A brief prologue to a story I wrote rather a while back. It is rather unfinished and a bit sketchy, but I figured I'd post some prose too, mix things up a bit :-) I'll probably return to this later. Feel free to collaborate; I'd be cool to see how other people lead it on too.
'Sir! Sir! Come quick! We've got one running.'
'Damn! Hold your bloody station, Marcus, I'm coming.'
'I can shoot her now, sir! She's within my scope – '
'I said hold, Marcus, hold.'
'But sir – '
'Marcus,' snapped the commander. 'Anyone would have thought you were a boy-scout rather than a new recruit to the Hunter-squadron. Didn't they teach you anything at training camp? We let them wait. Get the adrenaline pumping, let them think they've won. Get the spirit up a bit, lull them into a false sense of freedom – and then we shoot. Softly, softly –then, bang. It's the way the animal kingdom works, my boy. She is the prey, and we are the predators. There has to be a hunt before we can pounce.'
The young boy lowered his sniper rifle and paused.
'I… I don't remember hearing that anywhere in induction, sir.'
'Trust me, my lad. It sends a better message to the other ones scattered out there. Let them think that they can all get to the fence; it roots 'em out of hiding. Why, once, when I was a nipper, I left it so late that three of 'em started to scramble out of the woodwork – a whole three! – making a dash for it. Bang, bang, bang, all the blighters down, and then my commander said–'
' – She's near the fence, sir!'
'Hold it, Marcus, hold, we're almost ready now.'
The two figures took up their guns on the corner-tower's ledge. It was black as ink outside, and the only things clearly visible were the small white clouds of breath that seeped from their mouths in short, sharp puffs. The wind itself froze as they poised to shoot.
'Wait for my signal,' whispered the commander.
For many seconds, there was absolute stillness. Neither man dared to breathe as time ticked relentlessly on. Then, they heard it: the rustle of the wire mesh as the figure began to clamber up the fence.
Both men mechanically rotated towards the source of the sound. Even in the dark, they could clearly make out the small, sprightly figure. Lengthy spindly limbs began tugging at the wire screen, finding a foothold. On locating one, it began to hesitantly hurl itself up, to ascend, its arms stretching slowly, long and high, grabbing for freedom.
'Wait until she's near the top,' he whispered again. The boy slipped the latch onto his gun, until it clicked into place with a small but firm snap. 'On my signal, boy, wait for the signal…'
The young recruit looked into his scope, and carefully aimed for the left temple. The figure was getting faster now; it was getting clumsy, slipping a little in its greedy pull for freedom.
Hands one on top of the other, scrambling furiously for a taste of the other side, the figure was reaching the peak.
At last, it laid a trembling hand on the very top bar of the fence.
There was no sound, apart from the muffled 'click' as the boy pulled the trigger. For a few heartbeats, the figure stopped, suspended in its step, and froze, clinging tightly onto the fence. The boy momentarily thought he'd missed – after all, the silencer on the gun had ensured no sound could be heard, other than the faint 'zip' as the bullet sped from the barrel. Perhaps the he'd left the safety on. He pulled the gun from the ledge to check.
'No,' said the commander, pointing. 'No. Look, Marcus, look!'
They both strained to view the fate of what they'd shot. The figure on the fence seemed to shudder slightly, stiffen, and then, finally, slacken, as it fingers slowly unpeeled from the fence. Gracefully, it fell backward in an arc, before slumping, face upward, in a crumpled heap on the ground.
'Let's see what we've caught,' beamed the commander, fumbling around with the switches in front of him. 'Let me see – damn! I never know which one it is – ah, there. Here we go.'
The commander pressed a small button, with one, short stab of his stumpy finger, and a cream coloured spotlight, as harsh as the moon, swamped the entire park, tinting each tree a sickly yellow colour. Using a joystick on the panel, he swerved the light, this way and that, around the border of the fence, until he eventually fixed it onto the twitching mound below the wire mesh.
There she lay; the girl convulsing in the dirt. The two men watched, transfixed for a few seconds, as the spasms grew more and more violent, more and more and pronounced, then softer, softer, softer, until her body lay as still as an infant in a deep slumber. Upon closer inspection, they saw the brilliant scarlet begin to seep and mingle into her bright blonde hair from the entry wound. She was wearing the usual navy dungaree outfit hung loosely from her crumpled body – albeit, now caked in the colour of her own blood. Regulatory brown boots, standard faded green shirt, nothing out of the ordinary for an under-girl. But it was an escapee under-girl nonetheless – a solid achievement for a new recruit.
'Yes! That was a fine catch, Marcus! A fine catch, good job!' said the commander, thumping his hand on the boy's shoulder. 'Welcome to the Hunters, my lad.'
'Thank you, sir,' grinned the boy. He had finally completed his first kill.