison know he had knifed a Handler? It didn't sound like a question but was he supposed to agree or not? Should he admit it? If he denied it and Garrison knew then he would be caught in a lie. He would be sent back. But if he didn't know then maybe he would get away with it and Garrison wouldn't know. He stood immobile as he debated what to say.
"The question was not that hard," but his voice was. He was angry. He must be still angry about the gun.
"Uh …" He had no choice. Yes or no? The added pressure from the last statement caused him to lose control of his facial features.
Garrison was in no mood for games. A simple question. Yes or No. If he had to think about it then he was probably lying. Garrison didn't like liars and he didn't like being lied to. He watched as the internal war was fought on the Guardians face.
Chief surrendered. A lie would be worse. That was what Goyen had told him. Lie to your enemies if necessary but tell your friends the truth. Garrison was not his friend but he was the boss. "Yeah." Short and to the point. This was it. He was either in or out. He held his breath.
Garrison watched him a moment longer. The Guardian was resigned to what ever he had committed himself to. He pulled out the Army issue knife and handed it to the Guardian.
"How good are you with it?"
Still toneless but the other man's breathing had slowed. He must still be OK, thought the younger man. He took the blade and removed it from the scabbard. "It's smaller 'n I'm used to but I can still use it." He tried not to sound too excited.
Panic! What did he want? Was he supposed to attack him. Show him how he killed his Handler?
Seeing the confusion he realized that was vague. "Can you throw it? Accurately?"
He nodded and after a few tosses and catches, one hand to the other, he looked around for a suitable target."
"That tree over there." It was an old oak tree with the girth of a man and about ten feet away. Chief tested the balance once more then threw the knife. As soon as it left his hand he realized his mistake and he gasped.
Garrison saw the blade suddenly appear in the tree and he walked over to retrieve it. It was well embedded, heart centred if the tree had been a man. The kid was good. Pulling it out he turned to the thrower and saw the crest fallen expression. That confused him. He had hit the target, why wasn't he happy? He
gave him a questioning look.
"I forgot," he blurted out. "Let me try again."
Garrison was confused but rather than admit it he just handed the blade back and stepped back to watch.
Again the blade landed with a thud in the tree and Garrison went to retrieve it. It wasn't until he grasped the handle that he realized this time it was turned horizontally instead of vertically. He visualized the both blades striking their target. The first throw had been aimed at a large animal on all fours with the ribs running vertically. The vertical blade would slip in between the ribs. To kill a human you had to turn the blade horizontally. Well the kid was a good aim but obviously more accustomed to killing animals than humans. That was a relief, the good aim and the customary victim.
"When we're on a mission I want you to take one of these with you. You can attach it to your belt."
Chief was in heaven. His own knife. He had always felt safer with a knife. You wouldn't starve and most human predators could be fended off by just showing the knife. "If it were smaller I could put it in my boot." His heart skipped a beat when Garrison looked him in the eye with that unreadable expression. Oh no I said something wrong. He waited for the axe to fall.
"You ever use a switchblade."
"All right. I'll get you one."
He was so happy that he just blurted out what came to mind. "More'n one would be better." Panic when Garrison gave him that look again. Shit! he thought. "In case I can't get it back .. After I throw it."
Garrison continued to look at the Guardian. It made him nervous to give the kid a knife but what he said made sense. He would have to get a few and see how it went. He nodded. "All right."
Later Garrison sat in his office. All was quiet now so he got up and opened the window. Target practice was over. He checked his watch. Supper time soon. A soft knock on the door and the Sergeant Major poked his head in.
"Come in. How'd it go?"
"Much better Sir. Every one's aim has improved though I can't get Goniff to keep his eyes open. He is getting better though."
"Good. Carry on."
"Very good Sir." He saluted smartly and left.
The Lt sat back, lost in thought. Things weren't going too badly. The Sergeant Major was a big help. It was his job to conduct the routine training and physical fitness part of the regimen.
Tonight he, himself, would lead them on a practice night time infiltration. The Gate Keepers Lodge, presently used by the guards when off duty, had been converted into a temporary headquarters. For tonight he had trip wires and alarms installed. There would be no human guards as of yet. He didn't trust them not to shoot. Right after supper, the Sergeant Major would assemble the men in the briefing room where he would go over the details of what and where. The only problem was the Guardian. His shots were to be twelve hours apart, 0600 and 1800 hours. They would begin at 1900 hours, just one hour later when the Guardian was the dopiest. He would just have to leave him out.