Mr. Dark 3

By: Lauren Landish

Chapter 1

Sophie

The target was blurry in my sights, so I took a deep breath and readjusted. Pulling my head away, I realigned myself along the stock of the rifle, looking for that spot Mark had taught me was called the 'cheek weld.' It's supposed to be a perfect alignment, where your eye is just far enough from your scope that you can see perfectly, and your cheekbone rests lightly on the stock, reducing your need for muscular tension. Reminding myself of how it felt, I laid my cheek back along the cool hard line of the rifle, and sighted.

My target was almost totally stationary, tiny even in the magnification of my scope. Letting out half my breath, I slid my finger inside the trigger guard, resting the tip of my finger on the smooth curve inside. I stopped then, waiting for that magic moment when the heart would calm and everything would fall into place. At first it rarely if ever came, but over the past month it had come much more often.

When everything clicked into place, I didn't even notice when my finger contracted the quarter inch needed. The rifle kicked in my hands, the scope going blurry as recoil jerked the rifle a bit. I quickly refound my target, but a second shot was unneeded. The bottle dangled at the end of its string, swinging back and forth with red colored water shooting out of a hole in the middle, like it was pissing blood or something.

"Good hit!" I put my rifle on safe and set it on the bench in front of me, turning to smile as Mark nodded. "That's five for five today. Great work."

I gave him a quick hug, then we went down the short fifty meters to the target. Mark had hung a half liter bottle that used to contain Pepsi from a frame, letting the bottle swing back and forth in the breeze and with a bit of assistance from him. At the base of the frame were another four similar bottles, each with holes in them. While it wasn't exactly United States Marine Corps Scout Sniper level, for a girl who'd only fired her first real gun three months prior, I thought I was doing a pretty good job. "Still, it's only fifty meters, and I'm shooting bottles."

Mark considered the hole in my bottle and nodded. "Yeah, but the fact is that this bottle, when you consider the scale and the distance, won't be that much different. At three hundred meters, a six foot man is the same as this bottle at fifty meters. Sure windage, elevation and things like that take a toll, but considering you're also shooting a tiny little .22 round right now, that'll be compensated too."

"And if I have to shoot longer than that?" I asked, untying the bottle and putting up a new one. We'd brought ten that day to use after I had fired another hundred rounds into stationary paper targets. My best so far in the exercise was five out of ten. I was hoping to get seven.

"Then we're in trouble," Mark replied with a grim smile. "Remember, we're going to be living in the city. If we have to start playing long range sniper with someone, either we're no longer in the city, or things have gone to hell. Either way, that's more of a time to run than a time to shoot."

"You forgot one other possibility," I said as we rigged the "wiggle string" that Mark used to make the bottle sway. He looked at me out of the corner of his eyes and squinted. I couldn't resist my smile any longer. "Zombie apocalypse. You can never forget the zombie apocalypse."

Mark rolled his eyes and turned, but I could hear the chuckle as I watched his back. Training with him had added a lot of depth to our relationship. Before, we were just like any other couple, friends and lovers. But by agreeing to train me in his skills in order to take on the crime that was crippling our city, we'd also become student and teacher. I had to say, Mark was an excellent instructor. He put up with my natural student irreverence very well, while at the same kept it focused and professional.

The education I went through was like nothing I'd ever done before. In addition to learning how to shoot, not just rifles but pistols, shotguns and even submachine guns, Mark had covered the basics of dirty fighting, knives, movement in and around an urban combat environment, surveillance, tracking, and a lot of others. We both knew that two months of training wasn't enough to even scratch the surface on some things, but I was making a lot of progress. The main things Mark focused on were firearms and movement. We'd spent hours running and moving through buildings, using the ideas of Parkour as a base movement. I was honestly in the best shape of my life and I felt incredible.

One of the things that had shocked me at first as Mark walked me through my lessons was the detailed knowledge he had of human anatomy. In some areas he even matched me after all the work I'd done to become a physician's assistant. Mark had explained it to me after I had asked one time. "We both studied, but two sides of the same coin. You studied how to repair the body. I studied how to break it."

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