Target Practice

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Nock. Raise. Draw. Anchor. Aim. Still. Release.

Nock. Raise. Draw. Anchor. Aim. Still. Release.

Over and over the porcelain figure went through the motions, sending arrow after arrow downrange. As the wind shifted with each shot, her clockwork whirred in adjustment.「Range: 150 meters. Wind: 3 meter per second increase in velocity, angle consistent. Aim: 1 degree, 7 minute adjustment left.」 the doll computed.

Nock. Raise. Draw. Anchor. Aim. Still. Release.

It was an obscene distance for most archers to use for practice. The smallest error in the shot process would be so magnified that nothing useful could be gleaned from the result, yet this is what the doll needed to refine herself; machine perfection driven nigh to its limits.

Despite the incredible distance between her and her target, a decent grouping was forming, the likes of which any being of flesh would think impossible. For those versed in the body language of dolls though, it was obvious to see how perturbed and unsatisfied the archer was.

Her form looked the picture of perfection. Not a wasted movement. Not overdrawn or overlong. A consistent, steady anchor position. But the bow shook a hair’s breadth in her hands. She ratcheted the wrong cog too far to reach full draw. She clicked more noisily than spec on release.

Her Witch watched from afar, noting those invisible signs. She had thought to leave her doll alone, let her work out her feelings by herself. That was several hours ago. It was clear she needed to intervene. Rising from her seat, she winced, before making her way to the range. Too absorbed in the shot process, the doll didn't even notice as her Witch approached. Nock. Raise. Draw. Anchor. Aim. Still. Release. Between shots, the Witch made her move.

Taking hold of the bow and arrow, the Witch wrapped her hands over her doll's. Like a dance teacher correcting their student, the Witch pushed herself flush with her doll's backside so she could guide her every move, exhaling painfully as she did so.

"M-Madame, you should be resti—" the doll attempted to exclaim.

"Shhh. You're wound too tight, doll," the Witch replied. "Come now. Loosen up. Two clicks."

"But your stit—"

"I don't remember allowing you that much autonomy. Quiet yourself and do as I command."

Giving in, an audible click emanated from inside the doll's chassis followed by a second. Immediately the tension in the hand gripping the bow loosened. "Better. Now draw. Together."

The Witch initiated, dragging her doll's dominant hand to the quiver at her side before the doll gave in and followed along. Two hands reached for the arrow, nocking it to the string. Two arms raised the bow to the proper position. Two beings pulled the bow to full draw. As the doll ticked that one gear too far, the Witch called her out.

"No. Stop. That's a suboptimal tension distribution. Unwind one tick and rewind using your mainspring."

There was a whirring sound as strings and cogs redistributed force, the doll standing taller as they did.

The Witch released her grip from the doll's weapon, instead lightly embracing her from behind. Her lips but an inch from her doll's audio processors, she said, "Good. Now, you have it from here. Do me proud."

Finding her anchor, the doll took sight at the target downrange. Once she found her mark, she stopped, letting Stillness take her for a moment. Releasing the tension from her fingers, she let the arrow fly. Not a noise could be heard except the sound of the arrow whizzing by.

The doll knew it even as the arrow left the string. It sailed across the landscape, over the hill between her and the backstop. Wind pulled the arrow ever further on course. The back spiraled and spiraled as it flew until it found home. Bullseye.

"Satisfied now? Can we call it quits?"

The doll stared at the arrow. Exactly where she had meant to place it. Exactly where she should have placed it the first time. Exactly where she would place it next time.

"Yes, Madame. This one is satisfied," she responded.

"Good. Because I need a strong pot of tea after the day we've had. Maybe two... Come along now, dear."

As the Witch began the trek back to their cottage, the doll looked to the bandage covering her Witch's thigh. It was sure to scar. A permanent reminder of her failure today in her charge. Yes. Next time, she'd put the arrow exactly where she meant to place it.

End 🧵