FACES OF WAR: A hero's story

Submitted into Contest #48 in response to: Write about someone who always comes to the aid of others.... view prompt

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Adventure Fiction Speculative

A stone-cold killer lies in wait. The killer is camouflaged on a rooftop in the center of a war torn city. The morning sun beats mercilessly down upon him. The killer, however, is undaunted by the intense heat, by the biting insects, or by the discomfort that comes from staying perfectly still for so many hours. His TRAINED-EYE is determined. It carefully scans his quadrant for a target among hordes of potential enemies. Any one of them could be a hostile. Often times, you never knew friend from foe until it was too late. Frustration, brought on by the perilous nature of his current predicament, puts a thought into his head. “Why wait for them to make the first move?” A sudden urge to indiscriminately discharge his weapon upon the possible foes below causes his trigger finger to twitch. The power to take a life, at the drop of a hat, is intoxicating. Those in the profession call it a God complex. But the evil notion quickly subsides, for this killer is no mere punk, gang-banger with a gun. He is an artist. The rifle is his paintbrush. 9 tours of duty—in the most inhospitable places on the planet—have taught him to suppress his baser instincts, as well as, overcome any hardships or obstacles in order to execute the perfect shot. It is an art form known only by an elite few. The killer steadies his breathing, clears his mind, and relaxes his body. The right moment would present itself; he was certain of it. In the meantime, all he had to do was remain patient and wait. 

The killer’s trained-eye peers down upon the city beneath him. Life goes on as it always has. The sights and sounds of the city hit him like a rude awakening: street merchants desperately cry out to potential customers, cars weave through obstacle courses that were once paved roads, the faint echo of distant gunfire, and the abrupt hammering and sawing of tools used to clear away debris and wreckage. Generations of hatred and bloodshed have reduced this once thriving metropolis into ruin. The indigenous wander the streets like zombies. They are people with no joy or hope in their lives; they are people going through the motions. What the killer sees is a city trapped in a political arena, where the combatants are unseen, radical forces tearing the capital apart from the inside out. Upon witnessing the city’s grim reality, the killer whispers a proverb, as though he were reciting a silent prayer. “There but for the grace of God go I.” He instantly reminds himself that he has seen it all before in dozens of similar cities. It is nothing more than background noise to his objective, which is to seek out and eliminate any subversive activities in his quadrant. His unique skill-set and expertise have brought him to this warring nation for a purpose. In other words, he had a job to do. Like water off a duck’s back, the killer pushes the city’s tragic circumstances aside and focuses on his mission.

The killer’s trained-eye continues its sweep over his assigned area. Suddenly a cat, stalking through a dark alleyway, comes into view. He segues for a moment to admire the cat’s movements as it hunts: silent, graceful, and strong. It is one of nature’s ultimate killing machines. The killer can’t help but smile to himself. On this day, he is not alone. There is another deadly predator nearby practicing its craft.

An unexpected commotion from the streets below draws the killer’s attention. A shouting match erupts. The killer trains his EYE. His eye sees civilians shouting at 4 soldiers on a routine patrol. 2 of the soldiers hang back from the commotion—their fingers rest on the trigger of their rifles—while the other 2 soldiers try to settle down the irate civilians. A large crowd begins to gather around the ruckus, adding to the noise, adding to the clutter, adding to the growing mayhem. But the seasoned killer views the disturbance on a different level. The civilians’ anger seemed forced and orchestrated. He knew that it is all just an elaborate ruse, a distraction.

The killer’s trained-eye sifts through the subterfuge searching for the true culprit. Within the growing crowd, he spots his target. A man, carrying a SQUARE-SHAPED SACK, slowly weaves his way towards an armored vehicle. The suspicious man moves with purpose, with determination, while trying to conceal himself within the gathering. The killer studies the man’s rhythm, his pace, his every movement. The suspicious man has crept to the edge of the crowd within throwing distance of his objective. To his chagrin, the killer notices that not only is the armoured vehicle filled with unsuspecting soldiers but also that there are children in the gathering crowd of civilians. The killer huffs to himself. “Oh my God, there are children.” He takes a deep breath then lets it out slowly. “One shot through and true. You’ve trained for this.”

