Wolves of Babylon Chapter 5

Ghost Guns

Lamb jealously guarded his privacy. A locked door led to the back of the shop, where a winding staircase awaited. A holographic keyboard, authenticated by an iris scanner, secured the door at the top of the stairs. Past the stairs was Lamb’s personal workshop.

The moment she entered, the smell invaded her lungs. Oil, lubricant, gunpowder, metal, plastic, the scents that came from working with guns and ammo for countless hours. Here it was thick and pungent, a fog that permeated the world.

Precision machines occupied the room. She identified reloading equipment, a lathe, a mill, a drill, a gun safe, multiple 3D printers. Armies of tools hung on racks mounted on the walls. Even more tools awaited inside boxes and cabinets. Workbenches formed islands in the middle of the shop. Everything was neatly-organized, clearly labeled, positioned for easy and intuitive reach. At the far side of the shop, another locked door, also equipped with a keypad and iris scanner, blocked off access to the rest of the floor.

Lamb placed a black plastic box on a workbench, extended a half-dozen antenna, and hit a switch. A bright red light flared to life. Karim twitched a little.

“We are secure, as secure as we can be,” Lamb said. “So, tell me, what is this assignment of yours?”

“We’ve been contracted to protect an establishment from Husks,” she said delicately. “This contract may require pre-emptive measures.”

Yuri had vouched for Lamb, but Lamb didn’t need to know everything. It was simple operational security.

“What kind of Husks?”

“Shapeshifting were-creatures,” Karim said. “Enhanced speed and strength, natural armor, claws and teeth.”

“Close quarters? Long range?”

“Multiple targets at close to medium range,” Kayla replied.

“Ooh. Tricky. You’ll need a fast rate of fire, high enough caliber to put them down before they get close, controllability for multiple follow-up shots, deep magazine. Am I right?”

“Yup.”

“Need armor piercing capability?”

Kayla and Karim exchanged a look.

“We don’t know if they have armor, but they’re probably not immune to head shots,” Karim said. “They’re not cyborgs.”

“Is this a one-off engagement, or a campaign?”

“We’re hoping we don’t need to use them. But if we do, we might need multiple follow-up jobs.”

Lamb frowned.

“These Husks, they belong to a Dark Power?”

“Yes. We believe there may be multiple Powers in play.”

His frown deepened.

“And I take it you need to go black because you don’t want them or their followers asking inconvenient questions.”

The New Gods had agents everywhere. The BPD, the hospitals, the morgue, every institution was compromised. Whenever a soldier of the New Gods died violently, his master would receive a copy of the autopsy report.

“It could also be strategically advantageous if the opposition believed there are two sets of shooters at large, each armed with distinct weapons,” Kayla said.

“Damn, girl, you’re playing with fire, you know that?”

“Not our first time around the block.”

“Only reason I even let you in here.”

“Do you have any recommendations for us?”

“If you’re running black, it’s not enough to win the firefight. You have to survive the investigation. That includes firearms forensics. Rifling, firing pin, extractor, ejector, everything that touches the cartridge leaves a trace. You have to prevent the forensics techs from finding them.

“We’ll start with the ammo. When you fire a round, the bullet expands and grips the rifling. This leaves striations. If the bullet is recovered intact, it can be traced to a barrel. A frangible round will disintegrate and leave nothing behind. A high-velocity fragmentation rifle round will also blow up—but only at higher velocities.”

“I don’t like frangibles for live ops,” Kayla said.

“If the Husks we’re up against have hardened skin, frangibles are worse than useless,” Karim added.

“Rifle rounds, then. The M95A2 round, fired from an M83 with a 16-inch barrel, will produce explosive fragmentation out to six hundred meters. Good enough for you?”

“We’ll keep in mind,” Kayla said.

“The alternative is to use smoothbore barrels. No rifling, no striations. In other words: shotguns.”

“Shotguns are good,” Karim said.

