2297: Imperfection

Posted: April 26, 2009 by Kelly in fortress, stories


To make that one shot, you have to be perfect.

The circumstances have to be perfect. You need to have exhaled, and in between breaths, the shot occurs.

You need to be perfectly still in your mind and in your body, balancing on a razor’s edge between perfection and a horrible miss. And that miss has consequences.

I am a sniper, and the best in this whole godforsaken building. While everyone around me is dying and using up their credits for regeneration, I still have all five of my credits left. My breath is shallow, my pulse is low.

I am lying in an air duct. For some reason nobody ever looks up when they enter a room. Did you ever notice that? Very stupid, of course. They check left, they check right, they creep into the room with their gun ready… and I simply shoot them in the head. Of course, this gives some problems with shoveling away the bodies, because when the bodies are piling up before the entrance, people are somehow reluctant to enter. I solved this quickly: after my first two kills, I just waited until they entered and walked out of direct sight of the hallway.

And *then* I took my shot. Works just as easily. And lucky me, one of the first to die sported a grenade, so at some point I just tossed the grenade at the bodies. When there’s a splattered mess that used to be people, nobody knows they’ve been snipered. And nobody will look for the sniper. Stupid, stupid. They *know* that I am here. They’ve seen me with the sniper rifle on my back, entering the fortress at my own interval. Everybody should know that I am here, waiting for them to walk into my trap. I’m at seven kills right now, no credits spent.

It is a bit of a risk though, to hide out so far from the nearest regen point. If someone would outsmart me and shoot me to hell, I wouldn’t probably reach the regen point in time. Unless I could wriggle myself deeper into the air duct, which is something I’ll only accomplish without my rifle and ten pounds less around my stomach and hips. It’s a two-sided coin, however. Because you see, my victims can’t reach their regeneration point either, and here I am holed up and out of clear sight, while they are leaving themselves wide open to my crosshairs. So far, so good. So perfect. I am perfectly still and quiet, while around me the battle rages. Sounds of gunfire and screaming reach me through the air duct and are carried through the long hallways with their many twists and turns. Glass shatters, and laughter occurs. I do not dwell on what might have happened there. I just want them all to spend their credits and leave me as the only survivor. There’s too much at stake. I have to be perfect. At least until the final showdown, I have to be.

There is one other sniper in the building. I know that, because I know him. He was the seventeenth to enter the building, while I was the fifth. A much better position if you want to hole yourself up in the trenches, waiting for people to walk by. Kyle is going to have a bloody hard time finding a place to hide himself with his rifle, since most of the people will be inside the building already. Perhaps somebody already shot his sorry ass to hell. Now there’s a happy thought… because even though I’m trying my hardest to be perfect, he IS perfect. Has always been perfect. He was called The Machine for a reason, with his eagle eye and his infallible shot.

While I scored 99% on my accuracy, he scored 100%. I’ve never heard of him missing his target in all those months that they’ve been training us.

They pay you a million for every person you kill. There’s a subtraction of a million for every credit you spent on regeneration. Twenty million extra if you win the game. Everybody knows that. I’m at seven million at the moment, and I’m probably one of the favorites. Soon, the first twelve hours will have passed, and they’ll announce the losers. The ones who died. Seven of those are littering the floor below my air duct, and it feels good.

The camera in my collar is watching me quietly and steadily. Through that camera, I’m beamed into millions of living rooms. People will be placing bets on my survival (or not), while I am lying in the airduct, the flows of air chilling my ankles and my feet. I’m used to being watched by camera’s by now. In the Training Camp, they even had camera’s installed in my fucking shower. Camera’s watched as I ate, took dumps, practiced my imperfect shots, and while I rolled in the hay with Kyle, because we understood each other. It is lonely to be watched all day. But that’s okay, because snipers are used to be lonely. And I’m perfect. I’m a sniper, I don’t need anybody else. Kyle was just… a distraction. I am certain that I meant the same to him. Just a pleasant distraction from days of training, perfecting skills, forming alliances and rejecting them again just as quickly with the other nineteen participants in The Game.

And all the time there were cameras were watching us. Living rooms were assessing us. Perhaps rejecting us. Because not everyone is perfect.

Suddenly, the loudspeaker blares next to me. I was expecting it, but it shocks me out of my perfect concentration nonetheless. The man speaking is Stender, the presenter of The Game. “Hello Kyle and Dana, you are the last ones left.” Stender tells us, his loudspeaker-enhanced pleasant voice trembling with a chuckle. “I suggest you seek each other out and resolve your issues before midnight. I think I speak for all of our viewers if I wish you a good battle. Kyle, you especially. I have some bets going on with the producer that you’re going to be our victor.”

I’m not going to leave this spot. Stender can shove it where the sun don’t shine. I have to be perfect, and this is the perfect spot. Kyle can come to me, I’m not even thinking about leaving this place. HELL no.

“Oh, before I forget,” Stender added cheerily, “this is the first time we end up with two snipers at the end. You are highly encouraged to leave your current location in the next twenty minutes, otherwise we’ll reveal your whereabouts to each other.”

