Posted By: kr142616<email@example.com>
Date: 10 January 2008, 11:56 pm
There was a stillness about the cool night air, a peacefulness as the ambient sounds of the night sang across the grounds. Linda remained immobile, loathe to disrupt that calm until necessary. For hours she had been in her position, alone. A spotter—normally a necessity for any regular human at such lengths of time—was something a Spartan could do without. In fact, Linda preferred it this way—alone.
From her position in the shrubbery Linda could see the mansion, about 300 meters away. It was an extravagant building, surrounded by neatly tended gardens lit brightly to show off their shrubbery and flowerbeds. The lights were a possible problem for the Spartans on standby, but Linda knew none of them were worrying. She wasn't.
For possibly the hundredth time since first seeing the mansion she shook her head—a minute movement. The mansion grounds were scarcely guarded, and nearly every room was visible through massive windows running the length of the wall. The whole building was an extravagance, an effort in arrogance.
Linda hated extravagance. She was Spartan in more ways than one.
Her target, however, was a wealthy man, and he relished showing it. He was intelligent, well-respected by the community for his philanthropy, and, most importantly, a benefactor of the United Rebel Front. For that, he had to die.
The Office of Naval Intelligence, working with local colonial authorities, had retrieved plans for the building and grounds, all belonging to one John Faulkner. Linda had read the file on him, all the details of his life, public and private. None of them were important, though, none but his face. She'd committed the false philanthropist's face to memory, every neatly-combed salt-and-pepper hair, his brandy-colored eyes. She'd memorized his face, and now she waited for him.
ONI had been eager to help the Spartans, about as eager as they were to be rid of Faulkner, and had been thorough in their collection and dissemination of information. They'd discovered that every evening without fail he had dinner overlooking the grounds from his stately dining room, the glass-walled room Linda saw before her. They even knew what he'd asked to have for dinner this night: the kitchen staff was told to prepare a steak and potato dinner, Linda saw, scrolling through the report on her HUD. They're eager to test our capabilities after all this training, all this money, Linda thought. The Spartans had already completed several missions successfully, and she knew this one wouldn't be any different. We—I—won't disappoint them.
After several minutes, servers began entering the dining room, as visible as every other room in the mansion. They placed dinnerware across the table—the URF's sponsor had company. She also noted that each plate had steak and mashed potatoes on it. ONI would be pleased their information was accurate.
Now Linda was completely focused, viewing the world through her scope. It would be only minutes now.
And then she saw him. He was a tall man, something that wasn't apparent from the images ONI provided, and moved with a certain dignity, one Linda instantly disliked. This man was a liar, a murderer, an insurrectionist. He was everything the Spartans were created to destroy, and yet he had the gall to act so proud.
Linda followed him with her scope as he leisurely walked to the head of the table, a woman and young boy following. The Spartan briefly remembered the report mentioning a family, but it wasn't important. It was simple, really. They were collateral, in the way. The man's death was worth more than their lives, and that was that. Lucky for them ONI didn't decide on a bombing, Linda thought.
The man neared the head of the table, pulling out the seat to his left for the woman before he sat down himself. The boy took the seat to the right of the man, and Linda sighed. He was directly between her and her target.
So be it, she thought, opening a comm channel for the first time in hours. "Control, firing," she said.
"Shooter, acknowledged," a voice replied. "Take."
Linda blinked. She recognized that voice. It belonged to one Petty Officer First Class A. Scott. The man had been an officer in the 10th Navy Sniper Group before becoming a trainer for the Spartans, reshuffled as an NCO under Mendez. He was the best, Mendez had said, and that that was all the Spartans needed to know. It was by luck they had even discovered his first initial.
He's not the best anymore, though, Linda thought, and almost smiled. Scott had made sure of that. Undoubtedly he'd been chosen specifically to evaluate his protégé.
