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19 July 2007 @ 08:57 pm
One Shot, One Kill [February 18, 1964, 10:47 pm]  
“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.”
snow_deathsnow_death on July 20th, 2007 05:17 am (UTC)

His first thought was an ice-pick stab of anguish, right in the solar plexus, that wasn't content to stay there but instead climbed slowly toward the heart.

No, not Zhenya. Zhenya was fine, provided he had taken his very good advice- provided he had taken his warning to heart.

Alexei's throat went dry, but he reminded himself that this was exactly what he'd been hoping for all along.

He shot the decoy.

"Acknowledged," he said, in a mellifluous and noncommital bass. "Congratulations, Longshot. And that's a confirmed, ah...Aryol?"
Aryoleyes_adrift on July 20th, 2007 05:38 am (UTC)
"Uh...yeah," Aryol said, after a moment's hesitation.

He felt a tugging at his subconscious, telling him that something was wrong. He'd gotten a fairly good look at the target when the man had strolled past the window, and he'd thought that the target was supposed to have -

Leshovik turned to scowl at him then, and shot him a nasty look, as if he was affronted that Aryol wasn't singing his praises.

Aryol returned the glare. He'd been getting fed up with Leshovik's bullshit lately.

"It's a confirmed kill, sir," Aryol finally said, carefully.

Of that much, he was sure. Leshovik never left any room for doubt, at least not on that front.
Leshovikleshovik on July 20th, 2007 05:52 am (UTC)

Leshovik wondered what had gotten into the kid, suddenly all moody. Actually, he sort of liked that. It reminded him of someone else.

Slowly, he frowned, and nearly came to a halt.

A successful mission here meant they'd be off to the next one. He hadn't quite thought this all through when he'd seen the target, and jumped at the opportunity to take him out and earn another notch on his rifle.

Well, maybe he could figure something out, he thought, thinking frantically, like someone who dumped a sheaf of papers on a windy day, and scrambled after, trying to catch every single one before it was too late.

Lynx would probably pull them out immediately. Once the base was alerted to a sniper, they'd do a thorough search. It would only be a matter of time before their cozy little hideaway got discovered.

If he had only delayed a little longer, it would have given him more of a chance to linger on base, and perhaps -

He scowled, fully regretting having pulled the trigger, now.

"We'll give you a full report when we arrive," Leshovik said, tersely, then cut the Codec connection.
Aryoleyes_adrift on July 20th, 2007 04:44 pm (UTC)
They walked the rest of the way in silence, then ducked under the dark camo netting that concealed the cave's interior from view.

Aryol replayed the sequence of events in his mind. Only a few seconds had passed between the time he'd confirmed the target and the time Leshovik had taken the shot. He hadn't had a doubt then.

But he did now.

He remembered the file that they'd all been shown, and the grainy black and white photo of the target.

You always called the target "the target," or by the designated code name. Never by their real name - both for security purposes, and because it meant you really didn't think about the target being a person.

Leshovik had taught him that. Aryol guessed he knew a lot about it.

In any case, the target had scars, Aryol remembered. Scars that twined around his face in cracks and whorls, like a slab of heartwood.

He didn't see those.

He didn't think he saw those.

The knowledge sat in his gut like a too-heavy meal, making his stomach leaden, and churn.

As they entered the cave, Aryol didn't say a word to Lynx, but instead walked past him, head down, and ducked into his and Leshovik's bivouac.

He needed to be sure.
Leshovikleshovik on July 20th, 2007 05:17 pm (UTC)
Leshovik watched the kid make a beeline for their tent, brows vaulting.

He guessed Aryol couldn't wait for it, wanted to get in a quick one before they had to start packing up their gear.

Leshovik always liked to fuck after killing someone, but he wasn't going to keep Lynx waiting around for their report to do it. That could come later. But kids Aryol's age had a lot of...energy. Sometimes it was almost hard to keep up.

He turned to Lynx, shrugging. "I don't know what's eating him. Anyway, yeah. We took down the target. In his quarters, through the window."
snow_death: Facesnow_death on July 20th, 2007 05:56 pm (UTC)
Lynx nodded, and there was no need to feign his pleased expression.

"Nicely acquitted," he acknowledged. "Exactly as we planned. And you got out without incident?"

He wouldn't allow his mind to consider what would have happened if he hadn't gone to Zhenya that night, or if Zhenya had refused to take precaution over a vague and unsubstantiated, unexplained warning from an undead ex-lover.

Luckily, Volgin wasn't that kind of self-sabotizing pragmatist.

"Well, I guess that's that. Let's see if we can pack up quick, and maybe we can leave Lemsky in the jungle."
Aryoleyes_adrift on July 20th, 2007 06:41 pm (UTC)
"I think there's a problem."

Aryol stepped out of the bivouac. His cheeks were tinged with grey, and his breath came short and shallow.

He'd pulled off his balaclava and dropped his gear, but he still felt somehow pressed down, burdened by the weight of gravity. It made him a little dizzy.

He walked over to where Leshovik and Lynx stood by their campground.

"I don't think that was him," he said slowly, avoiding both of their gazes, staring at the wall. "I think that was a decoy."

"What?" Leshovik snarled.
snow_deathsnow_death on July 20th, 2007 07:01 pm (UTC)
Lynx closed his eyes.

"God dammit," he said softly.

Trust the spotter to figure out the ruse. Leshovik you could snow with his own ego. Hell, he'd do it for you. There was nothing more subjective than hubris.