“You’ll want semiauto shotguns. If you’re fighting Husks, and if just the two of you, pump actions aren’t going to be fast enough for multiple targets.”

“Semiauto it is,” Kayla said.

“Striation marks are highly individual. It represents the profile of the barrel at the point of the shot. Microscopic striations will change after every three to five shots. If you absolutely have to hold on to a fired gun, you can run a mag dump or two before re-using it. Or run a steel wire brush down the barrel. Or both.

“That said, the safest option is for you to simply toss the weapon down a sewer once you’re done with it. If you really have to re-use a weapon, keep it in cold storage until you absolutely have to use it again.”

“We will toss the guns when this is over,” Karim said.

“You’d better. You get caught with those guns, you never bought them from me. There ain’t nothing linking them here.”

“Understood.”

“We can keep unregistered firearms, can’t we?” Kayla asked.

“So long as they’re for personal use.” His eyebrows waggled. “These are for personal use, aren’t they?”

“Yup.”

“Keep them out of sight all the same. If someone asks, you gotta explain how you put the guns together. That could be inconvenient.”

“No kidding,” Karim said.

“Now, on to tool marks. The firing pin, extractor and ejector will leave marks on the cases. You must recover expended case where possible. This means brass catchers on your long guns. Yeah, they throw off the balance, but better that than the alternatives. For sidearms, go with revolvers.”

“I haven’t used one before,” Karim said.

“Me neither,” Kayla added.

“Kids these days…” He shook his head. “If you use pistols, they go down the sewer if you fire them. I don’t care if you’ve recovered all the brass or not. Dump the guns. You won’t have time to recover fired bullets, and there are no pistol-caliber fragmentation round worth a damn.”

“What if we just replace the working parts?” Kayla replied. “The parts that contacted the rounds?”

“I suppose you could. I could sell them to you. But you need to re-zero your weapons every time you do this. And, again, your best bet is still to dump the guns the moment you don’t need them anymore.”

“Roger that.”

“You’d better. It’s all our asses on the line. I’m only doing this because Yuri vouched for you. If you were anybody else, you wouldn’t even be here.”

“I appreciate you taking the risk to help us,” Kayla said.

Lamb laughed sardonically.

“One last question before we get started. Do you want factory or shop kit?”

“What’s the difference?” Karim asked.

“If you want accuracy and absolute reliability, nothing beats factory-made weapons. But those are expensive and higher risk. Shop-made kit is untraceable and cheaper, but as you can see, I don’t have the precision equipment the big factories do. Shop stuff is less accurate and less reliable.”

“How much less?” Kayla asked.

“You’re not going to win any competitions with this stuff, I can tell you that. And you sure as hell shouldn’t be carrying this gear into a war zone, or in any kind of environment that needs you to bang the guns around. But if you treat your weapons right, store them properly, they should go bang every time you fire, and put rounds within minute of bad guy.

“You could also split the difference if you want. Factory kit for parts that need precision and reliability, shop kit for everything else. Hybrid guns, built right, will give you the best of both worlds.”

“Hybrids,” Karim said.

“Agreed,” Kayla added.

“Alright. Y’all have an idea of what kind of hardware you need?”

“Yes,” Kayla and Karim said as one.

“Let’s build us some ghost guns.”

Lamb slipped on a pair of cotton work gloves, grabbed a toolbox and settled himself down at a workbench.

“We’ll start with pistols. You’ve got a specific model in mind?”

“Whichever is cheapest,” Karim said.

“That means Ozzies. Unless you haven’t you trained on those?”

“We have.”

“Which size grip module do you want?”

“Medium,” Karim said.

“Small,” Kayla said.

“Colors?”

“Black.”

Lamb opened a drawer, revealing boxes of OZ pistol frames. The lower half of the weapon, the frames contained the pistol grip, trigger guard, accessory rail, and just enough plastic to hold everything together. The frames came in a range of colors: black, green, tan, pink.

