The gunman cradled his McMillan rifle gently and sighted through his 5-25x scope breathing slowly, waiting for his shot. The target was just over 2300 meters distant and he could see the heat rising in waves as he watched.
He knew that, just as he observed, he was being observed. He had heard the drone but only once, faintly from a great distance, behind him. It was a long shot but he was confident.
The heavyset man in the blue suit leaned closer to the monitor and nervously spun the fat cigar he held between his fingers as he watched.
“Can he make this?” the fat man asked of no one in particular.
The uniformed man standing at the back of the room spoke up, “If anyone can make this shot, the corporal can,” he said. “It’s about 500 meters beyond the recommended range of the Tac-50 but he’s the best.”
The gunman felt loose, easy, unhurried; the morning air was warm, but not too warm, it was calm. Conditions were good when his target detached from the company of his companions and walked 10 – 12 steps off the path, stopped and, unzipped his trousers to urinate.
Now or never thought the gunman. He breathed in then out all the way. He emptied his lungs and gently squeezed the trigger. It amazed him, as always, how little noise the .50 BMG seemed to make as it left the muzzle at a speed of more than 800 m/s.
He counted seconds: 1… 2… 3…
He watched for the red cloud confirming the kill. He knew that officially his spotter and the anonymous watchers had to confirm – but for his own peace of mind he wanted to know as well. He had to watch.
The fat man, in the blue suit, pumped his fist when the small figure at the top of the monitor collapsed face first into the scraggly bushes. “Yesss.”
The gunman swung his barrel and watched through the scope as the others dropped and searched frantically for him. Craning their necks and spinning their heads. When one of them pointed at his hill he crawled backward, away from the crest, and dropping out of sight, stood, collected his things, and walked away with his spotter. They walked briskly but there was no need to run.
The spotter clapped him on the back, “Nice, shot man. Helluva shot.”
He shook his head, how had it come to this? He was a sniper, trained by his government to kill with surgical precision. Had he been picked for this position because of a talent to point a rifle? Maybe that was part of it. He believed a bigger part was that he had been picked because he was pliant, adaptable, malleable. He knew that not everyone could do this kind of work. He was one of the elite.
He grinned. He loved his job. He fist bumped his spotter and they picked up their pace as the slope steepened in front of them.