Hi! Wow, its June! Doesn’t time fly? Anyway, this week the story I’ve got is a little different. To be honest its been inspired by recent world events. I guess it is kind of a Sci-Fi story, not going to get into why, you’ll have to see for yourself. What I will say is that because its inspired by recent events it isn’t a happy story, sorry if that’s what you were looking for. It’s a more realistic, in some ways, tale. Enough rabbiting from me though. Let’s get into, Aim Down Sights.
The air is hot, wet, sticky. Tolem Sobek’s clothes stick to him in all the places where they shouldn’t but somehow manage to while he is lying prone in grass that has clearly been left to the whims of nature.
He hates the cloying sensation he can feel, the way the cloth feels against his skin.
Many of the blades of grass are as high as his cheek and that is while he is lying propped up on his elbows, back bent a tad unnaturally resulting in a stiffness that is uncomfortable without reaching the threshold where pain erupts.
Below Tolem there is a valley. He is looking out over it. Or is until he pulls his face back from the scope he’s been peering down since shortly after his arrival. That was some time ago, he isn’t sure how long. Minutes definitely, but no way is it hours, even one.
Meticulously he wipes away the sweat that has resulted from his face being pressed against the rubber around the moulded end of the scope while out in this muggy air. The rough surface of his glove, meant to help his grip, irritates his skin. He ignores the abrasive grating feeling, wipes the moisture from his glove down his side, but does it too high, runs his hand through the sweat patch under one of his arms. The patch is large, a result of having to hump up the steep slope he is atop currently.
He grumbles, to himself, at his mistake, shakes his head, performs another wipe, this time lower, then after a quick exercising of his neck, which has grown stiff, he returns his eye to the moulded rubber.
Below the fifteen centimetre, excluding the rubber moulding, long cylinder is the body of the rifle he is using on this op. It is a chubby, wide, bulky angular mass of metal and hardened plastic which measures almost two metres total. It might sound excessive, the length of this weapon, but it needs to be the size, shape and dimensions it is if Tolem is to have any hope of successfully making the shot and assassinating the Alman leader, Peresius Vanfellur.
At one time the Alman had been a nation. Now they would best be described as a militaristic empire hell-bent on invading and controlling everything they can touch, see, feel. That might sound like an exaggeration but it is true.
Once before they had been an empire, long ago, but it fell. They never got over that. The thought of having been so important, so grand, so vital made them envious for those days long gone to return. So they elected a leader who, in their collective eyes, represented that goal, that dream, that vision. She won, it was a landslide victory. Yet to begin with there was no reason for anyone to feel concerned about her actions. In fact, she led much in the same way her predecessor did, like you might expect; investing, improving, modernising. As her reign continued however the realities of her personality, her desires were revealed.
She had opponents arrested, tried, imprisoned. Businessmen, multi-billionaires, were accused of treason, stripped of their assets, banished. Others fled fearing the same treatment would befall them too. Before long Wray Jinlotta, now holding the title of Grand Operator of Alman, a moniker she bestowed upon herself, had absolute power and control over her country.
The media said only what she wanted them too, the people hadn’t a clue. In their eyes she was strong, a perfect leader, what they needed to return to the days of old. However, she wasn’t trying to return Alman to the good old days. No, what she was succeeding in doing was creating a cult of personality. A brand new religious following grafted with her at the centre, as the messiah, the God in mortal form.
When elections came round there were none to stand in opposition. Many Almen, disbelieving of the propaganda machine, fled their country for more democratic, centralist alternatives. They were the lucky ones. They got to live proper lives without fear, oppression, imprisonment, execution.
Meanwhile in Alman, Miss Jinlotta carried out ethnic cleansing campaigns. Millions died. The world imposed sanctions, limited and ultimately abandoned trade routes, treaties, deals until Alman became an insular nation. It was believed that would be the end of Wray Jinlotta and her regime. It wasn’t.