“Pink?” Kayla repeated.

“You’d be surprised how popular these are among the ladies.”

Lamb placed two frames on the table and wiped them down with a rag. He opened another drawer and dug out two compact grip modules, flat black panels that went over the handle. Aggressive checkering ran down the palm-facing sides of the panels.

“Those aren’t factory grips,” Kayla observed.

“I printed them. These panels are grippier than factory stuff. Unless you want to go with stock?”

“We’ll use these.”

Lamb wiped down the panels and expertly screwed them into place.

“Fire control group. Do you need match triggers, or is a stock trigger good enough?”

“Stock,” Karim said.

“How much for the match trigger?” Kayla asked.

“Fifty bucks for an Apex Action Enhanced Trigger. More for higher-end stuff. On the other hand… what are you planning to use this for?”

“Last ditch self-defense.”

“Save your money. You don’t wanna ditch expensive factory stuff if you can help it.”

“Alright.”

From a third drawer, Lamb produced a pair of fire control groups. An odd metal construction, this was the part that housed the trigger, the part seen as the firearm in the eyes of the law. In the bright light, Kayla noticed that neither group had serial numbers.

“Striker assembly group, extractor, ejector, all the other working parts… We’ll use shop kit. For your purposes, they’re no different from factory kit.”

Lamb fished out the parts, wiping and assembling them as he spoke. His hands moved like lightning, with the surety and ease of long practice. Mere seconds later, they were fitted in the frames.

“Barrels. Factory or shop?”

Karim’s eyes popped.

“You make your own barrels here?”

“Why not? It’s just a metal tube with rifling cut into it.” Lamb thumbed over his shoulder. “See that tool over there? With it, I can build a barrel from a metal tube within an hour.”

“Is it accurate?” Kayla asked.

“Accurate enough, if you’re not shooting for trophies.”

“We’ll go with shop,” Karim said.

“Do you need threaded barrels?”

Barrel threads were for mounting suppressors. The New Gods don’t usually use suppressed pistols. Not unless they wanted to make a point.

“No thanks,” Kayla said.

“What size do you need?”

“Compact,” they said.

Lamb produced a pair of short metal tubes. Visually they were indistinguishable from factory barrels.

“You want custom slides?”

“Just slides that fit the frame,” Kayla said.

“Roger that.”

Lamb fitted the slides to the pistols. Now the guns had taken form, instantly recognizable as pistols. Except for one critically important detail.

“Sights. I can throw in factory sights for free…”

“Hell no!” Kayla exclaimed.

The OZ line of pistols were cheap, rugged, reliable, the choice of the everyman and the pro. But their one fatal flaw was the factory sights. Tiny plastic nubs, damn near impossible to pick up under stress.

Lamb chuckled.

“Thought so. For a hundred bucks, I could throw in a Red Sun TOS55 red dot sight. Not the cheapest, but the most value for money. They’ll hold zero even if you knock them around some.”

“Sounds good,” Kayla said.

“How for everything?”

Lamb paused for a moment.

“Six hundred fifty per. That buys you the pistol, the red dot sight, three magazines, and one hundred rounds. And you can use however much ammo you need to zero them in the basement.”

“What kind of ammo are you offering?” Kayla asked.

“Wilson Defender Tactical. The same load the STS uses.”

Barrier blind, deep penetration, maximum expansion, exactly what the doctor ordered.

“And mags?”

“Shop-made thirty-rounders. I’m throwing them in for free. I could get you factory mags if you want, but that’s extra.”

A skeptical expression crossed Karim’s face.

“You sure they’ll stand up?”

“Hey, it’s me you’re talking about. Of course they will. I tested the design myself.”

“Shop mags it is,” Kayla said.

“Alright. Now, long guns. Shotguns or rifles?”

The duo exchanged a look.

“Yes.”

He laughed. “Now you’re talking. Let’s go with shotguns first. What’s your use case?”

