The Fun Pistol Shoot was a disappointment, but that was more Sasha’s fault than the organizer’s. She had unconsciously imagined the internet videos she’d seen of practical pistol shooting. In them you walked or ran through a simulated village or city and fired at human figures who popped out from behind doorways or alleyways. Or resisted firing at “good guys” who might be police officers or schoolchildren.
When she and her brother arrived at the pistol shoot, however, she saw the minimal temporary arrangement she should have expected of a gun show. Set downrange several yards away were two door-sized wooden walls covered with red brick-patterned wallpaper. The walls stood on wooden A-frame supports which would topple if you leaned too hard on them.
The teenaged boy at a nearby table who signed her up explained the procedure. When her turn was called she would run to the nearest fake wall and fire six shots from around one side of the wall, then six more from the other side. She would shoot left-handed on one side and right-handed on the other. Then she would reload and sprint to the next wall and repeat the procedure.
The targets were thin soft-metal plates about the size and shape of an actual dinner plate. They were 30 feet away, a realistic distance for an actual gun fight. When hit anywhere they would swing down and automatically record a hit before springing back up.
There was no prize. If there had been Sasha would have walked away. A superhuman competing against humans was no competition and unfair. Even though Brandon murmured to her, “Our old friend Crockett is watching from over there.”
To keep appearances she followed his gaze, even though she had scented him (and several dozen other people) and a lazy but comprehensive glance had shown her exactly where he was.
She smiled and waved at him when she sighted him this second time. He grinned back at her a bit timidly and returned her wave.
Proving anything to total strangers had no appeal for her, but Brandon seemed to want her to do so. So she signed up.
When her turn came she walked to the nearest wall, stuck a hand around its edge, and fired at the top six targets of two rows of them. The accepted and, normally, the common-sensical way was to peek around the corner and, holding the weapon with two hands, aim using the sights. But Sasha knew exactly where the targets were and exactly how her hand and gun were positioned. She fired blind. Any opponents would have only seen her arm and gun — in the last few seconds of their lives. She repeated this at the other side of the wall. Then she reloaded, ambled to the next wall and repeated the performance. She made a perfect score.
Back at the starting line the range officer, a middle-aged blond woman in jeans and orange gun-show tee-shirt, was frowning.
“No fully automatic weapons are allowed on this course. Your scores don’t count.”
Sasha nodded casually. She would have walked away but Brandon spoke up, annoyed.
“My sister would not do that! This isn’t right.”
“Sir, I distinctly heard her shots. Those guns have been altered.”
Before her brother could reply Sasha channeled her mother. “You are right to bring up your concern. You are welcome to examine my pistols, shoot them if that will satisfy you. Or I’ll repeat the performance with pistols of your choice if you want.”
“You have to understand,” her brother said. “Sasha is an Olympic-class shooter. They are just that good.”
Sasha laid a gentle hand on the nearest of his arms. “Honey, I don’t like to play the Olympic card. Don’t do that again, OK?”
He grumpily agreed. She didn’t worry that his annoyance would last. He was just too sunny-tempered to hold onto a bad mood long.
The woman’s eyes had grown large. “You’re Sasha Canaro? I should have known. Everybody knows you’re here.”
“They do?” Hell!
Then she had to sign autographs again. Maybe I should go home. This sucks.
At the Fun Combat Rifle shoot she had no fun at all. She left her M4 carbine, the standard arm for several branches of the US military, in its carry case. The standing-man target was placed only 50 yards away. She could punch the eyes out of such a target at 500 yards, more than a quarter of a mile.
“You’re not going to compete?”
“You’re not going to skip the shotgun event, are you? Martha is expecting to meet us there.”
She smiled. “And Linda. Very pretty girl, isn’t she?”
He grinned. “Can’t put anything over on you, can I”
“Not for many a year, big brother.”
Sasha had just paid the entrance fee for the Tactical Shotgun Fun Shoot and was filling out the paperwork when Brandon straightened from a nearby arm-crossed slouch. Thus she knew that Martha and probably Linda had arrived.
“Hey, Rebecca,” Martha said. “This is my friend Sasha. I’m going to inspect her weapon, OK?”
The grey-haired woman in blue jeans and the gun-show orange tee nodded.
“Just a minute … There, all done.” Sasha laid down the clipboard with her paperwork upon it and took the shotgun case forward past the signup tables. Martha followed her. Brandon and Linda stayed behind chatting.
Nearer the firing area was another line of tables dedicated to preparation for the shoot. There more officials were checking the weapons and ammunition brought to the shoot to ensure they met the requirements for participation. Martha nodded to one of the officials who came forward to Sasha and told her she would do the check. The man veered off.
“Remington 870. Sticking with the tried-and-true, I see. I like the acid-dulled chromed metal. I never liked shiny weapons.” Martha hefted the weapon and asked the price she’d paid. At the answer she nodded.
“That’s a little high but you probably paid extra for this screw-in choke.” Sasha nodded.
They chatted, then the time came for the competition to begin. They watched the competitors who went before Sasha. Then it was her turn.
