Guns. Lots of Guns.

Leaving me to boggle, Flattop closed the door behind us and with a heavy clunk bolted it shut.

“What the hell?” I asked.

“Tio’s got a nice collection,” Flattop said.

“That’s what you call this? Not an arsenal? A shitload of guns?”

“Take a seat, Mack,” Flattop said. “I’m guessing you don’t have any gun skills, right?”

I wondered for a moment what he was talking about, and then I tore my gaze away from the guns long enough to notice the rest of the room. Two long, dark wooden tables ran down the center, with chairs tucked underneath. Clamped on the short sides of the tables was one of those magnifying glass/lamp combos I’d seen in movies. Toward the front of the store a closed door led further into the basement.

I pulled out a chair and sat down. Flattop went to the wall and began plucking pistols off of it like apples. He didn’t hesitate, but seemed to know exactly which ones to pick.

“Get yours out too, Mack,” he instructed.

He came back and placed the guns down in front of me one at a time. Each was different. The first row was three revolvers, and the second was two automatics. There was an obvious space for mine, so I placed it there.

“Alright, now since you carry that nine we’ll start you with automatics. I don’t like the revolvers much, but we might as well get you trained on those as well. Take a look at the other two automatics.”

I IDed the two strange automatics in front of me.

Colt M1911 (E) Ammo (.45 ACP): 7/7
Handling: B Damage: D Serial: None
Penetration: E Accuracy: E Value: ???
Beretta M9 (E) Ammo (9mm Parabellum): 13/13
Handling: B Damage: D Serial: None
Penetration: D Accuracy: D Value: ???

I recognized the .45 caliber pistol as one I’d seen a lot in movies. It was a lot smaller in real life. The other 9mm was a lot like Magnus’s gun, but black instead of nickel-plated. What I didn’t understand is why they were in front of me.

Flattop squatted down and grabbed a case from a shelf I hadn’t noticed underneath the table. It was grey plastic with an integrated handle, worn from long use. He set it down on the table beside the two rows of guns and opened it up. The inside was full of an assortment of brushes and brush heads along with long rods and other stuff I didn’t know the use of. That ignorance didn’t last long.

“Now, the fun part,” Flattop said.

With movements born of long practice, he picked up my pistol, dropped the magazine and less than a minute later it was in pieces arranged on the table in front of me. After naming all the parts and making me repeat those names back to him, he put the weapon back together and handed it to me.

“Your turn.”

The next hour was frustrating. I broke down all three pistols and put them back together until I could not only do that, but I could reliably name all of the different pieces and what they did. Then I learned how to clean and service them. The two from Guillem’s collection were spotless, but we ‘cleaned’ them anyway. Mine was very dirty. Zeke hadn’t taken good care of his gun.

Once that was done to Flattop’s satisfaction, he pushed the automatics to the side and picked up the left-most revolver.

“Now the revolvers,” he said.

“Oh come on. Why are we doing this anyway?”

“You want to be able to shoot that thing or not?” Flattop asked. “This is how you get the skill.”

After learning the basics with the automatics, the revolvers weren’t hard. They were a bit more work to clean, and took longer, but that was it. My instruction went much faster.

“Now that you’ve eaten your vegetables, it’s time for the ice cream. Let’s go, take a couple of these with you.”

He took one of the three revolvers, a chromed monster in .44 caliber, while I picked up my nine and the .45.

“Back here,” he said, opening the door leading further into the basement.

I followed, wondering just what it was I was going to see. The ice cream didn’t disappoint, as behind that door was Guillem’s private gun range. It was only about thirty feet long, but that was good enough for my non-existent aiming skills. The ceiling above us was steel plated, nicked here and there by stray rounds.

Flattop handed me a pair of earplugs and then a pair of ear muffs. It seemed like overkill, but once we started shooting I was glad to have them. The noise in an enclosed space with concrete walls would have destroyed my hearing forever.

What came next was the most fun I’d had since the last time I’d had a girlfriend. Flattop brought out boxes of 9mm and .45 ammunition for the automatics and we started shooting.

Flattop would come over and show me how to adjust my stance or my grip, and watch my grouping. The paper targets at the end of the range would get shredded, and then we’d pull them off and replace them. I shot all three of the automatics and was starting to get comfortable with all of them. I still wasn’t a great shot, but I knew how to put the bullets approximately where I wanted them at short range.

We’d gone through a few boxes of ammunition. I hadn’t been paying close attention, but I’d just emptied another magazine and lowered the pistol when a UI popped in my face.

Skill Unlocked – Semi-automatic Pistols (Passive) (F) Level 1/5
Familiarity with the operation and maintenance of the majority of semi-automatic pistols. Grants 5% faster target acquisition, 5% more accurate shots and 5% faster reloads.
Earned: $0/$500

“Woo!” I cheered.

Flattop turned to me, lowering his revolver and pulling off his ear muffs. He said something, but I didn’t hear it. I took off my ear muffs and he repeated it.

“You got it?”

“Yeah! The bonuses aren’t great and it’ll be a giant pain in the ass to level up, but yeah!”

“It’s not that bad to level up. If you rob someone with your gun, that’ll count.”

“I’m not planning on becoming a robber anytime soon,” I replied.

“Sometimes you’ve just gotta take somebody’s shit. If you do, that skill will earn.”

When he put it like that it made me think. I had already robbed Magnus, after all. I would have taken Zeke’s cash, too, if it had been safe to do so. Maybe it’d come up.

“Anyway, let’s switch you to the revolvers and get you that skill as well.”

It took a bit longer with the revolvers. They were a lot of fun at first, especially the .44 Magnum. It had a crazy recoil and felt like I was setting off a cannon in my hands. It really wasn’t my style, though. That and the fact they only held five or six shots put me off them.

Skill Unlocked – Revolvers (Passive) (F) Level 1/5
Familiarity with the operation and maintenance of the majority of revolvers. Grants 5% faster target acquisition, 5% more accurate shots and 5% faster reloads.
Earned: $0/$500

Even though the skills themselves didn’t tell me what the unlock requirements were, they were common knowledge which was why Flattop had got me both skills so quickly. I needed to get intimately familiar with the care and maintenance of three different guns of that type, and then fire one hundred rounds. Even though the bonuses at first level were pretty small, it was still a great return on my investment of time and effort.

Of course, that fun didn’t come without a cost. Flattop and I spent a good twenty minutes sweeping up brass, cleaning and replacing weapons and making sure everything was just as we’d found it. After my pistol was cleaned I reloaded the magazine and chambered a round before tucking it back in my holster. I checked the time.

San Tadeo, California, 11:08 Monday March 09, 2020

The Ball and Bean

Walking in the Shadows

It was close enough to lunch now that maybe I’d get some customers.

“I should go sell,” I said.

“Hold up. Let me set you Allied first,” Flattop said.

He peeled ten hundred dollar bills off his roll, holding them in his right hand.

“This hurts me. I hope you make us a good pile of money today, Mack.”

“You want me to chip in?” I asked.

“Nah, this is on the LSS. We get a percentage, we should at least be able to keep our allies from popping you.”

With no further ado, he concentrated for a few seconds and the stack of money in his right hand burst into green flame. $1000 gone in a flash.

Reputation Updated. Lyle Street Soldados now Allied

“That’s it. You’re now marked as our ally,” Flattop said.

“Hold on, will that show through my Sunshrouds?” I asked.

“Sure. It only blocks the name, remember? Go make us some money. Try a bit down the block by the taco shack. I’ll pay Tio for the ammo we used.”