“General purpose gun,” Karim said. “From point blank to a hundred meters, though it’ll mainly be used in close quarters.”

“How much ammo do you think you’ll need?”

“You’ll never have enough.”

Everyone laughed.

“How important is it to you to shoot from the prone?”

“Very,” Kayla said.

“That rules out box feds. Unless you don’t mind five-rounders.”

“One shot, one kill.”

A predatory glint entered Lamb’s eye.

“True. Do you need the ability to switch loads on the fly?”

“Absolutely.”

“Well, then. I have two options for you: the Revolution and the USG-15. You trained on those, haven’t you?”

“Qualified. Nothing spectacular, but we qualified,” Kayla said.

Of course, what the STS called ‘qualified’, everybody else called ‘expert’.

“Which do you need?”

The USG-15 was tempting. 14 shells in two tubes, plus one in the chamber. A huge amount of firepower in a compact package. But…

“The USG is too long,” Karim said.

“How important is concealment to you?”

Karim exhaled sharply.

“We don’t know what we’re up against. So we need a gun that can do it all. From deep concealment to close quarters to hundred-meter shots. It has to fit under a coat or in a bag.”

“That’s what the Revolution is for.”

He strolled to another workbench and settled himself down.

“Great thing about the Revolution, you can customize it however you want. Fixed stock for simplicity and accuracy, folding collapsible stock for concealment. Ten-inch barrel for close work, longer ones if you need to reach out and touch someone. What set-ups do you need?”

“Concealment,” Karim said. “I want to be able carry mine under a cover garment.”

“Got it. And Ms. Kayla?”

“If I need a long gun, I’ll be stacking bodies at range. I’d like the long barrel, but keep the collapsible stock.”

“Eighteen inches work for you?”

“Perfect.”

Lamb placed two identical lower receivers on the table side by side. Then two different barrels, one short, one long.

“Do you want the long or short upper receiver?”

“Short,” Karim said.

“Long,” Kayla replied.

Out came two mismatched upper receivers, two similar collapsible stocks.

“Need any custom parts?”

“Nope,” Kayla said.

“I want a swinging trigger guard,” Karim said.

“Here we go then.”

Lamb flowed like a well-oiled machine, assembling the weapons by hand. He fitted the guns together, fishing out parts from bins and boxes, working entirely by touch and motor memory without shifting his place from his seat. Within two minutes, two Revolutions lay on the table.

They were mean-looking weapons, guns from a grimdark future. Bulky, crude, martial, they were all hard lines and angles, instruments of mass butchery. A long accessory rail ran down the upper receiver. Negative spaces slashed across the handguard, ready to mount additional accessories.

The sheer genius of it was that it was an almost entirely open source design. A sufficiently resourceful gunsmith could manufacture one in a workshop by hand. Only the metal working parts had to be factory-bought—or hand-milled.

“No sights?” Karim asked.

“Any you’ve got in mind?”

“QuickFire Micro Red Dot.”

“Good choice… if you’re on a budget.”

“Which we are.”

“And you, Ms. Kayla?”

“Same.”

“Flashlights could come real handy with the sights too.”

“Give us the cheapest you got.”

Lamb walked to another cabinet, armed himself with a basket, and grabbed accessories off shelves.

“Need anything else?”

“Slings,” Kayla said.

“Budget?”

“Of course.”

Lamb returned to the workbench, grabbed his tools, and began installing the add-ons.

“How much for everything?”

“One grand per. That’s for the Revolution, sights, flashlight, sling, brass catcher, four five-round mags, and fifty shells. For an additional ten bucks per, I could upgrade them to ten-rounders. Extra two hundred for a drum mag.”

“No drums,” Karim said. “They’re big, bulky, heavy, and most of all, unreliable. It’s a range toy, not for serious work.”

“Suit yourself. I take it you don’t need full auto, then.”

“Full auto. With a shotgun. Are you crazy?” Kayla exclaimed.