And even when Wray Jinlotta, by this time titled Grand Supremo of Alman, was assassinated nothing changed. A replacement was quickly installed, the head of her ‘religion,’ Peresius Vanfellur. He proved to be even more brutal than his predecessor and initiated invasions upon the surrounding nations. All of them, much smaller than Alman, swiftly fell. Consumed and subsumed the people became little more than slaves to the Alman, but their thirst for power was not satiated and so before long they instigated wars with the larger nations of the world using resources stockpiled during three decades of Wray Jinlotta’s reign to full effect. Smaller nations than Alman embroiled in the war were defeated, overwhelmed by the larger aggressors mighty, nigh unstoppable war machine.
Ultimately, the conflict was only brought to a close when the once proud, strong nations of Hera, Xala and Quinto agreed to a ceasefire. By that time Alman had claimed and conquered almost a fifth of the world’s landmass. And it was little surprise the three nations agreed to a truce for Alman now possessed many of the resources the other nations needed to continue their economic and technological growth.
The unspoken threat was agree to peace or be cut off, see if you endure like Alman did. All sides, parties, knew they would and could not weather such a change.
That truce, that concession in favour of the aggressor has never and continues to not sit well with Tolem since it was signed three years ago. It’s one of the reasons he joined the Freedom Fighters Against Oppression, or FFAO for short.
After all, he is from one of the places swallowed by the Alman’s, and Peresius’, lust for control, absolute power.
Tolem has never met the man, and likely never will if this op goes off as planned. If he had there is no way he’d have managed not to put a knife through his eye. Then again, there is a healthy chance this op will not be completed. He tries not to dwell on such things. Instead, the sniper scans the buildings below wondering why Alman’s leader would come out here. It’s the middle of nowhere. There is nothing out here.
Judging from appearance alone it seems these structures may once have belonged to some sort of farm. Evidently they are abandoned now. Then again there are enormous swathes of once harvested land and small towns that lay empty, abandoned.
Taking a deep breath to calm his anger for fear it might otherwise get the better of him, Tolem, completes his scan. Nothing as yet; no movement or signs of life, bar those that are to be expected in the wild. Though, the wildlife is definitely thinner in number than the shaven headed turquoise skinned Tolem would expect.
Damn Alman, he thinks to himself in the moments prior to considering pulling back from the scope to check the time. He resists such an urge for there is little point. It will tell him nothing that is vital to his mission. And anyway he needs to remain still. That is what he was taught is best for a sniper. To not draw attention to oneself, alert the enemy to your presence, blow your cover, your element of surprise. Then again a sniper is meant to have a spotter. Tolem did have one. His name had been Carber. He’s dead now. Well, Tolem is pretty sure he is.
You see he is deep behind enemy lines, in what is historically Alman territory. Not what they have butchered and stole, claimed in the wake of their barbarity. Alas, from almost the start this mission has been borked.
It started when their plane was hit mid-flight forcing them to jump early, then there were the patrols on the ground already searching. All of it suggested this mission was compromised, expected. But with no easy way out Tolem and Carber had agreed to press on, complete the op they had been tasked with.
First they had to rendezvous. Carber radioed he’d entered an abandoned town. Tolem was a quarter mile behind.
Upon entering the outskirts of the town Tolem was greeted with the sounds of gunfire. Radio contact was made. Carber demanded he run, continue on with the mission while he distracted and lead them away. Then the radio had gone dead. It has remained as such ever since.
The shooting had intensified shortly thereafter but simultaneously was growing quieter, more distant. Clearly Carber’s plan, that wasn’t, was working.
Begrudgingly, Tolem had taken his chance, abandoned his spotter, made for their position, where he is lying prone now. His heart remains heavy for Carber should be alongside him. He didn’t know the man, not really. They had been put together by a ‘Captain’ in the FFAO once they’d been picked for training and ultimately this mission.
It was during this training, a few weeks long, that Tolem had learned Carber was a career soldier. Unlike Tolem who prior to joining the FFAO had been a logistics driver. One who had been hit, well his truck, mid journey by an Alman missile.
When he told Carber this the career soldier hadn’t been surprised. Apparently, it was common practice for Alman military as they liked to suggest civilian transports were being used to smuggle munitions. Worst of all is that this was following the signing of the peace treaty, not before it.
In theory such attacks should’ve voided it but they didn’t. They were excused because tensions were high and peace was more important than more war. When he’d been told that Tolem had been horrified, but not as severely, nowhere near, as when the Alman pushed their border, took his home town and forced him to flee for his life.
