I prepared to take the shot.
Snipers too prefer to follow a predetermined routine prior to executing an operation; a structured procedure prior to an assignment affords a greater deal of focus. It is strikingly analogous to a baseball player preparing to step up to the plate and face off against a pitcher in their timeless chess match. I briefly pulled away from the lens and motioned the sign of the cross. Not for show, as some of the others in my platoon did, but because it was a ritual I had devised to retain my psyche. This basic motion was my way of tethering the remains of my humanity together. Make no mistake about it, assassins are killers. When death so frequently surrounds you, you will get lost in it unless you mark your path. As you get more comfortable with death, you grow complacent and lose your fear of it. Without a fear of death, you will lose the sense of fear altogether, and more importantly, the will to live. The notion of a being greater than me was more than enough to serve as a reminder of where I stand in the grand scheme of things, and having a fear of the unknown is far better than not having any fear whatsoever. As long as I continue to serve, I cannot allow the latter to happen.
I lied down prone on the ground, and then continued my sequence, adjusting the settings of the scope and position to of the rifle to account for the frigid air, slight breeze to the east, and my position relative to the cabin. Clutching the body of the weapon tightly, I brought the stock of the gun toward the grooved steel shoulder plate, which was specifically crafted for this mission then slid it into place until it clicked, locking itself in tight. I zoomed in on the General as he took a sip of his evening cocoa, completely unaware that he was being watched, much less targeted under the dark of the moon. As I had done so many times before, I slid my right index finger into position, braced myself for recoil, and exhaled.
Suddenly, a flicker of light glinted out of the bottom left corner of the trail.
It’s coming from the road.
I dislodged the butt of the rifle from my chest piece and sat up. Slinging it over my shoulder and onto my back, I shakily reached for my long range, thermal binoculars. Squeezing their cracked rubber grips tightly, I directed them towards the area of the infinitesimal flash. Then my heart sank.
I could see a small group blissfully proceeding back to the General’s cabin.
Dammit, reconnaissance said they would not be back for over another hour.
I looked down at my ice blue suit of armor, then clenched my eyes shut, and gritted my teeth together. With their appearance, it would be impossible to eliminate my target without revealing my presence. My original plan was rendered useless, and now everything we had worked so hard towards was in jeopardy.
All those years of training, all those hours of tactical planning, the perfectly executed drop, the chance of a lifetime, all wasted.
A hot, numbing sensation began at the bones of my checks, then spread symmetrically to my nose, and soon enveloped my entire face. My ears felt white hot, yet through the chaos of the moment, the words of my old instructor reverberated in my head.
“Anyone can enter combat, only the prepared can get out of it.”
In spite of the gravity of the scenario and the frustration the new obstacle presented. I began to feel a calm sense of being descend over my mind. I loosened my vice grip on the binoculars.
But I am prepared.
I smirked inside my helmet, and recalled the rest of her message,
“Remember, an assassin doesn’t need preparation. He can improvise and plan on the move, and functions as his peak when all seems lost. An assassin’s constantly adapting mindset what sets him apart from the other warriors and it is exactly what I am going to show you gentlemen how to emulate, and control. On your feet.”
Took me ten years to figure out what she meant.
I stood up and again trained my sights on the guards.
I have work to do. Take it from the top.