Summary: Spinister spends some time instructing Needlenose on the finer points of sharpshooting. 1 hour, 30 minutes. 700 words.


There was a thousand things Needlenose would rather be doing right now. Recharging. Getting drunk. Finding someone to get drunk with. Beating the last level of his newest game... frag, zoning out on monitor duty back at his old base. Anything but lying in a pile of dirty rubble shooting stupid stationary targets. It wasn't like he couldn't hit them, it was just that he apparently couldn't hit them good enough for his fragging team leader.

"Focus," came the sharp command behind him. Half-expecting it or not, he jumped, and his shot went wide, missing the target by over a meter.

"I was, until you distracted me," he complained before he could stop himself. Member of the squad or not, no good ever came from back-talking Mayhems.

"If you had been focusing, you wouldn't have been distracted," Spinister told him, merciless.

"That doesn't even make sense," Needlenose grumbled under his breath, but Spinister heard him anyway. Glaring at down at his rifle like it was the gun's fault, Needlenose didn't see Spinister move, didn't even hear the rubble crunch. One moment, he'd been standing behind him, several meters back and to the side, and the next, the helicopter was kneeling next to him.

"Acknowledge, catalog, dismiss," Spinister said, no inflection to his tone. "Aim, Needlenose."

Reluctantly, Needlenose turned his attention back to the target, bringing the rifle back to his shoulder.

"Focus on the target. Nothing matters except the target. Then fire."

And the assassin looming over your left wing, Needlenose thought. He pulled the trigger, a bright, hot streak of laserfire flashing out of the barrel -

- And barely clipping the painted kill zone on the target.

Frag it. Needlenose let his helm drop with a thunk against the scope of his rifle, knowing without checking that it wouldn't be good enough for Spinister.

No remonstrations came from the helicopter; instead, a weight settled against Needlenose's back, straddling his hips and resting against his wings. He froze in place, antenna quivering, unsure of what his commander was doing.

"Aim," Spinister said.

Hesitantly, Needlenose brought the rifle back up, hyper-aware of the nearly-silent hum of Spinister's engine against his back. Hands reached over his shoulder and gently adjusted the placement of the weapon and his grip.

"Focus on the target," Spinister murmured into his audio. "Not on me. Nothing matters except that target."

Optics on target. Little yellow circle, Needlenose. Don't think about Spinister, or that he's right on top of you, or what he's going to do next, or what you'd like him to do next... Needlenose stared hard at the target, trying hard to shut everything out.

The sonic boom of a trine of seekers passing overhead startled him and made him jump, wings shifting and clattering against Spinister. The helicopter hadn't even twitched as they'd passed. "Focus," Spinister said again.

"I'm trying," Needlenose grumbled, antenna pinning back.

"Making the target the most important thing on the field doesn't mean making it the only thing," Spinister told him calmly, tugging him back into firing position. "Bring your radar back up, keep the feed on, or you'll be just as surprised by the next flight of seekers."

"It's distracting," Needlenose complained, but obliged.

"You cannot shut out a battlefield, or you will die." Spinister was implacable. "Focus on the target. Do not shut out the field around you. Every sensor must remain on and scanning, but give them less priority than the target. Note the path of the seekers. Then dismiss them. There's a tank coming up the access road behind us, the transponder tags it an ally, so dismiss it. They should matter no more than the colors of the wires in one of your projects."

"Those do matter," Needlenose protested, frowning slightly, antenna cocking back at Spinister.

"And so do the seekers and the tank, but only if they deviate from the expected." Spinister pushed the antenna upright again with a finger. "The shade of your wires only registers if one isn't what you expect. This is the same thing. Now, focus on the target. Aim."

Needlenose blew exhaust against Spinister's legs, and lifted the rifle again.