Again, Carber, at being told this story, was not surprised. He suggested it was common. His expression suggested it to.
Really, anything short of a full-scale invasion was permissible to the leaders of the three nations bordering Alman, because they deemed it better to lose a town here and there rather than return to the war which had almost ruined them.
Lying on this hill, alone, Tolem cannot help but wonder what life, his especially, might’ve been like had the Alman, had Persius Vanfellur or Wray Jinlotta never existed.
He knows now, this moment, might not be the time for such considerations, not only because he is on a mission, a vitally important one at that, but because it isn’t realistic and never will be. Still, he can’t help himself as he again scans the buildings below finding there is no one, nothing.
His belief is that his life would’ve played out, these last few years, nicely. Principally, that’s because he is a simple man who has never been after vast wealth or power. Perhaps that is why the finds it impossible to understand the Alman as a ‘nation.’ Yet, it may be more accurate to call them a cult, a religious movement of enormous delusion.
Having never been a man of faith, Tolem cannot comprehend why anybody would follow someone like Wray Jinlotta, let alone allow worship an organisation built around her.
He’s heard tales of Alman media, from those who escaped when they could, and how they brainwash their citizens into believing the only way is their way and that the Alman are always right, their leaders especially.
The sniper does not understand how anyone, as clearly it isn’t all Alman as several million fled their birth nation during Miss Jinlotta’s reign, can be so ready or willing to accept what they are being force-fed.
When the comes time, based more on inclination than anything, for the sniper to perform another scan of the ground below, Tolem has accepted he will never understand nor be capable of reaching a conclusion capable of answering his queries and so has puts the matter to bed. Regrettably in doing so he becomes acutely aware, once more, of the way his clothes are clinging to his skin. Unable to cope he rustles his shoulders in hopes the limited movement will not draw attention to his position, who from he hasn’t a clue as it is doubtful, he thinks, anyone would be capable of seeing him where he is unless they are on top of him. Alas, his efforts bear seldom any fruit. In fact, his efforts prove almost entirely fruitless. Frustrated, he sighs deeply and drops his gaze giving him a view of the inside of the sight.
Focus, he demands of himself simultaneously raising his gaze for his one eye; the other closed so as not to distort and confuse his brain. A mistake he made on the first day training. And because of it he became utterly bamboozled by the split sight of his one eyes natural magnification and his others augmented view.
For minutes following his error he’d needed to rest; to blink, allow his eyes a period of readjustment.
Apparently, one of the FFAO trainers told him, it is a condition known as Visual De-sync. Pretty common; affects something like eighty seven percent of the world’s population. When he’d heard that, true or not, Tolem had felt better and not so much like an idiot. He also kept it in mind when he’d returned to training and had made sure, from that day forth, not to repeat that same said mistake.
By the end of the training programme Tolem was a top three sniper out of the sixty three picked. He’d been and remains proud of such an achievement, especially since before joining the FFAO he’d never held a real gun, toy ones as a child sure but not an actual weapon capable of killing.
His success in training is one of the reasons he was chosen for this op. Yet, in the original draft there was meant to be more of them, including Carber. In fact, there was meant to be eight in total. Four snipers, four spotters; the FFAO ultimately couldn’t spare the resources, the personnel. Hell, the rifle in his hand; an experimental weapon that fires one of the standard type of bolt rounds used world-wide has magnets inside its chassis to spin a ball, similar to a bearing, inside up to incredible speed prior to the trigger pull which flings the ball, and the bolt positioned ahead of it, down the length of the barrel until the spinning sphere of metal hits the block at the end, thus firing the projectile.
During the briefing the turquoise skinned sniper was told because of its firing system the rifle could achieve a maximum range of a hair over four miles, as long as conditions are optimal.
No one ever did clarify what optimal conditions meant but Tolem won’t have to worry about that as the shot he’s taking is barely two miles. Still, he wishes the weapon were not so heavy, cumbersome or unwieldy because it’s beginning to make his arms ache, his muscles scream. It isn’t surprising when you consider he is also propped up on his elbows, not a position that is easy to maintain, especially if you aren’t used to it, which he isn’t.
