“Target,” Aryol whispered to him. “Sector D, from TRP I right sixteen, add sixteen.”
They lay in wait on the rooftop, side by side, nearly touching; close enough to share warmth, twinned slender figures with rifles, wearing balaclavas and night camo.
Aryol peered down at the building through binoculars, rifle tucked behind him, while Leshovik adjusted his Dragunov minutely, and brought the target in view.
There. A large man, massively broad-shouldered and impressively tall, silhouetted in the window, vulnerable for the moment. The interval of opportunity for the shot ticked off in fractions of seconds.
“Target identified,” Leshovik replied, and checked his mil-dot reticle, with smooth, mechanical precision.
He had done this with success fifty-two times before. Only twelve misses. Not that he was counting those.
“Two point five mils,” Leshovik said.
“Roger that.” Aryol’s voice was crisp, steady and precise. “Dial 300.”
The kid was a good spotter; the best he’d ever worked with, in fact. Utterly calm, never made mistakes. He also had the uncanny aptitude for spotting a target, and that took more than just good eyes.
The target was still moving, and would soon pass out of sight, but he remained hyperfocused on the moment. Everything else faded save for Aryol’s voice in his ear, his rifle, and the slowly moving target.
“Wind from right, 9.6 klicks per hour. Mil one-quarter.”
“Roger,” Leshovik whispered, and made the final adjustment to his rifle.
He was aroused. It always happened, right before he took a shot in the field, when it was real and it counted.
Usually, he went for the spectacular kill. The carnage, as Lynx had called it. He liked to think about the people who pissed themselves upon seeing the body – or rather, what remained of the corpse’s grey matter, splattered on the wall.
But this time…something about what Lynx had said stuck with him, and he went for the quiet kill at the back of the head, brain-stem; immaculate, they called it, if you did it right, one clean hole that bled out, and left a pretty corpse.
I’ll show you fucking art.
He took the shot.
The bullet traveled at supersonic speed, so he saw the result before he heard the pop and echo of the silenced round.
Clean hole through the window, but a spectacular explosion of brain tissue and bone fragments from the top of the target’s head.
“Christ!” His breath caught in his throat, but he performed the follow-through by rote, and chambered another round. “Did I – ”
“You got him.”
“I didn’t mean to – ” he broke off again.
Aryol looked at him, but only for a moment as he stowed away his binoculars. “Come on. We need to get out of here. You didn’t mean to what?”
“Nothing.” He pulled back, slinging his rifle around his shoulder and carefully retreating to the leeward side of their roost, where the ladder was.
He hadn’t meant to turn the target into a geyser of blood. Christ, had he misjudged? He’d meant to aim the shot at the base of his skull, but had ended up taking off the top of his head instead.
It had shaken him up, more than he wanted to admit. He stilled his hands into fists. He had to focus. A kill was a kill, and that was number fifty-three, another notch to mark in his rifle.
Aryol stayed silent, even as they cleared the perimeter. He probably didn’t realize that he’d meant to do anything differently, Leshovik thought. The kid was long used to the way Leshovik killed, like a impressionistic assassin who drew on the walls in blood.
That was its own kind of art, he told himself.
Halfway back to the cave, he hit his Codec. “Longshot to Lynx. We took out the target. Repeat, we got him. Thunderbolt is dead.”