Lamb laughed. “You won’t believe the kind of special requests I hear.”

She shook her head.

“I just want to replace two five-rounders with ten-rounders.”

“Same,” Karim said.

“And ammo? What do you need?”

“Even mix of #1 buckshot and slugs. Federal, if you got it.”

“That I do. Need anything else?”

“How much for a battle rifle?” Kayla asked.

“Builds start at two grand.”

Karim recoiled.

“Two grand? That’s over double the price of a DIY rifle!”

“You want cheaper, you can build it yourself. With my builds, you get rock-solid reliability, combat accuracy, ergonomics, the kind of performance you’d expect back in the STS. You can reach out and touch someone all day long with this.” A short pause. “And if you need it, you can go rock-and-roll.”

Karim and Kayla exchanged a look.

“Two grand is still out of our reach,” she said.

“But you still need a second set of long guns?” Lamb asked.

“Ideally.”

“I’ve got something you might be interested in.”

Lamb ambled over to a corner. Here stood the largest gun safe Kayla had ever seen. It was a double-doored monster, towering over the world. Lamb unlocked it with his iris and fingerprints and opened it to reveal an arsenal.

Guns hung on door-mounted hooks. Guns rested inside storage racks. Guns lay on shelves. All kinds of guns. Rifles, shotguns, pistols, enough weapons to equip an army. Semiautos, bolt actions, pump actions, revolvers, weapons large and small, weapons she hadn’t even seen before.

Lamb grabbed a long gun and swung the safe closed. He returned to Kayla and Karim and set the weapon down on the table.

It was unlike anything Kayla had seen before. She recognized a stock, handle, trigger and muzzle. But nestled on the grip-facing side of the stock was a dense metal bottle. The oversized trigger guard would accept a gloved hand, or one transformed into massive digits. A full-length accessory rails ran down the 12 o’clock position. More rails occupied the 3, 6 and 9 positions on the handguard. A break in the clean lines at the business end of the weapon revealed the muzzle and the long cylindrical device attached to it. The magazine was a long flat block almost as long as her palm, yet almost as thin as the first phalanges of her fingers. The only thing she recognized was the low-power variable optic mounted on the top of the weapon and the grip pod, a vertical pistol grip with extended legs split open to form a bipod.

“What is that?”she asked.

“A railgun.”

The room went quiet. Kayla’s heart thumped in her chest. Supercooled blood rushed through her body.

“A railgun,” she repeated.

“Correct. This specimen was confiscated three months ago during a raid of a safehouse belonging to the Guild of the Maker.”

“The Guild built a man-portable railgun?!

“Five, actually. The PSB found five railguns in that raid. But those are the only ones that we know of. There are others out there.”

“How the hell did they do it? Railguns were supposed to be vehicle- and ship-mounted weapons, aren’t they?”

“Is it Godtech?” Karim asked.

Lamb’s face went grim.

“It’s made entirely of commercial-off-the-shelf and 3D printed parts. Print and buy everything you need during a day trip at Electric City, then come home at night and put everything together, and boom! Your very own railgun.”

Kayla went pale. Karim muttered something dark and terrible.

“The Guild invented an untraceable open-source railgun,” she said.

“Correct. The bottleneck for 3D printed weapons isn’t parts or printers. It’s gunpowder. Gunpowder is extremely dangerous to handle in bulk, and few hobbyists are dedicated or crazy enough to make their own. But with a railgun? If you have a metal 3D printer and the right feedstock, you can print ammo all day long.”

“Babylon will burn.”

“Only a matter of time.”

“We sure dodged a bullet taking these guns off the street,” Karim said.

“We didn’t.

“What do you mean?”

“Don’t you get it? Anyone with the blueprints can build railguns. And have. Over the past few months, there’s been reports of railgun fire all over Babylon and the surrounding cities. A dozen and counting. The Guild is testing their weapons. It’s only a matter of time before railguns flood the street.”