Making sure to keep his breathing under control, slow and evenly paced, he pulls his face away from the sight, opens both eyes and then proceeds to blink several times for they are growing tired, weary. He could swap eye, use his right to peer down the scope. When he’s done that previously however it has never felt right. Regardless of the fact that his eyes capabilities, at least according to a recent examination and series of extensive tests performed at the insistence of FFAO command, are apparently identical. Or as close to identical as they can, that is. What that means is that it is possible for him to do that it is just whenever he’s tried sighting with his right eye the view has always appeared blurry to him.
That is in my head, without question; he feels it prudent to remind himself for reasons he is unaware of when suddenly his train of thought is cut short because he hears a noise. Face hurriedly returned to the sight, his left eye peers, unblinking, as he scans around for the source.
It sounded like wheels over dirt, which would make sense seeing as there are no roads out here.
Why is Peresius meant to be out here then? Is the query which rings in the snipers head.
He doesn’t know. Has no answer. Not even a suggestion while continuing to scan.
Thus far he has found nothing. That makes him feels worried, concerned.
This would be so much easier if Carber were here, which is true. It would be much easier. There is a reason snipers traditionally have spotters. At least from what’s he’s been told, taught.
Another deep sigh escapes from between his lips. Following it his lips press tightly together creating and adding to an already deep wrinkled frown without breaking his focus on the job at hand, the one that is not yet here but hopefully will be before too long.
In the snipers mind this op is vital. It could bring an end to the madness which has afflicted the world for… Tolem isn’t sure how long as he cannot decide from when would best be to judge the start of all that has occurred.
Theoretically it should be since the moment Wray Jinlotta came to power.
Is that truly when all this brutality began? Or was it when her policies changed? When she became a dictator, a racist, a warmonger, a tyrant?
Too late, think earlier; is the demand from deep inside while he continues, desperately, to search for the source of the noises. They are growing louder, more intense. Not in a way which suggests they are in close proximity, simply in a way that suggests they are growing closer in a distant sort of a way. It’s hard to explain and presently, with so much going on in his head, Tolem doesn’t feel he is capable or successful.
You have to abandon some of these thoughts in favour of others.
He does and abandons contemplation of how best to describe the noises reaching his long narrow ears. The auditory flaps which curve at their tip but swoop low at their base, to connect to either side of the snipers round head.
Unlike some, Tolem’s ears are the kind which are pressed close against the sides of his head. Closer than most when you consider his head is shaved and devoid of hair, but not stubble.
At one time he would have raged at the thought of being without his thick head of styled blue hair but things change; priorities, necessities shift to better align with what is most important. That is especially so when the world suffers the kind of seismic shifts that it has as of late.
Is this the end? Of the world I mean.
Shaking loose he curses the Alman, the collective, their leaders current and past until new sounds reach his sensitive ears, which prick and shift as screeching, which can only be from brakes, reaches them.
He knows the noise well having been a truck driver for a logistics company. If he didn’t he thinks it would be embarrassing, enormously so.
Thankfully, the sniper has a vague idea of where the screeching has come from and so turns his attention, rifle, scope and all, toward it.
Quickly he sets eye on the Alman disembarking from a vehicle. It’s a boxy, heavy armoured looking thing. The men, clearly soldiers, are armed but not one of them is Peresius. The sniper feels he’s been tricked. That this might all be a setup. His heart is sunken, his body more tired now than ever.
It can’t be! How would they know?
He cannot say. Or maybe he doesn’t want to consider. Regardless, he wraps his finger over the trigger preparing to fire. He doesn’t want to but if he has to…
Damn the mission, the op…
Not yet, this might be nothing.
Nothing! These are the first people I’ve seen since I jumped. I only heard shots in the town, after Carber…
Then don’t overact; you’ve become isolated. This isn’t the time to panic.
I’m not panicking!
Really, then why do you sound hysterical, on edge, frantic?
Realising he is right, Tolem takes a deep breath yet continues to follow the movements of the Alman soldiers. He thinks they are army but finds it difficult to tell with Alman for their uniforms, across branches, are near identical as far as his fairly untrained eye can tell.