Shit. Stender laughs. “Oh, I’m receiving some distress signals from your lifesigns, Dana. Are you afraid that Kyle’s going to kick your ass?”

I glance at my camera sideways and take the time to show Stender the finger. “I’ll be perfect,” I promise the presenter and the viewers at home. Sliding out of my secure hiding place, I cast a last glance at the spot that served me so well in the past twelve hours. My bladder is full to bursting, but I had not dared to pee in the air duct, afraid it would be dripping out somewhere that would give me away. So I quickly unzip my pants and do my thing, uncaring about the viewers at home. Kyle should still be a while away and I need to do this. In my perfect concentration I hardly felt it, but my bladder was as hard as a tennis ball, and about to burst anyway. And now to relocate somewhere. Preferrably as far away as possible. If Kyle comes here and smells the urine, he’ll know that I was here. Still, I have to be cautious. He’s relocating as well, and he could be anywhere. Maybe even as close as in the next room.

I put my sniper rifle on my back (at close range it’s almost useless) and grab my handgun instead. We’ve all been issued one standard gun, given to us by the program makers, and we were all allowed to bring our own weapon of choice with us. For me, it had been my sniper rifle, of course. Sometimes I feel as if I was born with a rifle in my hand. The handgun feels unfamiliar in my hand, but I hardly care. As long as my aim is perfect, it doesn’t matter what I am shooting with. The damn thing should be balanced enough, at least. I tried it yesterday evening and it seemed stable and not as wobbly as I had feared at first. It should be able to do the trick, if I can surprise Kyle. For one moment, I consider staying here behind the door, but I’m not sure whether this is against the rules that Stender imposed on us. Technically, I’ve left the air duct, but I’m still in the same room. But then again, this room smells of piss, so waiting for Kyle to show up here is going to be not very pleasant.

So I leave the room. I work methodically through the hallway, putting to use all those lessons and drills we followed in during the three months of training. Of course I have my strategy all laid out for me. Three months is a long time to consider all possible strategies, so I’ve thought this over many times and hammered out a plan that mostly considered if ‘if…then’ situations. My second option, if the air duct would become unworkable, was the roof. And since it would make sense for a sniper to look up high places, I kind of expect Kyle to do the same. It would make sense, wouldn’t it? The fortress is dead quiet and smells of dried blood and feces, of all things.

I try to ignore the stench coming from some of the rooms and slip into the stair house. Dead quiet. Kyle can’t be here. I would have heard him. Unfortunately, it’s nigh impossible to walk quietly so I hope he’ll use another stair house to get upstairs. If he enters after I’ve started to ascend the stairs, I’m dead meat. The metal in my shoes will resonate on the metal stairs. Of course. That’s the way they designed these damn things. Thankfully, I’m already on the seventh floor, and I need only three more stories to get to the roof. Still, I have to be cautious. I creep upwards, making my way slowly to the roof. The roof, I know, is flat, black and only has a small square sticking up out of it. And that’s the entrance from the stair house. The roof doesn’t have a place to hide, unless you climb on top of the stair house and wait for your target to come out of the stair house and shoot him from above. However, even that will make for a problem, because there are multiple doors to the roof. Three of them, to be precise.

And what if Kyle’s already sitting on top of one of them? Or hiding behind the low walls, waiting to shoot me to hell and collect all of the prize money? It’s very much possible that it’ll come to that, and the idea of that crumbles my perfect concentration.

The possibilities are racing through my mind and even though I try to keep my calm, to center myself and to cling onto my concentration, I can’t. Aside from that, the echoing metallic sound of my footsteps is driving me up the walls. I need to be calm. I need to be collected. I need to be perfect, dammit!

There is the door. It’s made of glass and is opened by pulling a bar downwards.
Here’s my moment of truth.

If Kyle is anywhere on the roof already, he’ll shoot me because I’ll be wide open upon entering. But if I dally too long, if I stall, then he’ll be able to enter the roof sooner, and then my chances on a clean victory will be ruined. Only one thing to do. I fling the door open wildly. The next moment, the glass door shatters and shards are exploding in the air before me. Oh, Kyle is *definitely* residing on the roof. I try to control my racing heart, but it’s pounding in my throat anyway. Funny how you think you are prepared and in perfect concentration, and then you aren’t. Perhaps I’m not as perfect as I always like to think I am. Stender is rooting for Kyle. Who else is? Millions of livingrooms?

Statistics show that females actually win Fortress games only a fraction more often than males do. It all depends on perfection. And that’s something I have not attained yet, while it seems he has.

“Damn you, Kyle,” I whisper hoarsely. I have to enter the roof to end this. We still have until midnight, but I’m not going to feel any better by then.

Now that I’ve let the nerves enter my system, I can’t calm myself anymore. Imperfections have sneaked into my system, and I can’t be perfect anymore. I need to end it. I need to end it badly, and quickly. All I can do is cover my ass while I walk out.

And so I do. In a whirlwind of bullets, I speed out, quickly rounding the corner of the stair house and pressing myself tightly against the wall.

“Hi there, gorgeous,” Kyle tells me amiably, his face blurry as I focus upon the crosshairs. A moment of heat ends it.

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