Ya Allah…”

“How did you get your hands on this one?” Kayla asked.

“I’ve been contracted to study this weapon. Big G wants to know how it’ll perform, what it can and can’t do, how it might be altered and upgraded over time, and most importantly, how it can be used against us.

“I’ve been collaborating informally with the big brains in the big labs. They have the instrumentation for precise tests, and dot mil has the resources to put it through testing grounds. My job is to play red team. To figure out doctrine, upgrade paths, availability, proliferation methods, methods to counter them, all the things you can only learn from the street.

“Over the past few weeks I’ve been toying around with this baby. I’ve put thousands of rounds downrange. I’ve torn it apart and put it back together dozens of times. I’ve matched it to a wild range of optics and accessories. But this is all known distance range work. Not the same as using it in the real world.”

“Why are you selling this to us?”

“My running and gunning days are over, and I don’t expect to have to fire this in anger. You, on the other hand, you look like you could use it.”

“That’s where we come in,” Kayla said.

“If you want it.”

“Won’t you get in trouble if you hand it out?” Karim asked.

Lamb gestured at his 3D printers.

“If they ever ask for it back, I can just fab me a new one.”

“Nobody will notice?”

“How can they? No serial numbers, no official logs, this gun is completely deniable. If they ever ask, I can just say I made my own mods to it, or that it blew apart on me, and they’ll be none the wiser.”

“What can the railgun do?” Kayla asked.

“It shoots a five-millimeter flechette at two klicks per second. It will rip through any kind of body armor out there on the market. The trajectory is flat out to eight hundred meters.”

“Holy shit…” Karim whispered. “Will it tear through people too?”

“You betcha. The basic load is an armor piercing flechette. It will blast through everything that isn’t a tank. But it will also leave a clean five-millimeter tunnel through people. You use that on people, best aim for the brain housing group.

“The eggheads have been working on a tumbler design. This one is supposed to tumble on impact, fishhook like a demon, and fragment explosively. And can be manufactured with a 3D printer.”

“Does the tumbler work?” Kayla asked.

“In ballistic gelatin. Fishhooking, yawing and fragmentation within one inch, penetration out to eighteen inches.”

“But no organic medium testing?”

“Not yet.”

“And you can get this performance from COTS and 3D printed parts?” Karim said, incredulous.

“Welcome to the new world, buddy.”

“I don’t know if I want to live in this world.”

“What’s the mag size?” Kayla asked.

“That’s the fatal flaw in the design. The magazine holds twenty shots. The original hydrogen fuel cartridge also holds enough juice for just twenty rounds.

“I’ve modded the design somewhat. The cartridge you see here is larger, heavier and bulkier than the original. It will also give you sixty shots before it needs to be replaced.”

“Rate of fire?”

“The other flaw, depending on how you look at it. The supercapacitors need time to recharge between HV shots. Four, five seconds, about the same ROF as a bolt-action rifle. Try to touch off a round before they fully recharge, you’ll get a lower-velocity, lower-power shot. May be useful, but don’t try it if you aren’t experienced with it.”

“How do you know it’s fully recharged?”

“See this window at the end of the accessory rail? There’s a small and deeply recessed LED in there. When it’s green, it’s ready to fire. When it’s red, it’s recharging.”

“A light could give my position away.”

“That it could,” he admitted. “The other guy has to be really close to you to see it. If you need maximum stealth, you can close the cover and count down from five after every shot.”

“Any way to integrate the indicator somewhere else? The sight maybe?” Karim asked.

“That needs an integrated optic custom-made for the railgun. The scientists are working on it.”

“How many shots can the rails fire before degrading?” Kayla asked.

“Two, maybe three hundred full-power rounds. Personally, I’d recommend replacing the rails past shot one hundred and seventy-five.”

“So many? Most man-portable railguns fall apart after a handful of rounds.”

“That’s the Guild’s major innovation. They created a special coating for the rails that reduces erosion and developed the muzzle device. The smuzzle.”