Only army would have reason to be out here.
Would they? ‘Cause I can’t imagine why anyone would be out here.
This is their land…
True, instead of that which they have stolen, even under treaty.
You need to let that go.
Like hell I’ll let it go. They took my home!
This isn’t helping; pay attention!
Aware this words are a half-lie at best, Tolem forces himself to focus properly on current events, those which he continues to have say, and sway, over. No sooner does he then a cloud, which he notices while searching for the Alman soldiers, catches his eye. It is a ways off, fast moving, approaching from the horizon. The snipers heart skips a beat. He feels hopeful.
This has to be him, Peresius, our target.
Has to be! It could be more soldiers. Wait, where are the soldiers?
A frantic scan follows. It ends when the sniper learns the soldiers’ new location. Sadly, this newfound knowledge does nothing to quell his panic for they are searching the area, heading his way.
What am I going to do?
Calm; remember your training. You can do this. Breathe; slow your pulse, your heart rate. Wipe your eye, continue.
Its good advice, Tolem follows it to the letter. Unsurprisingly it helps. Though he continues to feel on-edge, concerned regarding what wrench might next be thrown in the works to potentially derail his reason for being here.
Such emotions further blossom, and grip his chest tight, when voices begin to reach his ears. He can’t make out words, though not for lack of trying, for the voices are, as yet, too far away. Mercifully, the cloud of dust is pretty close; to the point that Tolem can see the vehicles causing the yellow plumes either side of what is evidently a short convoy.
I wasn’t expecting a convoy.
I should’ve been?
Yes, you should’ve been. Or did you think Peresius Vanfellur would travel alone?
Um, er, I don’t… I didn’t think…
The sniper, his body starting to insist he shift position to give his now straining and cramping muscles a rest, cannot finish. The words, what he wants to say, will not coalesce as he would like. It’s why he sounds, to his own ears especially, like a bumbling fool.
Snapped back into the moment, the sniper does as is commanded of him. Mind empty he watches the convoy turn and come to a stop, just like he was informed it would, and sooner than he would’ve expected since sighting their approach.
The man lying prone gulps; it sounds loud in his ears, the voices remain distant he thinks.
You can hear them speaking now though, can’t you?
He can. However, he hasn’t a clue what they are saying for the Alman, generally, can speak two languages. One is their own, as you would expect, and it’s a convoluted, to him, mess of gibberish. The other is the universal language referred to as Regular. The sniper hasn’t a clue why it carries such a moniker. Or maybe he does and simply cannot remember currently. It is of no import so he casts the thought aside, unfulfilled.
The doors to the boxy armoured vehicles, four of them, swing open. He can see that clearly through the magnification of the sight on his rifle. The weapon so heavy in his hands now that he feels as though he might drop it at any minute but be stuck in this pose forever.
Don’t be stupid! The mission, focus on it! Your target is all that matters!
But those voices are getting closer. They’ll be here any moment.
Then keep still, but don’t move. You are the only one who can do this, don’t screw it up. Countless lives are dependent on you; millions yet to be born in addition to those who already have been.
That reminder, that inspiration, is enough to clear Tolem’s mind completely; it’s blissful. He wishes he’d achieved this earlier, easier.
Bodies evacuate the vehicles. There are more than a dozen all told. Most are dressed in Alman military fatigues, of which branch the sniper cannot say.
The few not dressed in suits have their heads covered, hands bound behind their backs. Finally, Peresius Vanfellur appears. Seeing him Tolem’s heart skips several beats. It might be better to say flutters.
The sniper, member of the FFAO, has never been this ‘close.’ Previously all he had seen of the man who leads Alman are pictures and snippets of footage. Seeing him, even from almost two miles away, in the flesh conjures emotions Tolem had not been expecting. They include things such as vitriol, hatred, disgust. And they are raw, fierce.
It shouldn’t be surprising for Peresius, vaguely in Tolem’s sights, is who has waged war, swallowed nations, been permitted to continue breaching truce and treaty with little repercussions.
To be honest the prone sniper expected Alman’s leader to be taller, less pale, thin, sickly. The sniper wonders if the ‘great’ Alman leader is ill, dying. He hopes so. A pointless thought considering he is here to assassinate them.