The killer places his target in his sight alignment. His mind instinctively calculates the distance, wind velocity, and bullet trajectory. He makes quick adjustments to his weapon while coming to the realization of the extreme difficulty of his task. His target is over 800 meters away, likely carrying an explosive device, in a crowded area with children. There were so many variables to consider. One slip-up or miscalculation would result in many innocent lives, on both sides, being lost. Against seemingly insurmountable odds, the killer remains steadfast in his conviction. Growing up in a town where hunting and guns are a way of life, as well as, surviving the hardships of 15 years of active service in the military, 3 years of special forces training, 7 gruelling weeks of sniper school, not to mention thousands of rounds spent honing his craft on a firing range, have prepared him for such an occasion. It was the moment the killer has been waiting for; it was his moment of truth.

The killer continues to gauge his target. The suspicious man flicks a switch on the square-shaped sack then prepares to throw it. Within the glimmer of his mind’s eye, the killer carefully times his shot. His entire existence is transfixed upon this one instantaneous moment: the suspicious man winds-up to throw the square-shaped sack—without hesitation, the killer pulls the trigger—BANG!—the recoil from his rifle jolts the killer’s body—a short instance later, the suspicious man falls to the ground, face first, while in the process of throwing his weapon of destruction. It would prove to be the perfect shot at precisely the right moment. The momentum of the attempted throw carries the square-shaped sack away from the crowd (the children), but not far enough to reach the armored vehicle. The square-shaped sack EXPLODES a safe distance away from everyone.

The mob on the streets below scatters. Chaos ensues. Urgent voices squawk incoherently from the killer’s ear piece. The soldiers from the armored vehicle quickly make their way towards the explosion, on high alert. The streets have suddenly become a police zone.

Master Sergeant, Darren Evans, pulls his eye away from his scope while he COCKS his bolt action rifle. A shiny bullet casing is sent into the air in a puff of gunpowder smoke. The metal shell tumbles out of view. The soldier carefully rests his rifle on sand socks before rolling onto his back. The urgent voices continue to buzz from his ear piece. In an attempt to separate himself from the pandemonium occurring below him, the soldier yanks the ear piece away from his head. While looking up at the translucent camouflage roofing of his hide site, the tired soldier takes a swig from a canteen and devours the remains of an energy bar. His hand reaches into his Ghillie suit and pulls out a small picture. The picture is of a smiling woman embracing a small boy and a teenage girl.

Darren Evans gazes fondly upon the picture of his family. His thumb gently rubs the images on the picture. “Hey, babe. How are you and the brats doing? Are they still driving you up the wall?” Darren smiles, but a certain sense of melancholy is reflected on his weary face. “Make sure they don’t grow up too quickly, okay? I’ve missed out on so much already.” He lovingly kisses the picture. “I’ll see you all soon. God willing.” A commanding voice calls out from the ear piece waking Darren from his reverie. “Vector 3. Do you copy?” With a blank expression, Darren puts on his ear piece and answers. “Go for vector 3.” The commanding voice prattles on, excitedly. “Helluva shot, son. Geez Louis. Never seen anything like it. You’re an honest to God superhero. The best of the best. Do you realize how many lives you just saved? ”Darren responds in a nonchalant manner. “That’s why you brought me here, sir. To maintain the peace. Any final instructions before I bug out to my next hide site?” The commanding voice pauses for a moment, considering, before answering in a sober tone. “Negative vector 3. No need to bug out. Hostiles have not traced your locale. I repeat. Hostiles have not traced your locale. Hunker down. Keep eyes on.” Darren takes one last long look at the picture in his hand before giving a reply. “Hunkering down. Eyes on. Roger-wilco.” He carefully tucks the picture back into his Ghillie suit while muttering to himself, “back to work.” Without another word, Darren picks up his rifle and crawls into his sniper’s perch.

The Master Sergeant lies on his stomach and peers through his scope. His trained-eye goes to work. He settles into a shooter’s position knowing that his day is far from over. There are many more hostile targets out there, biding their time; he knew. The city beneath him quickly returns to its normal rhythm: its normal state of affairs. This brief disruption, after all, is nothing new to a city with a history of war. His trained-eye expertly scans his quadrant. It takes in every detail of his surroundings. Once again, he is a cold-blooded predator (a killer) on the prowl, death from 800 meters, ready to strike at any given moment.      

July 04, 2020 00:41

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Rodrigo Juatco
00:58 Jul 04, 2020

I dedicate this fictional story to three of my buddies who have served in the military, They are my unsung heroes.

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