Love at First Snipe

With a long slender barreled weapon strapped to her back Sam slunk through the underbrush. A lioness on the hunt she paused long enough to make sure that her prey was still unaware of her approach. Satisfied that she was undetected she crept closer.

Once at the top of the gently sloping grassy ridge Sam retrieved her weapon. She tried to find a shot, but the angle was too low from her current position. Glancing up at a near by tree she calculated the risk of being spotted climbing it verses the rewards of a clearer line of sight.

Slinging the weapon back over her shoulder she gracefully made her way up into the large limbed tree. She paused again, making sure that everything was still going well before settling into a position that would allow her the best chance at a steady aim.

Stretched out in the tree branches like a leopard waiting for sunset she raised the weapon's crosshair's to her aqua colored eye. She was only going to get one shot, and it had better be perfect. Once she had a bead on her mark she waited until the breeze settled down and stopped swaying the branch she was perched on.

When the moment came she pulled the trigger once without hesitation. The beauty of the single shot was instantly apparent. The rush of adrenaline from a job well done coursed through her blood causing her heart to pound.

"Yes!" Sam hissed in triumph.

"Samantha Michelle Carter!"

Sam cringed at the sound of her full name ringing out in a deep commanding tone. She'd been caught after all. Lowering herself down from the tree she sheepishly faced her captor.

Jacob Carter looked down on his young daughter with dark glowering exspression. He held out his hand in a silent demand. Not daring to look him directly in the eyes she handed over her brother's BB gun that she had 'borrowed'.

Taking the low powered weapon away he looked it over and then looked down over the ridge they were standing on. Two pre-teen boys were rolling on the soft ground, locked in combat. One of them loudly accusing the other of having thrown a rock at his backside the other violently denying it.

Furrowing his brow Jacob looked up into the tree that she had used to her advantage. He guessed the ranged to be nearing a hundred yards, and as much as he hated to admit it, it had been a great shot considering the air powered gun she'd used.

"Come with me, Young Lady."

'Oh, God... 'Young Lady'.' Sam thought to herself. 'I am in serious trouble now.'

Swallowing hard Sam hung her head, her long hair falling over her face and followed her father back towards the house, knowing that there was no escaping her fate. He had never struck her, his methods of punishment were far worse:

He lectured.

Sometimes Sam truly believed that she'd rather be beaten senseless than have some 'sense talked into her'. From the severity of her most recent crime she had the feeling that this was going to be a very long afternoon. When they got back to the house her father turned around.

"Go wait by the car."

"Wha...what?" Sam asked in surprise.

"Go."

Fearing further reprimand Sam circled around the outside of the house and stood patiently by the car. About ten minutes later her father stepped out of the house, carrying a large heavy briefcase. Wordlessly he got in the car and she did the same. After fifteen minutes of driving he still hadn't said anything. Sam was starting to find his silence more unsettling than his usual tirades.

'This is it.' Sam thought morosely. 'I've finally gone too far, we're going to the Post Office and he's going to have me shipped to the Middle East.'

They did not go to the Post Office. Instead they pulled up to the Air Force Base that her father worked at. At this point Sam was actually starting to sweat. He almost never brought her here and she was beginning to wonder if she'd ever make it out or if she'd spend the rest of her life cleaning the Base's floors with a toothbrush.

Once parked he got out of the car and Sam assumed she was to follow. At the front door an Airman stood guard. Carrying the briefcase Jacob flashed his credentials at the man.

"Good Morning, Colonel Carter." The Airman greeted.

Her fathers only response was a curt nod of recognition. Sam looked up at the Airman. Her silently plea of 'don't let him leave me here' was very clear and caused the guard to smile. The Airman shrugged his shoulders helplessly. Sam sighed and continue to follow her father through the maze of slate grey hallways.

They stepped into a spare room that had little more than a shelf in it, with another door off to the right. The shelf was too high for Sam to see what it held, but she soon found out. Jacob reached out and pulled a pair of clear safety glasses and a pair of ear protectors down. He handed her one of each and she just held them with a confused look on her face.

"Well put them on." Jacob instructed as he did so himself.

Still wary Sam slipped on the oversized glasses and ear mufflers. He father looked down at her and then something odd happened. He actually smiled. A bright smile that Sam could swear held a hint of pride.

Taking his access card he swiped at the auto lock by the other door. The light on the lock turned green and he opened the door. Standing to one side he held the door open for her. Sam looked him over suspiciously for a moment and then stepped through. The room beyond the door caused her to catch her breath.

It was a firing range.

Sam didn't want to look too excited, but her father easily caught the bright glitter her eyes and he chuckled. This time of day they had the range to themselves so Jacob led his daughter down to one of the middle stalls.

She wasn't quiet tall enough for the range, but they had portable steps for the shorter cadets. Standing up on the step she looked out at the ringed target that lay about a hundred feet away. Unlocking the brief case Jacob revealed an impressive collection of hand guns. He picked up the lightest weight one and held it up.

"This is a Smith and Weston Compact .357 Sig." Jacob explained. "There are a few rules that you need to know by heart: Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction, keep your hand off the trigger until you're ready to fire, and always assume it's loaded. This is the safety, when it's in this position the weapon can't be fired: always check your safety."

For the first time Sam listened to every single word of her father's 'lecture', absorbing every detail. He continued to explain the weapon, its parts, features, and capabilities for nearly an hour, but at no point did Sam's attention span wander away.

Eventually he handed the unloaded weapon over and allowed her to inspect it for herself. He asked her questions and she answered every one of them without hesitation. She proved that she could properly work the safety, and check the weapon for rounds.

"Would you like to try it?"

Sam didn't even have words to answer, she just nodded in nervous excitement. Jacob smiled and took the weapon from her. He loaded a single round into it and helped her aim at the paper target. Sam's stomach was knotted so tight she feared that she was going to be sick.

However she took a deep breath and fired the weapon. Her father had told her about the 'kick' on the weapon, but she was still taken somewhat by surprise. Her father laughed as she rubbed ruefully at her shoulder. She had just nicked the outside margin of the target. She handed the gun back to him after flicking the safety back on and he placed another round in it.

"Try it again, this time brace yourself more for the kick and hold your breath just before you fire."

Less nervous and more determined Sam aimed at the black and white bull's eye once more. She stopped and tucked her long hair behind her ear, suddenly annoyed by the way it hung in her eyes. Bracing her every muscle for the kick she held her breath and fired. The gun cracked and the target suddenly had a hole in it about an inch shy of the center. Once again the rare sound of her father laughing reached her ears, muffled by the ear protectors she wore.

"You're a natural." Jacob chuckled. "Better shot than half the men here."

Sam smiled and flushed.

"Keep practicing and you'll have them all beat before long." Jacob continued. "You just have to promise me one thing."

"Anything."

"Don't tell your mother."

Sam giggled. "When is she coming home?"

"Her plane lands tomorrow."

"Are we going to go pick her up?"

"I have some meetings tommorow, but I'm going to try. If not she can always take a cab..."

THE END

NOTE from the Phoenix: for anyone who doesn't know Sam's mother is killed in a taxi when her father fails to pick her up on time.