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Sniper

Copyright © 2001 Jari Komppa

I went through the thicket crouching, bracing my head against branches and spiderwebs with my right hand. The cliff ahead was steep but so much that I'd need to use my hands climbing it. I left my backpack there; I wouldn't need my camping gear for the rest of the day.

I'd been walking in the forest for the past week, and I got here right on time. I'd have an hour or two to set up my gear before the hit. Once I made it to the top I was relieved to see that the hill had some trees that I could use for cover. After the hit I'd have five to fifteen minutes before the satellites would be photographing every single centimeter of the area, and I'd rather not be seen with my rifle.

I had accepted the job couple months earlier. I had openly been planning on going for a trek in these forests in any case, so my alibi was even stronger. I was famous in certain, very small, circles on that I was a sure bet for just about any job. I had become successful enough so that I only needed to do a hit once in couple years or so. I could choose my jobs. This one I took because it was just too weird to pass.

I had no idea who contracted me, nor did I care, really, but I got couple bullets made with alien technology, something mere mortals rather rarely got their hands on. Except for some of those commercialized products which were tamed, tested and were mostly of human design. The human purity league had made it impossible for the large corporations to push alien tech into the market without excessive testing.

Now, all I had to do was to shoot these bullets into a dam, one at a time. What made it tricky was that this had to happen exactly at a certain time, and nobody should ever know that I was here. I guess just about anyone with some experience could do it, but the client wanted to make sure, and well, anyone who can spend five million on a hitman, plus whatever fortunes the equipment cost, probably wants to make sure the job is done right.

I rechecked that my wrist implant shielding was in place and didn't accidentally broadcast my location to all the world to see, dropped my briefcase under a tree, stretched, looking around. The dam was in the valley under the hill, protecting a small town below. The town had started as a mining town, but transformed into an industrial park due to the abundant electric power the dam provided. The only way out of the town, except by flying, was by a busy highway on the other side of the valley from the dam. Sighing, I glanced at my watch and kneeled to open my case.

The rifle was in mint condition. After picking it up from the train station I'd tried it out in the forest once, when I had found good enough cover. It was a piece of art, and had required very little tweaking. I felt a bit sad for its destiny. There would be no need to even clean it up after the job; it would be melted.

After assembling the gun I took the strap and small ceramic box out of the case, then tossed the case down to the thicket. I tied the strap to my arm, hooked it to the rifle, and then laid down under the tree. Adjusting the sight I could see the dam very clearly. It was half an hour before sundown, and I still had five minutes to kill. The dam was a bit more than half a kilometer away; I was confident I could hit a single wire from this distance. I'd done it before. But the dam was what they wanted, so it was what they got.

I carefully opened the ceramic box. It contained two bullets, standard size. Even through the metal case you could see the tiny glowing points of their cores; one pale blue, one dark red. I pulled the blue one from its padded packaging, and looked at it for a while. It was a solid copper case but you could still see the glow. Carefully I placed the bullet in the rifle and cocked the gun. I could feel cold shiver go down my spine. For the first time the thought entered my mind that it might blow up in my hands. I shook my head and moved the stock of the gun on my shoulder, feeling the strap tighten nicely. My legs moved in their comfortable position automatically, and I adjusted my cap, and concentrated on my breathing. Two minutes.

I looked through my sights and I was there again: it's just me, my little world.. move a toe and the target is off by a meter. After choosing the spot I'd shoot for, I let the gun fall, breathed deeply and looked far to let my eyes rest. Thirty seconds, my watch started clicking at five second intervals.

Again, aim. Move finger on the trigger. Twenty seconds. Look far, let eyes rest. Whole body has become tense, like stone. Ten seconds, clock ticks in second intervals now. Some lights in the sky, ignore. Aim, let pressure increase on the trigger. Three seconds, don't mind, just let the pressure increase. Hold still. When the gun goes off it's almost a surprise. There's almost no sound but a nice kick, followed by my watch beeping at timeout. Without looking I knew that I was about five centimeters off to the left.

Quickly, I loaded the second bullet, cocking the gun again. My watch started ticking again, thirty seconds to go. Breathing too fast, I tried closed my eyes and tried to calm down. The instructions didn't exactly say that I should hit the same spot, but I would do it in any case. Looking through the scope, looking at my spot I was amazed to see that the dam had gone completely white with frost and was growing transparent like ice at the spot where I had hit. I was aware of some lights from above but ignored them. It was growing darker and I would rather not go blind due to some bright lights. Instead, I relaxed my eyes by looking in the distance. The whole dam glowed with cold blue light.

Five seconds. I looked through the scope again and increased pressure on the trigger. Two seconds. Tense again, when the gun went off I could tell that I was over twenty centimeters off to the left. I must be growing old. Quickly I tore the strap off the gun and tossed the weapon down to the thicket. I had no time to start looking for the empty shells, but I grabbed the ceramic box and leaped head first after the flying gun. I rolled couple of times and knew that I'd get some bruises but that was a trouble for the following days. Even as I leaped I could hear alarm signals in the town go crazy. As I landed I hastily looked for the gun, found it and crawled deeper into the thicket. Suddenly it was almost as bright as at midday, and in the next instant it was dark again. I could hear the massive ammounts of water break free, and the alarm sounds died.

With my heart beating like hell I started to take the gun apart. My legs were still stiff and I could feel bruises in several places, but I was too afraid to move. Even after most of the noise had died away, I kept lying down for half an hour. Then I carefully dragged the gun case back where the gun pieces were, and packed the gun again. I could breathe a bit easier now, but I worked slowly, lying down all the time, careful not to move a single branch. Crawling, I dragged my backpack through the thicket, cursing my oversight; I should have left the pack on the other side.

Once I was back under big trees I put the gun case in my backpack again, threw the pack on my back and started jogging towards my camp, carefully staying near trees and avoiding any clearings. By the morning I was several kilometers away from the disaster area.

I made it back to my camp before midday. I was glad to notice that I couldn't hear any of the helicopters or other noises from the town. I removed the implant shielding and disabled the fake signal emitter. I burned my heat signal cloaking jumpsuit and made some breakfast. I was tired but couldn't rest; I took down my tent and packed it, buried my campfire remains, and started my trek back to civilization.

Couple days' walk away from the town I was heading towards I got an email on my wrist. I had disabled it as I always did when I went on a vacation, but this was high enough priority to reach me. The authorities wanted to talk to me if I had heard or seen anything, being in the general area at the time. I knew that if they searched me now they would find the gun, but it was unlikely that they'd find any traces of the bullets I had fired. I could get severe punishment for an unregistered gun and possibly from illegal hunting. I decided to stop for a day, think things through and go through the backlog of my emails. Apparently I was a week overdue for my annual medical checkup. None of my bruises were bad enough to inconvenience me but my side looked pretty bad. I decided to reply to the authorities that I'd love to talk to them after I'd been to my doctor, since I had fallen and hurt myself. I even took a photo of my side as proof.

I got to the train station without anyone stopping me, dropped my backpack in a deposit box, and went to buy tickets. I knew that the gun would be gone when I came to pick up my gear.

While waiting for the train I watched news from the station's television. The human purity league was holding a massive press conference with video footage of how their hometown had been attacked by the aliens. Their president had miraculously been out of town, and would have been home if his flight hadn't been delayed. Over fifty thousand people were confirmed dead, and hundred thousand were still missing. For some reason every single wrist implant in the town had suddenly gone dead, so locating people was slow and painful.

The video footage and survivor reports were convincing enough.

Afterword.

This is a story I have been thinking about for quite some time now.. I got the idea some time after I had finished my military service.

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Possibly modified around: April 25 2010