The voices are much closer now; Tolem doesn’t like that but continues to watch events unfold below. The hooded figures forced to their knees, the loose sacks pulled off their heads to reveal their faces bloodied and bruised. Worst of all, Tolem thinks, Peresius is smiling. It’s a sick, cruel, evil smile from ear to ear. The sight of it makes Tolem want to spit for all he tastes in his mouth is acid. It doesn’t burn, though he feels it should the taste is so foul.
Peresius’ mouth begins to flap. From this range there is no way Tolem can hear his words; whatever vile insanity it might be he is spouting.
Evidently, this is meant to be some kind of execution. At least the sniper believes it is obvious. Yet, why out here? And how did the FFAO know? Is this common? Where he comes to execute all who oppose him?
To add to matters, Tolem wasn’t aware there was anyone left in Alman territory brave enough to risk defiance. Everything and everyone have said the Alman who remained, the majority, are brainwashed sheep.
Is this recent, something new?
Perhaps it is a development, a sign his power is waning. Maybe it’s the result of his appearance.
Prepare, sight, take the shot. That is why you are here. Get it done. No more considering ifs and buts and maybes. You don’t have the time.
Aware and in agreement, the sniper takes a deep inward breath in preparation to take the shot. Soon after he releases said breath, casts the noises from the Alman soldiers searching from his mind, from his ears. Everything goes deathly quiet. He activates the rifles onboard generator and feels the hum ripple up his arms as well as into his shoulder where the stock is braced. It’ll need to be when he fires for this weapon has quite the kick to it. Not when you fire but when the bolt is ejected from the end of the barrel. It’s an inevitable and unavoidable result of the spinning bearing inside slamming into the block at the far end.
Apparently, efforts were made to mitigate the severity of the backward force, the kick. None worked. Some actually made it worse, so it has been said. How that’s possible, Tolem hasn’t a clue.
At the wave of one of Peresius’ hands a gun is fired into one of the kneeling figures heads. The bang echoes but is dull, a low pop, by the time it reaches Tolem’s position. He doesn’t really hear it. He certainly sees it however, magnified; the spray of blood which filled the air, the body left to slump forward until face is against the floor, a pool beginning to form shortly after.
The sniper response to the savagery is a snarl. Disgusted with his finger across the trigger, a light in the scope flashes, dimly, to inform him the rifle is ready to shoot. All told Tolem has four shots available to him. After that he’d need to reload to a new magazine.
His belief is that if he misses the first shot the other three won’t help. His chance will be lost.
So take your time. Line up the shot. Be sure you are ready.
He follows the directions meticulously. They are spoken in his voice but are a repeat of the exact words offered by the FFAO instructors during his training.
His breathing slow, calm, even; Tolem is pleased Peresius is static, rooted to the spot with only his arms gesticulating.
Those flailing limbs won’t save you, he thinks before noting that even better than the Alman leader being stationary is that he is stood side on, his body facing the sniper his head turned sideways.
He’ll never see it coming. A smirk grows across Tolem’s face. He is unaware of it.
No more war, he thinks as he squeezes the trigger. Just as he does something grabs his legs. The rifle fires nonetheless. The bolt ejected out of the long barrel at incredible velocity.
Other; different weapons fire. Peresius looks up the cliff at the tip of the hill across from him having heard distant weapons fire. He knows a patrol was sent in advance to check there are no separatists.
His brow furrows in advance of him going to say something. The bolt hits him before he gets chance.
The force of the impact takes him off his feet, flings him back five metres. It’s the least of the damage for a massive hole has been punched through his chest.
The bolt embedded in the wall of what had once been a farm building is ignored as Alman soldiers, part of their leaders personal protection detail, swarm around their injured charge. They are frantic, desperate, ravenous to save their leader. A man who’s brilliance rivals their empires founder, Wray Jinlotta.
Alas, their efforts are for naught, it is too late. The wound Peresius has suffered is fatal; his green blood gushing from the gaping wound like a river.
In his last moments Peresius hears several distant shots. They are followed by cheers. He reaches for the yellow sky, tries to speak, slips away, dies.