But Aryol was clear-eyed and young and not blinded by his own legend. He didn't take anything for granted.

Life has always taught him not to, thought Lynx, feeling a transient sympathy for the kid, despite his irritation.

Hell, even Leshovik reinforced that lesson daily- taking the kid for granted himself, and subsequently making it clear to Aryol that the kid couldn't.

He opened his eyes, bright blue in his tanned face, and looked into the kid's eyes.

"Are you sure?" he asked, carefully. "And you're not just doubting Leshovik because he's prone to sloppy wetwork?"
Aryoleyes_adrift on July 20th, 2007 07:39 pm (UTC)
"What?" Leshovik snarled, again, but Aryol ignored him and lifted his chin, then met Lynx's eyes steadily. His chest felt like it would cave in.

"I'm sure, sir," he said, quietly. His gaze was dark and flat, and unreflective, like a well that ran too deep to see water below. "I shouldn't have called it."

"You're damn right you shouldn't have!" Leshovik strode forward, ripping off his balaclava, white-hot and furious. "That's your fucking responsibility, to get it fucking right. You just made our job ten times harder, you fucking pedik."

Aryol held his ground, and took in a hard breath. "I made a mistake."

Leshovik's lip curled. "This isn't a profession for men who make mistakes. You fucked up my shot too. It shouldn't have gone high. That's not where I was aiming. You called the mil wrong."

Aryol struggled on the edge of emotion, wanting to say something, but fighting it, knowing it was a bad idea. He'd called the target wrong, but not the shot, and he knew it, but he said nothing.
snow_deathsnow_death on July 20th, 2007 09:03 pm (UTC)
Lynx turned, his mouth tightening.

"I thought dead was dead," he snapped, wearily, raising an eyebrow. "Change philosphy since yesterday, Longshot?"

Leshovik's whole face had wolverinized, sharp features drawn to a menacing point at every converging apex. His eyes blazed like molten metal.

He looked at Aryol, and nodded. It cost him a lot.

He lay a hand on the spotter's shoulder, which was thrust forward and forthright against Leshovik's aggressive onslaught.

"If it's not him, we stay a while. It's as easy as that. We were prepared to stay as long as we had to. We're well-supplied."

Alexei tried to move the injured look off the kid's face.

"...And there's always chess," he said, letting his lip curl impercetibly. His eyes were teasing, though winkless.
Leshovikleshovik on July 20th, 2007 10:35 pm (UTC)
Leshovik threw up his hands, frustrated. "It's not that easy, Lynx. You and I both know that they're going to increase security on base, send out more patrols, post guards on every roof, whatever they have to do to catch us. A second attempt it going to be ten times harder."

"Not if they don't know that we know he's still alive," Aryol said quietly. "They'll think we're long gone."

Leshovik rolled his eyes. "Christ. When you have fifty-tw...fifty-three kills, you can start to tell me something about sniping. But until then, shut the fuck up."

He was aware that Lynx was standing right there, and looking at him with that still, preternatural predator's gaze, as if waiting for Leshovik to give him a reason. Leshovik wasn't fucking intimidated by guys like Lynx, who acted like they were better than everyone. Always telling people what to do.

"Whatever," he said, finally, shaking his head. He adjusted the heft of his rifle and turned away. "I'm going to bed."

Leshovik stalked over to the bivouac and ducked inside, still stewing.
snow_deathsnow_death on July 20th, 2007 10:50 pm (UTC)
Alexei frowned slowly, running his handbackover his hair after a moment.

He turned to the spotter, avoiding his eyes.

"Good job," he said, quietly. "You did the right thing. It couldn't have stood. He'd have figured it out sooner or later and made it your fault anyway."

He sighed.

Maybe Leshovik was right. Maybe going to bed was the best idea.
Aryoleyes_adrift on July 21st, 2007 04:53 am (UTC)
Aryol nodded, once.

He knew that, but it didn't change a thing.

Absently, he tugged off his shooting gloves and stuck them in his back pocket.

He didn't make a move to follow Leshovik back to their bivouac, but stared at it for a moment before slanting his gaze back to Lynx.

"How about a game of chess?" Aryol asked, with a slight smile.

It seemed like it would do both of them some good, no matter who won. There was something pensive about Lynx's manner, his gaze avoidant.

Lynx didn't seem to be mad about the decoy, but at the same time, Aryol thought he could see an undercurrent of tension in the set of Lynx's shoulders, something restless and caged, but subtle.

Aryol liked that about him, that subtlety. It made the rare times when he spoke bluntly all the more amusing, like that was part of the joke too.
snow_deathsnow_death on July 21st, 2007 05:19 am (UTC)
Alexei looked at him for a moment.

"Why don't you just come into my tent," he said, quietly.

He was a handsome guy, if young. Lynx liked his eyes. They were warm and alive. He was drawn to things that pulsed and thrived, things that radiated life.

"...until this blows over."

They could play chess tomorrow.
Aryoleyes_adrift on July 21st, 2007 05:48 am (UTC)
"Sounds good," Aryol said, nodding.

Aryol knew he didn't want to be around Leshovik right now, anyway. He knew how it would go. Leshovik would be mad for a while but then finally decide he wanted a screw more than he wanted to stay angry, and then it would be like nothing had happened.

Until the next time Aryol did something to piss him off.

It was getting a little old.

He tried to shrug off his own pensiveness with a twitch of his shoulders, as if shedding water.

Aryol glanced at Lynx.

"You're a nice guy," he said as they walked to his tent.