Another one of the main characters has seen enough war and death in his short life, but he realizes that his gift of precise accuracy could end wars before they started. Staying within the military, he has tried to find a new way to avoid combat but a Captain-rank wolf is still subject to the orders of his superiors.
Trees and foliage covered thousands upon thousands of acres, stretching over rolling hills. It was autumn this time of the year, so the forest was decorated with radiant colors ranging from orange to blue, green to red. Some trees were only beginning to bloom, allowing their seeds to be taken by the wind across the land just before they slept for the cold winter.
In the peace, there was a sudden whizz and snap. On one of the hillsides, nearly hidden behind the leaves and flowers stood a wooden board no larger than a car windshield. A hole was smoking where the projectiles pierced through, within the inner circle of a painted target. The shot was almost a perfect bullseye, but a bullseye nonetheless.
Over three kilometers away, resting among the fallen leaves was a red wolf. With his fur pattern, he was nearly invisible against the leaves. The wolf had a long barrel sniper rifle against his shoulder while he continued to gaze down the scope. The shot was off.
"Excellent shot!" exclaimed a tigress. She lay to the left of the wolf, gazing through high-power binoculars. "No one has made that kind of shot without the program. It must be a record."
The wolf remained silent but raised his head to look at the real distance. It was not possible to see the wooden board with the naked eye at this range.
"The record is 4.28 kilometers for a planetary shot," informed the wolf's spotter who lied on the ground to his right. "Calm climate."
"Maybe we should move farther back," the tigress suggested. She grabbed the sniper rifle from the wolf. "We're only at 3.18 kilometers. Anyway, I'll install the program."
The scientist tigress mingled with the scope on the gun while the wolf rolled onto his back and stared up through the leaves.
"That was an impressive shot though," commented his spotter. The rabbit has been his spotter for nearly three years now. They both have made quite the formidable team. The best alive, they're told
"Okay Captain Redding," said the scientist. She returned the sniper back to the wolf. "Have the crosshair directly on the bullseye of the target. Make no adjustments whatsoever."
Giving a curt nod, Redding accepted the gun and returned to his prone position. Glancing through the scope, he searched the opposite hillside for the target again. It took him a few seconds of searching through the endless leaves before his eyes caught a glance of his target. He twitched his tail, signaling he's ready.
"I'm going to activate the program, so you might lose track of the target," the tigress informed. "Remember to aim for target number two."
Suddenly the target was lost again in the trees as the screen on the scope changed. Searching for the target again, Captain Redding found it to be more difficult this time. Nearly a minute went by before his tail twitched
"Take the shot whenever you're ready."
The crosshair was moving slowly in random directions. The captain took deep breaths, and exhaled slowly. His heart rate slowed and his senses were concentrated on the wind blowing through his fur, and the earth moving underneath him. The crosshair reduced its movement but didn't hold completely steady as it normally would have. The gun was perfectly steady.
With the scope aimed at the second target, completely zoomed in, Captain Redding waited until the crosshair was firmly in the center. The wind swept over the land and died many times as three minutes went by. Four. Six minutes. Coming up to the eighth minute, the cursor hovered directly on the target center for a fraction of a second. Captain Redding pulled the trigger.
Nearly four seconds went by before the wood was penetrated, almost seven centimeters away from the center. Captain Redding sighed.
"It's alright Calvin," encouraged his spotter but he didn't need to be told that. His aim was perfect.
"I estimate a 7.25 centimeter distance from the center," said the tigress. She sighed and pulled out her PawPad. "The program still isn't calibrated correctly. But we're making progress. What was the wind speed at the target, Gale?"
"Approximately 2.1 kilometers an hour at the time of the shot," replied the spotter. He checked through his own scope again. "One point nine at the time of impact. Current wind speed is four point two."
The tigress began to mutter words while her eyes scanned the data recorded by the scope on the sniper.
Pushing the rifle aside, the wolf folded his arms, rested his head and closed his eyes. His ears listened to the wind, doing their best to ignore the tigress's calculations. He always enjoyed the outdoors, it was a shame that the only time he'd be out here was to shoot weapons. Working on these military programs was always a bore.
"I checked most of the calculations so far," said the tigress without her eyes leaving the screen. "Are you sure aimed correctly?"
Captain Redding's ear twitched and his eyes opened in an annoyed glare.
"Sorry Calvin," she immediately said. "I apologize. I just can't find where the program miscalculated. What's the exact time it took the projectile to impact?"
His eyes closed again while he waited for Wilma to finish her calculations.
"Three point three one eight plus or minus point zero zero four," answered the cougar. The spotter was gazing through his scope still. "Does the program say something different, Wilma?"
"The same," replied the scientist, still running several calculations through her head. "Okay," said Wilma after nearly eight minutes of waiting. "I can't find it. Can you take a shot on the next target?"
Being distracted from his relaxed state, Calvin nodded. He got back into position and pulled the sniper close against his shoulder again. Personally, Calvin didn't like the program that would adjust his aim for him. It may improve a rookie's aim but being a sniper is much more than simple aiming.
Over the course of another two hours, four more shots penetrated the wooden board. The last shot was the closest but still not a bullseye like Calvin's first shot that didn't have the program aiming his shot.
