“This,” Sergeant Major Bishop said as he stood behind a table covered with the biggest rifle I’d ever seen, “is the Douglas XF-7. It is an anti-material rifle designed for one purpose; the destruction of enemy material. As you know, that includes anything from ordinance up to aircraft and lightly armored ground vehicles.” The thing was black, with a barrel that ended in a recoil suppression head that made it look a bit like a world war two tank muzzle. Other than that, it was pure science fiction.
“And belt buckles,” Private Johnson snickered. Corporal Stone shot him a withering look from behind the table and the dark-haired private immediately straightened and shut up.
Bishop turned to Johnson. “Enemy material does, in fact, include their weapons and uniform, so I suppose that would be an acceptable target. It’s too bad you couldn’t hope to hit one, Private, even if you were wearing it.”
We all laughed at that, while Johnson turned red.
“As I was saying, the Douglas XF-7 fires a 20mm shell, in most cases, it is an armor-piercing round. A shot from one of these to the engine will kill a troop transport dead, or knock a helicopter out of the sky. We will be using HEIAP rounds: High Explosive Incendiary Armor Piercing.” He held up a giant shell that looked like it belonged more to a small artillery piece to me. “These are depleted uranium rounds, they will penetrate most armor, after which the shell explodes, igniting everything within a five or so foot radius. It’s usually more than sufficient to kill the crew of a vehicle or at least start a fire that will ignite the fuel or ammunition.”
Ok, that sounded freaking awesome. I wanted to see that in action.
“This weapon carries a five-round magazine and is semi-automatic. It is designed for a team of at least two soldiers.” His eyes focused on Claire and me. “We hope to see if you two will be able to manage one of these by yourselves.”
Claire and I gave each other a quick glance. She was as excited as I was.
“Corporal Stone,” he said, looking over to where Stone was standing in front of a weapon that was set up on a tripod, “If you would be so kind?”
Stone smiled. He was an incredible shot. I heard he had the opportunity to become a sniper, his scores were so good, but he turned it down. It was not really what he wanted to do in the military. Dropping to the ground, he sighted down the firing lane. We were in the large warehouse structure that served as the firing range for the base. At the far end of the shooting range was a massive earth mound covered in sandbags, just for extra safety. The walls all around were solid stone to prevent ricochets from accidentally leaving the building. Sitting in front of the sandbags were several objects; a heavy metal barrel, a thick slab of metal, and a standard bulletproof vest on a dummy.
Donning the ear protection, we waited for Stone to get started. I looked over at Claire again; I’d not had a chance to ask her what she was going to say. In the excitement of the moment though, it didn’t seem that important. Stone signaled he was ready. The gun roared loudly, fire-belching from its mouth. The armored dummy exploded as the shell punched a massive hole in the thing’s chest. Burning fabric and parts of the dummy rained down on the ground around it. The next shot went through the metal plate. Even with the ear protection, the sound of the metal reverberating as it was struck made us jump.
The edges of the hole glowed for a couple of seconds and fire burned on the sandbags.
Stone then took aim on the barrel. Another thunderous roar and the barrel folded in half and leaped in the air from the impact. It hit the ground again with a loud clang and rolled side to side, its belly split open and the edges white-hot.
As Stone stood up, Bishop asked, “Any questions?”
We were falling all over ourselves to be the next one to fire the thing while targets were set up at the end of the range. Bishop let the other soldiers go first, each receiving a single shot to familiarize themselves with the awesome power of the weapon. When it was my turn, I was jumping for joy.
On the inside. It’s not good to show too much enthusiasm.
“Fire it like normal first, just to feel its power,” Stone said as I took the handle of the rifle. It was heavy, solid. I liked its weight. Most guns felt like toys used to feel, but this, this felt real to me. Like a weapon should.
I squeezed the trigger and the gun lurched from the recoil. I held it in place, for the most part, but I was still startled by the intensity of it. Looking past the curl of smoke from the barrel, I saw that I hit the target just left of center.
“Good shot,” Stone said.
“Don’t be patronizing,” I replied.
“Calm down, Private, I meant what I said,” he replied. He almost looked flustered.
“Give me another shot.”
“Nope, not yet. Private Barker,” he yelled at Claire, “You’re up.”
With great reluctance, I let go of the beautiful rifle and returned to my place. Claire stood by the weapon while another target was put in place. She got behind the weapon and took her aim. My… the gun barked more flame and then a massive hole appeared dead center in the target. Crap. Someone had spent more time at the range than me.
After that, Stone fit the weapon with a support strap and motioned me over. He held the weapon while I slid under the strap. “You don’t have to do that, Corporal, I can hold it.”
He shrugged and held the rifle so I could take the handle on the top. It felt good in my arms, and I hefted it so I could look down the sites.
“Even with your strength, Private Delaney, I would not recommend using that weapon in that manner,” Bishop said. “Hold it at waist level and use your other hand on the handle to help brace it.”
Sighing, I lowered the weapon. Holding it the way he advised, I pointed it towards the new target. The first shell had a surprising kick, and the suddenness had made me throw off my aim. But now I had the measure of it and I squeezed the next four rounds off, bracing the kick of the weapon with my left arm. I punched holes all over the target, but damn did it feel good. “It’s not as accurate this way, Sergeant Major, but it’s not too bad.”
Claire followed after and to my chagrin, managed a closer grouping to her shots. “I agree with Private Delaney, Sergeant Major.”
“Excellent, soldiers. We are going to have you practice with these weapons every day until you are as good with them as with your standard combat rifle, is that clear?”
“Yes Sergeant Major!” we both shouted.
Truth is I was overjoyed to follow that particular order. What can I say? The part of the army I enjoy the most is the big toys. Well, that and blowing shit up. I didn’t care if I was the best soldier ever, but I did my level best to learn what I could about warfare and mass destruction. Practice in those skills brought me a step closer each day to dismembering Mercy. While I did find the sense of belonging a pleasant change, I never forgot that I was here for a shot at avenging Debra.
Over the next few weeks, Claire and I spent a lot of time at the range. We were not allowed to use the Depleted Uranium shells, as those were too expensive and caused too much fire risk. Instead, we were firing standard slugs, which still ruined anything we hit. The noise of the weapons attracted a lot of curiosity and pretty soon everyone knew what we were doing. Other Changed were brought into our study group as well if they were gifted with the same physical abilities we possessed.
The Angels had all the advantages over us. Invulnerability, The ability to come and go as they will. Flight. Tremendous destructive powers.
But I couldn’t help but imagine the looks on their faces when we ambushed them with a host of these babies.
Let’s see how invulnerable they really were.
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Bio: Though born in the United States, I am now living in bonnie Scotland. Been writing most of my life and though I have some non-fiction (gaming) published, I have never had any of my fiction published in any format. I've written a few novels before but never tried sharing them with the world. My interests are primarily fantasy and urban fantasy. I appreciate any feedback, good or bad.