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Targets of Opportunity: Chapter One

       Last updated: Friday, March 4, 2005 23:27 EST



    Sergeant First Class Kyle Monroe was doing the one thing everyone in the US Army had to do: paperwork. Napoleon had said that an army moved on its stomach, but the 21st Century US Army moved on piles of paper and computer files, liberally lubricated with red tape.

    Kyle was an instructor at the US Army Sniper School. At the moment, no class was in session. That didn’t stop the paperwork. Nothing stopped the paperwork. It was an enemy more pervasive, insidious and overwhelming than the Nazis, the Communists, Muslim terrorists and the IRS combined. At least, that was Kyle’s opinion.

    His phone rang, and he was glad for the distraction. “US Army Sniper School, Sergeant First Class Monroe, this is not a secure line, how may I help you, Sir or Ma’am?” The official phrase rolled off his tongue without conscious thought. Because to think about a line that long just to say “Hello” was ridiculous.

    “Sergeant Monroe, I’m wondering if we might discuss another assignment?” said the gravelly, powerful voice at the other end. Kyle recognized it at once. General Robash.

    “I suppose we might, sir,” he said, stalling for a moment to think. The last “assignment” had been a temporary one, a month of sheer hell in the highlands of Pakistan. The end result, however, had been a dead al Qaeda leader, a Bronze Star with Combat V, a Purple Heart and a sharp reduction in terrorist activity in Europe.

    And, Kyle recalled, a very pretty young local woman who’d hired on as their translator, gruesomely dead from a burst of machinegun fire. That, added to the death of his spotter in Bosnia before that was a heavy burden on his soul.

    The general interrupted his musing with, “Good, let me give you the basics. We can talk more if you say ‘yes.’”

    “Go ahead, sir,” he prompted.

    “Romania. We’ve got someone staging through there with explosives for Europe, and it’s causing sheer hell for the NATO forces in Yugoslavia, er, Bosnia-Herzegovina, or Macedonia…all over that Government of the Month Club, whatever the hell they’re calling it now.” Robash was joking slightly, Kyle could tell from his tone. The general was well familiar with that area and its geography and politics. He had a PhD in International Relations, after all.

    “What’s the game plan, sir?” he asked.

    “Similar to last time. You and Wade—” that would be Staff Sergeant Wade Curtis, his spotter for the last mission—“with whatever gear you deem necessary. We’ll insert you quietly, the CIA will furnish you with intel as to these assholes’ whereabouts, and you eliminate the problem with a well place bullet or two. Or fifty. Whatever it takes, as long as civilian casualties are minimized.”

    Kyle thought for a moment. Romania was far better than the wastelands of the Afghan/Pakistan border, he thought. Europe had plenty of water, food he would be partially familiar with, phones and, language trouble aside, the alphabets would have to be easier to work with than the Arabic when translating.

    Still… “I’d like to consider it, sir. Can I let you know tomorrow?”

    “Sure. I’ll have an outline emailed to you. Will be coming through secure in about thirty minutes.”

    “Yes, sir. I’ll be back with you ASAP.”

    “Rangers Lead the Way, Kyle.” It was a friendly greeting and farewell from one Ranger to another.

    “Roger that, sir,” he said, and hung up.



    Kyle finished his day’s paperwork and drove home automatically. He didn’t even notice the trip until he found himself opening his apartment door. Another assignment as what was effectively an assassin. He had no moral qualms about shooting terrorists, but he didn’t want to encourage the idea that he was a hired gun. Hollywood glamour aside, there were too many agencies with too many agendas for that to be a safe job. Sooner or later the odds would catch up with him.

    He unlaced his boots and grabbed a Sprite from the fridge without taking off his shirt. At one time he’d been a light drinker. Then he’d lost his spotter and become a heavy drinker. Then he’d been a very light drinker after returning from Pakistan. Gradually, he’d just stopped altogether. Heavy drinking made him morose and depressed, light drinking didn’t do much of anything, and there was no point in wasting money for the flavor of cheap beer, and expensive beer was not something he’d ever learned to appreciate. So he stuck to soft drinks.

    He sprawled back in his recliner. It and a good used loveseat that didn’t match were the only casual furniture in the room. He had a small desk and computer against the wall, with an office chair. If he ever invited more than three people over he’d need to get some cheap plastic seats.

    The TV was in front of him, but he left it off. Right now he needed to think, and TV and thinking just didn’t go together.

    Instead, he stared above it. On a cherrywood rack he’d built in the post hobby shop hung a WWI British Lee-Enfield rifle. It was uglier than hell, but had meaning for him.

    The rifle had floated around for seventy years God knew where, then had been bought and refurbished by the US Government for the Afghan Mujahideen during the early 1980s, with a shortened forestock and hard parkerized finish. After that, it had found its way into Pakistan, where Kyle had bought it in a hole in the wall shop for local use. It was less blatant and bulky than the massive M-107 .50 caliber rifle he had taken, and better suited to the environment. At Kyle’s direction, a local smith had lengthened the butt and built it up for precision shooting. The wood didn’t match, the finish was spotty, but it was an amazingly accurate rifle for something so old and abused.

    Battleworn, ugly and deadly. It matched Kyle’s soul. Perhaps it was time to take it shooting again? Feel the kick, hear the roar, watch the bemused and bothered expressions at the old piece of crap the sergeant was shooting.


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