Linda lined up a shot on the man, the boy still in the way. Looks a bit like his father, she thought idly. A bit like John. The boy's brown eyes and hair matched both, but neither the father nor his son had any of the toughness of the Spartan squad leader, she could tell. Life hadn't been as hard on either.
Through the midsection, Linda thought, refocusing, and her finger tightened on the S2 sniper rifle's trigger. Don't want to risk a headshot, no clear view. Linda was the best, and she and Scott both knew it. She wasn't going to foolishly risk a showy shot to impress her superiors, though. Two shots, to be sure.
For a long moment the Spartan watched the scene, and after several seconds, she felt her finger slackening.
Linda's nostrils flared beneath her helmet. She shouldn't be hesitating. The Spartans had been given the best marksman training by Petty Officer Scott and his snipers. This man's death wouldn't even be the first, and certainly not the last, and would bring the Insurrections one step closer to ending. The UNSC couldn't afford a two-front war against both the rebels and this new Covenant. Why was she hesitating? The man was scum, and deserved to die.
But did his son? Linda wondered, her thoughts turning to the boy. Would he, like his father, support the URF? Linda reflected on the mission to the Eridanus rebels' asteroid base, and all the lives lost there. She hadn't been bothered then, by her own kills or the massive loss of life due to their escape. They were all rebels, like this boy's father. But was the boy guilty by association?
"Shooter, confirm kill," Scott's disembodied voice repeated flatly.
"Control, firing," Linda said, her voice forceful. The Spartan imagined the petty officer sitting in a darkened room, head in his hands in disappointment. Her anger flared, but directed at herself rather than her trainer. Once again her finger tightened on the trigger, and with it came a tightening in her chest. The father deserved this, but did his son? Without his father, would he still follow in is footsteps?
Scott's voice came again, still without worry or confusion, and Linda was about to snap, to lose her professional cool, when the boy moved. He stood from his seat and approached the dining room door, opening it to reveal several well-dressed men. The Spartan felt a flood of relief at the strangers' arrival, but quickly clamped it down.
"Control, firing," Linda said for the final time, and she felt the trigger break.
Immediately, Linda knew a second shot wouldn't be necessary. The round entered through the full-length window and the man's head, shattering both. The latter exploded in a shower of brain matter and skull fragments, his life ripped from existence in an instance.
Linda knew he was dead, but she continued watching with a grim satisfaction. The woman was screaming, although the Spartan couldn't hear her, and the boy stood agape before the guests, tears streaming down his anguished face.
He'd be tougher for it, Linda thought. The corrupting influence of his father was gone, and maybe the boy wouldn't grow into an insurrectionist. But Linda doubted it. At least he had the chance to grow up different, though. At least he had the chance to grow up at all.
Linda took one last look at the scene: the headless corpse slumped amid its own gore, the hysterical woman, the shocked, heartbroken boy. It was moments like these that defined people, she knew, and this would shape the boy's life to come. Linda knew how it would shape him, however, and she regretted her charity.
"Control, confirmed kill," she said, an edge in her voice, all compassion for the boy suddenly gone.
She had given him a chance to be different, but he wouldn't take it. He would never see the wrong of his father, and follow in his footsteps out of blind loyalty. He had never really had a choice. The boy, like his father, would oppose the UNSC, and likewise die in his opposition.
"Congratulations, 058," Scott said, and Linda grinned despite it all. There was pride in Scott's voice, however slight, and Linda knew that her hesitation would never make the report. As the Spartan moved her legs for the first time in ages, she remembered the petty officer recounting his own first kill, remembered his own words. "I almost didn't take the shot," he had said. "After ten minutes of command asking for confirmation and some verbal abuse from my spotter, I came to my senses and realized what I had to do." She remembered him smiling. "I never let it happen again." Linda knew she wouldn't, either.
She had completed her first successful assassination, a flawless kill, and she had Scott's approval. She was sure Mendez and the other trainers would have been proud, too.
"Control, ready for extraction," she said, her voice a little warmer as she disassembled her rifle piece by piece.
Yes, they would have been proud.