“The what?”

“Smuzzle. Suppressor and muzzle device. A railgun, when fired, produces a massive arc flash, which also erodes the ends of the rails. The smuzzle captures and dampens the flash, reduces the report, and redirects the blast to reduce recoil. When wet, the noise will be reduced by another five to ten decibels. It’ll still be loud, but it won’t deafen you, at least, not right away. The important part is there won’t be a visible flash to give away your position.”

“Damn… isn’t this the perfect assassination tool?” Karim said.

“Sure is designed as one, isn’t it? And you know the best part?”

“What?”

“It’s not legally a firearm.”

“No way!

“It’s a smoothbore, so it’s neither a rifle nor a handgun. It can’t be concealed on your person and it doesn’t use gunpowder, explosive, or any kind of propellant, so it’s not a shotgun, a destructive device, or any other weapon. It doesn’t shoot lasers or particle beams, so it’s not a directed energy weapon. Tech like this is so new, there’s no law on the books covering it.”

“After all, it’s not even a firearm,” Kayla said.

“Exactly. If the cops find it on you, if you’re not shooting it at anyone, they can’t even touch you.”

Karim cursed again.

“Is this why the Guild invented it?”

“You bet. It’ll give them an edge everywhere, at least until Congress gets around to passing a law to ban it.”

“But everyone knows that only the Guild can build railguns?” Kayla asked.

“Only until the other gods figure out how to reverse-engineer it. For now, though, this may be useful if you need to obscure the identity of the shooter.”

Drawing the Guild into this conflict would make things much more complicated. On the other hand, if the evidence pointed to everywhere but Galen, if the Street Wolves and the Pantheon believed that the Guild was attempting to take advantage of the situation, or, better yet, turn them against each other…

“You could have recommended this to us earlier,” Karim said.

“Regular guns, I’ve got plenty of. But railguns, I only have one.”

Karim and Kayla looked at each other.

“You should take the railgun,” Karim said. “You’re better with a long gun than me.”

Kayla nodded.

“How much is it?”

Lamb opened his mouth. Closed it. Thought for a moment. And spoke again.

“Two hundred bucks.”

“Two hundred?

“It’s a bargain, isn’t it? For that price, I’ll throw in a set of spare rails, an extra fuel cartridge, three magazines, and a hundred each of penetrators and tumblers.”

“Just two hundred? Tech like this is—”

“Cheap. Obscenely cheap. Remember: everything you see before you is either 3D printed or COTS. If you have the blueprints and know your way around tools, you can put one together in a day. Besides, dot gov and dot mil already paid me for the weapon, the sights and the grip pod. Wouldn’t be fair to charge twice for the same product.”

“That’s not everything you’re asking for, is it.”

A subtle expression crossed Lamb’s face.

“I’ve been contracted to study the railgun. I’ve got plenty of test data. But there’s one data set I’m missing.”

Kayla’s eyes hardened.

“Combat data.”

“You got it. I don’t need to know the whys and wherefores of every shot. But I want data on your shots. Range, temperature, wind speed and direction, type of target, environment, ammo type, velocity, every last detail. Including and especially description of effect on target.”

“I can do that.”

“Wonderful. If you’re going to hang on to the railgun, I could ship you prototype parts and upgrades. You can use them for free. Just feed me data.”

“Sounds good. What if I need more ammo or spare parts?”

“Just hit me up and I’ll get you sorted.”

Now Kayla understood what was going on. Lamb wasn’t being altruistic—at least, not completely altruistic. He was looking to build a relationship with her, with Karim, and possibly the rest of the Black Watch. His store might attract many customers, but the black side of his business was something else. He’d have to rely on word of mouth, reputations, relationships, and most of all, trust.

And if she were going to stick around in Babylon, she needed a gunsmith she could trust too.

With an offer like this, there was only one logical choice.

“Let’s do this,” she said.

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Wolves of Babylon Chapter 5
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