We've got some new people coming by here, lately, so I think I'd better explain what today's post is all about - that is, where it comes from.
Down the right hand sidebar you'll notice some links. They point to previous excerpts of this story (the top set), and further down are links to a story called "The Kid", a predecessor and prologue to Sarah's story.
The genesis of all this is, perhaps, a story for another time - but if you ARE new here, the first seven segments of Sarah should be read before you read this one.
On the other hand - you don't hafta if you don't wanna.
From last time ...
"You're out of shape. You have no wind. You have no stamina. On order to be a truly effective sniper, you must be in top physical shape. You have to be strong and in total control of your body. I have designed a fitness course for you that you WILL follow and when I'm done with you, you will be the most dangerous woman on earth. Or at least the most dangerous one in the State of Nevada."
And now ...
"Fitness course, eh? Just what makes you think I'm not fit now?"
"Do you remember what I said about doing what I said without question? Apparently not. Since you're still a civilian, I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt. This one time and one time only I am going to SHOW you what I mean. Take this M1 Garand rifle and hold it straight out in front of you, shoulder high."
"This is heavy!!"
"Just hold it out there. Just like that, good girl. Now keep it out there. If you're in shape, you'll be able to keep it up for, oh, let's say 10 minutes. That seem right to you?"
"Sure, Jake. Whatever you say. How long can you hold this?"
"Last time I had to do that I stopped at eight hours. Because my Drill Sergeant fell asleep."
"Jake, this thing is heavy ... really heavy ... "
"It's a little over 13 pounds. Not quite as heavy as a bowling ball. Keep it up .. keep it up."
"I can't. Ouch, my shoulders hurt now."
"Yeah, that's usually what happens when you're out of shape. A minute and a half. Not bad for a broad. I figured you for about 30 seconds."
"Jake, I used to load up carts full of money and push and pull those carts all over the casino. It was hard and heavy work. I'm not as out of shape as you seem to think."
"Granted. I'll give you that, sister .... Sarah, but when I'm done with you you'll be able to hold that gun out there indefinitely. INDEFINITELY. Now let's get to work. First we'll learn the BSR. Open the case..."
By 8:30 or so, Sarah had learned how to field strip the BSR and assemble it in less than a minute. Her last run was 45 seconds.
"That's good, Sarah, that's real good. Now lay down on the floor and do it."
And Sarah got down on the floor and, after a few awkward and unsuccessful attempts at reassembly, Jake got down on the floor and showed her how.
"There. That's how you do it."
"You didn't tell me I could roll onto my back."
"I shouldn't have to. You have to be able to think your way through problems. You have to be creative. You have to think outside of the box. Nothing you're doing here is anything you've ever prepared for. Nothing you're going to be doing going forward is anything you've ever prepared for. Get used to it. Or you're gonna get dead in a hurry. Okay, let's put this shit up and get back upstairs. It's getting close to time to open the store."
Jake pulled the rug over the trap door in the floor. He kept thinking about Sarah. About how she was stronger than he thought. About how she learned to field strip the BSR so quickly. About how she held that M1 out for a minute and a half. 30 seconds longer than when he did it the first time, back when he was a raw recruit in boot camp. Back before the war. Just before Hitler marched into Poland in the Fall of 1939. He was 21 and broke. He saw a war coming and figured he'd go in now and be ready when the war came. He joined the Marines because he had heard the Marines were tough and he wanted tough. Jake Bertrett had never run from a fight, but if he was going to get into what was coming, he wanted tough people around him. Because that's just the way he went. Tough.
"You can't be in the store while it's open. I never know when those guys are gonna show up here and I can't take a chance on someone recognizing you or taking stories back to Sully. So you'll do your gun work downstairs until we start doing range work out back here, but in any instance, come 9 o'clock in the mornin', you're gone somewhere else. Clear?"
"We'll be doin' some night work out here, too, but that won't be for a while yet. Now. This next exercise is going to be the start of your physical training. You will be working on wind and stamina and recognizing hazards in your environment."
"Just how am I going to do that?"
"C'mon out back."
They went out the rear door of the store. There was a small range shack there with four firing positions and several targets visible in the distance.
"You see the cut in that ridgeline there?"
"There's a gully that comes all the way down the slope of that ridge to the basin floor. There's an old trail that runs parallel to the ridge and an old line shack on that trail just off to one side of the gully. There's a single bullet sitting on the table in that line shack. Bring it here. The shack is exactly eight miles from here. A two hour walk. I expect you back at 12:45. That's 15 minutes shy of 4 hours. Which means you're gonna hafta hustle. Oh. And watch out for the cactus, snakes and scorpions. There's a lot of stuff out there that can hurt you if you're not careful and not aware of where you're stepping. Here's a utility belt and a canteen. That canteen is the only water you're going to have - there isn't any between here and there. Ready?"
"I guess ... yes .. Yes, I am ready."
"Go. And don't dawdle."
He watched as Sarah headed out for the line shack. She looks good in those jeans. I kinda like the way that canteen bounces on her hip. Nice hip. Nice lookin' woman all over. But you better forget that, Jake. Just forget it. It ain't gonna do you no good to go droolin' over no split. You can't do nuthin' anyway.
As always ... Ndinombethe.