She moved forward into the firing circle. Hefted the gun to ready.
Suddenly two clay “birds” cleared the scrub brushes to the left. Sasha waited till they got almost to the ground before leisurely turning them to dust. Then from the right came two more. She dusted them at the same low altitude.
Halfway through she switched tactics. She destroyed each pair before they got more than a few feet up.
Finally Sasha combined the two tactics. More than once she had four birds in the air at once. To make things more challenging she alternated left-right-left-right aiming, swinging her shotgun across great sweeping arcs back and forth. This tactic was terribly inefficient and would have been stupid for anyone except Sasha to attempt.
For her it was easy. Too easy. She safed her weapon, gave the arm signal for “I quit,” and waited till the range officer signaled the All Clear. After unloading her shotgun and stowing it in its gun case she and Martha left the firing area.
Brandon and Linda met the two of them as they walking into the long aisle connecting the long line of firing areas.
“Hey, Sash’. How come you quit early? What’s wrong?”
She looked at her brother, then changed her gaze to include the other two women as well.
“It’s just too easy. No fun at all.”
“I wasn’t watching very closely,” said her brother, then stopped. Sasha had pointedly switched her gaze from his face to Linda’s. He blushed. All three women laughed. He rolled his eyes, stubbornly continued.
“You looked like you were having fun.”
“I was trying to make it fun. I failed.”
Martha said, “Well, fun or not, you are going to totally rule at the Olympics. I wouldn’t be surprised if you win all golds in the shooting competitions and set records.”
Records which ordinary humans would break their hearts, and maybe bodies, trying to equal.
Damn, why did she have to be so responsible!
Well, for one, if she were outed as a superhuman she would get all sorts of unwelcome publicity. The Crime-buster Canaro furor had given her just a taste of what that publicity would be like. And the comic books Brandon used to read all showed that superheroes usually came to be hated.
And she had been wondering lately about the reaction of other superhumans to her being outed. From Doc O’Neill she knew there was at least one other. And if two, why not dozens, hundreds, maybe even more?
The final two hours at the gun show the four of them spent together. Martha wanted to introduce her to a couple of her friends, then they ate dinner. Sasha had four big hamburgers with lots of vegetables in them and French fries on the side with over a quart of soft drink.
The two other women observed her diet with combined awe and amusement. Even Brandon, who was used to her eating habits, commented on the quantity.
Sasha was taken back a bit by her appetite. From that and her internal sense she knew her body was embarking on another important change. It had done this before and her eating had subsided to a more normal level.
Brandon wanted to drive home and Sasha gladly surrendered her keys to him after she had locked her shotgun and M4 carbine into the SUV gun safes. A long horsetail of dust followed them from the parking area to the country road where they turned onto the blacktop heading west and home.
They flipped down the sunshades. The sun was still a couple hours from the horizon, but low enough to make that necessary.
For a time they rode in companionable silence, their near hands clasped on the seat between them. Brandon had never been the aloof older brother of so many of her acquaintances. He had been very protective of his three little sisters and held their hands when needed and sometimes cuddled them.
She glanced at his profile. His eyes were in shadow but his jaw was lit by the yellowing sun light. She felt a great surge of affection for him fill her chest with warmth. She squeezed his hand and released it, crossed her legs, and laughed.
“Do you know what we used to call you? Tobey.”
“Tobey.” He laughed. “Whatever became of ol’ Tobe?”
“He was still alive and healthy when we moved here. I imagine he still is.” The black-and-white near-tailless sheep dog owned by their black neighbors in LA had treated all four kids like the sheep he had been bred to protect. Along with the two children of the family to which he belonged. Or doubtless from his perspective who belonged to him.
“I’ll have to ask Rick the next time I see him.” Richard Wendover had been the neighbor boy closest to his age. They had been close friends even after the Canaros moved. He was now finishing college at UCLA on a basketball scholarship and being courted by the NBA as a pro.
Their friendship had influenced Brandon quite a bit. Many of his male friends in Oceanside and most of those at college had been black. He had also dated black girls. There weren’t many in Oceanside but there had been more in college.
“You really think you might become a policeman — policewoman? Like you said this morning?”
She caught her lower lip for a moment and thought. “That just popped out. I’ve never thought about what’s after the Olympics. But it has … a certain appeal.”
She turned to face him on her seat, pulling at her seat belt to let her sit sideways with her left leg under her.
“Bran, I think I actually died back there and not just went into a coma. Even if I didn’t I was really lucky that the firemen got there before I burned to death. It was like I was given life as a gift. Like maybe there was a reason for it. And I’ve wondered now and then what that might be. Just winning at the Olympics can’t be it.”
He was quiet for long moments, his own bottom lip caught between his teeth.
“I’d worry that some criminal might shoot you. What about the FBI? They do mostly white-collar crime and don’t patrol the dangerous streets.”
He laughed. “Though any perp who shoots at you had better shoot damned straight. Or the most dangerous woman on the planet will send him to Hell.”