After the final shot, Wilma downloaded the information to her personal computer and the team started to pack up their things. Calvin and Gale followed the tigress to their vehicle, which was more than a kilometer hike. While Gale drove the multi-terrain vehicle back to base Wilma complimented and thanked them both, mostly Captain Calvin Redding numerous times.
Twilight was nearly upon them when the compound came into view. The simple walls that contained the complex did little to hide the large buildings or the aircraft currently settled on the base. It looked like one was positioned to take off soon.
Within an hour of leaving the field, the vehicle stopped at the front gate.
"Captain Redding," announced the guard. "You're expected. Please head directly to the north hangar."
"What do you mean?" snapped Wilma. "We have important work to do."
"Following orders ma'am," replied the guard. "I am told to insist that the Captain make haste."
The gate opened and the guard gestured toward the north hangar. Gale had no choice but to accelerate in that direction. Not bothering to go to the main complexes underground, the cougar continued to drive on the surface. Parking near the runway, the three of them stepped out of the vehicle and went through the hangar entrance.
Wilma was complaining while they descended the stairs into the ground. She was annoyed about the delay of her research. She wanted to do nothing else but find out why her program has inaccurate aim.
Heading through several doors, Calvin and the other two were walking atop a high catwalk that ran along the walls of the hangar.
"Captain Redding I presume," echoed a voice across the hangar. Also on the catwalk, stood an officer, who has obviously been waiting for them for a while. Calvin's attention was drawn to the slender black panther behind the officer. The panther didn't move from leaning against the railing and arms folded but she stared right back at Calvin.
"You would presume correct," answered Gale, stepping in front of Calvin. "And you are?"
"Vice Admiral Linden," answered the officer. For a mouse, he was intimidating. "You must be Sergeant Gale Bracken, spotter for Captain Calvin Redding. Captain, you and your spotter are to report to our shuttle Stork Labor immediately."
"Whoa!" exclaimed Wilma frantically. "And where are you taking them? They've only been here for three weeks. My contract doesn't end for another four months. We have important work to do."
"You're sniper is being replaced," answered the vice admiral. "The paperwork is already done and the replacement will arrive in three hours, forty-one minutes. Please refer to form TF024-002-7291 for more information."
"Under what authority do you have the right to take my team from me?" demanded Wilma, stepping furiously closer to the mouse. They both were beginning to become agitated.
The black panther revealed no expression.
"Dr. Wilma Quincy," said the vice admiral. "This is for you." He pulled out a folded piece of paper and held it out for the tigress.
All agitation melted away, replaced by shock from the scientist. Nothing was written on paper anymore unless it was of extreme importance. She accepted the document, opened it and read it. "Yes sir." The scientist seemed more depressed now but she walked off without another word.
"Your things are already packed and ready to go," said the Vice Admiral once Wilma left. "Do you have any other obligations to fulfill before we leave?"
Finally Captain Redding looked at the vice admiral directly in the eye and shook his head slightly.
"No we don't," Gale answered. Now the four of them seemed to be more standoffish than when Wilma was with them. "Where are we going?"
"Classified 0714-1990," replied the mouse. "My apologies Captain but why do you have your spotter to speak for you?"
"Captain Redding cannot speak," answered Gale again, his eyes forming into a glare. "He's mute."
Vice Admiral Linden's eyes widened and he glanced back at the black panther only to receive another glare. He sighed. "My apologies Captain. But we need to get going."
Linden walked between the two snipers and headed for the exit. Gale glanced at the panther before he followed, but Redding was more reluctant to take his eyes off of her. She finally stood upright and unfolded her arms, then nodded toward the exit behind Redding. The wolf finally agreed, turned and followed Gale through the door.
The panther made no noise and not even her breathing but Clavin knew she was following. Exiting the hangar and returning to the surface, the twilight air hung over the base. Wilma was no where to be seen, only the ship Stork Labor, the same ship they saw coming in. It's engines came alive, producing freezing exhaust that froze the condensation that hung in the air.
Vice Admiral Linden stepped on board, followed by Gale. Stopping at the ramp, Calvin looked back over the base and land. The panther walked by him and boarded the ship, but Calvin took time to remember all of his other assignments. He assassinated the leaders of the pirate organizations, shot pilots from their ships, helped turn the tide numerous battles and dueled with one of the most deadly snipers known. None of them were as peaceful as this assignment. He regretted now that he would have to leave it after being here for only a short time.
Stepping on board, the hatch shut behind him. Only Gale was in the passenger compartment. The wolf could see the Vice Admiral sitting in the cockpit but the panther seemed to have disappeared
Seated near the window, Redding watched the ground drop below them. As the ship ascended, the base seemed to have disappeared. The only thing on the surface is the runway. The only thing visible was the runway but they were soon too high to see it. The turbulence slowed, and the sky around them grew darker. The lush forest continents was all Redding could see when look back now.
"Make yourselves comfortable," suggested Vice Admiral Linden. "We'll be stopping at a checkpoint in about an hour. You two might want to take a nap before we get there."
Captain Calvin Redding had no idea where he was going. For all he knew, they were about to drop him on a pirate world with nothing but a picture and gun. Whatever the case, the wolf knew he needed to get some sleep now or he'd miss his only chance.