The first time I saw her, she was running for her life. Running like the wind, dipping between the thick tree trunks and blurring in my rifle scope.
“Due east.” My spotter, corporal Maddox, called out. I adjusted my gun accordingly, firing another shot into the wooded area around her. Still I missed.
“Losing your touch there, Sergeant?” Corporal Maddox teased.
“You’re my spotter, corporal. Not my smartass.” I say lowly.
“Yes Sergeant.” He replied respectfully, lowering his gaze back onto his scope and adjusting his dial. “Fire at will.”
The kickback of the rifle bruised my shoulder and I winced watching my bullet miss her fleeing form by less than an inch.
I wish I knew her name. I could call out to her and stop her for just a second. A second would be long enough to end this silly game. Prey and predator, lion and gazelle. I’d sink my teeth into her and bring her to her knees, just as I did with all the others. The others like her.
I checked back through my scope, “where is she?” I mumble. She hops down from a tall tree and before her feet touch the ground, I let off a shot.
It spiraled through the air like a diving hawk for a field mouse, locked in on its target.
The woman stepped once to her side, not bothering to run. She turned back and looked at me. At a thousand yards away she couldn’t see me. It wasn’t possible. But I got the feeling she knew I was there, right there. And if she’d been armed, I’d be dead.
The bullet hit just where she had stepped from, leaving a small crater in the dirt. She looked down at it with a smile and then smiled back up at me. I could see her eyes, a blueberry or turquoise. She was just playing with me.
She took off again blurring out my sight for good.
“Out of range.” Corporal Maddox confirmed. “She’s gone.”
I let my head sink lower than my gun to the blanket underneath, breathing in the still moist ground from last night’s rain.
“What now?” he asked.
I stood up rifle in hand, “Let her have this one. She’ll bring others.”
“I’ll talk to the Master Sergeant.” I said to him. His eyes widened, he knew what that meant.
I hadn’t missed a shot until now. Not since I went through basic training. Not since Quantico or my three tours. Never. She was the only one that ever matched me. The woman with the blueberry or turquoise eyes.
“Yes mam.” Corporal Maddox saluted me and then gathered his things, leaving me behind at the vantage point. I waited around a little while, staring through the trees with binoculars. Hoping she’d return for one final showdown. But she never did.
I packed up and headed back down into the underground base. Outside it was humid and muggy. Much too hot for the five layers of clothing I wore when I sniped. But the kickback from my gun prevented me from wearing anything less.
I rubbed at my bruised right shoulder. I should probably have worn more.
The Captains door was the first door on the right. Thirty paces in. It was closed to the general masses but to me it was open 24/7.
I knocked twice and then let myself in.
“Master Sergeant Ferguson.” I greet the man sitting quietly behind his desk on his laptop computer. He closed the top quickly and looked up at me over his reading glasses.
“Close the door.” He said gruffly. I obeyed and closed the door behind me.
I stood in silence for an uncomfortable amount of time before he addressed me again.
“Heard you had some trouble out on the ridge today, Sergeant.” He said. I sneered to myself. Corporal Maddox couldn’t hold water if you gave him a bowl.
“Permission to speak freely, sir?” I asked.
“Permission denied.” He answered. “We really don’t have time for missed shots, Sergeant.”
I nod. “Yes Sir.”
“I have orders coming down, we need to resolve this quickly and quietly, before they decide to move into the town.” He pinched the bridge of his nose. “After that it’s game over, understand?”
I nod again. “Yes Sir.”
He stood from his office chair, grabbing for his cane to come around the desk. He hobbled my way and I stood still letting him get as close as he’d like. He took in a deep breath, “It’s almost Derry all over again.”
“Can I speak now, Sir?” I ask again.
“Yes.” He obliged.
“This girl was different, Captain. She evaded all my shots like she knew where they were going. There was no way to get a hit on her.”
“Bullshit!” He grit his teeth. “There’s always a way.”
I disagreed but kept my peace.
“You’re supposed to be my golden goose. My way out of this shit hole. But instead you turn out to be another dud.” He ranted.
“Dad,” I start but he holds up his hand to stop me. I quiet. He was my dad but he was also my boss and he took one way more seriously than the other.
“Not right now I’m not. I am your Captain.” He corrected me. He stood quiet for a moment, thinking I presume. He looked at me with pursed lips and furrowed brow. “You’ll join group D at the cities edge tomorrow at o-nine-hundred.”
“What? That group is three levels below me. I out rank every one of them.” My protest only angered him further.
“You’ll get higher jobs when you start acting the part.” He said.
“Dammit Dad, it was one girl. I’ve taken forty!”
“It should have been forty-one!” He yelled. “Now, get out of my office!”
I took a deep sigh and lowered my eyes. The hair on the back of my neck stood on end and every bit of my sin was soaked inside my snipe suit.
“Yes Sir.” I complied leaving his office, nearly running down the hallway with my sleeping quarters.
Inside, I kick the first thing I see. My empty trashcan went flying across the small room and into the standard issue grey painted wall. Standard issue. Everything in my life was standard issue. I lived inside the guidelines my Dad set for me and didn’t dare to step on toe out of line.
I stripped off my layers, right down to my grey sports bra and panties.
I hit the weights hard let my frustrations out in quick spirts of air and sweat dripping off of my forehead.
An hour later I finally dove into my bed. My nightlight, a Disney princess in a blue dress, danced light on my ceiling.
Circles of blueberry or turquois.