I took deep breaths, trying to calm my racing heart.
You can do it. You have to do it.
One more breath, two, three…
It was early morning, but I still glanced around to make sure the street was empty. Not that many people lived in the area either way. I was surprised when I was informed I had to wait on that spot. In any case, the roof of an abandoned two-story building was the perfect hiding place.
The air was calm and cool, oblivious to my inner turmoil. I was glad no one would ever notice this moment of weakness. I wasn’t afraid of a technical failure, but of an emotional one. Failing though was something I never allowed to myself.
A man appeared in the corner of the street, starting me out of my thoughts. I studied him carefully. Around forty, tall and thin with a receding brown hairline. The description fitted. For the last hour, I had half wished he wouldn’t appear, almost hoped he would choose another street or time. But that was not my lucky day and definitely not his.
He looked around him once or twice, but other than that, he was probably certain no one was watching him.
No one but me. I tried to swallow my panic and resisted the urge to close my eyes.
Just do it already.
One more breath. And I pulled the trigger of my rifle.
Less than a second later, the man was lying motionless on the pavement.
I remained numb, squatted down behind the ledge of the roof, staring down at the body on the pavement. I blinked myself out of my stupor. Still holding my rifle, I ran down the stairs of the building, double checking if anyone would appear and see me. I stopped before the man’s body and watched him, engrossed with the scene in front of me.
So this was what killing looked like. All the preparations, all the years of mental and physical training paled in comparison to this moment of reality. One moment the target walks, the next they don’t. Simple, fast, irreversible.
I was still dazed, but part of me was relieved. One less enemy for my people, one step closer to freedom for my city. I shouldn’t spend a second of grief for a dead criminal.
I turned my back to the corpse and walked away without looking back.
“Yes, sir”, I replied immediately facing trainer Jett Reman. We were in one of the large training rooms of the Military Academy of Philia. Trainer Reman, one of our Academy instructors, was assigned to my eight-membered team.
“Report your target.”
“Mission complete, sir. Aldin Creys, enemy of our city, is dead.” Above our head, a plasma screen showed the face of the man who used to be alive some hours ago. I stared at the image for only a moment, before averting my eyes.
Trainer Reman gave me a short nod. “I expected nothing less from you, Miles.”
All of us had applied for joining the Crime Prevention Sector. Students enrolled in the Military Academy at the age of 12 had to undergo six years of hard training. Those in particular who wished to follow the Crime Prevention Sector had to achieve top scores in the last three years. Various fighting skills, physical power and stamina exercises, co-operation and strategy abilities were but a few of the challenges students wished they knew they would face before they had signed their application form. Hundreds of kids entered the Academy every year, but few graduated and even fewer were qualified for our sector.
Now it was almost the end of our Academy years. After endless tests and minor missions, each one of us was assigned a classified mission to exterminate a wanted criminal or an outlaw on the run. It was a ritual for everyone who wanted to be an elite sniper.
Trainer Reman moved on to the black girl standing next to me.
“Yes, sir” came my best friend’s reply.
“Report your target.”
“Mission complete, sir. Jared Nedov, traitor of our leader and enemy of our city, is dead.” Her tone was stronger than mine, her smile glowed with immense pride over her success.
The screen showed a young man with blond hair and a confident smile. I vaguely wondered what his exact betrayal was.
“Well done, Myne Junior. Tell this to Myne Senior next time he says the engineers are cooler than snipers.” Trainer Reman must have been in a rare good mood for jests.
Nyah gave back an easy smile, never getting tired of such twin jokes. Chason was her twin brother, older by 10 minutes and one of the best students of the Engineering Sector. The Myne twins were the soul of our class with their constant fights over who was better in their chosen field.
One after another, we all reported our first missions. I had been waiting for this day so long. Simple tasks like witnessing trials of law breakers, training the new military students and capturing petty thieves were not enough for me. I was longing to help my city stand again on its feet by reducing the criminality rates. If this meant killing outlaws and criminals, I would do it without second thoughts.
Hearing the reports, I was proud of my team. We had all been prepared hard for this day. Such extreme operations didn’t happen very often, but when they did, only the best soldiers were chosen to handle them. We were exhilarated when we first heard our time for our first real mission had arrived. Or at least, this is the emotion we had showed to each other. If we all felt the same fear and hesitation that one second before pulling the trigger, we would never admit it. We had battled against our own selves, but our faith in a safe city had still won.