A new hero arises in the Scouts Out universe! Orphaned at an early age, Frank Pierce enlists in the Confederation Army to escape the slums on the planet Alamo. His one goal in life becomes an effort to join the Long Range Scouts. A near impossible task, since they demand experienced soldiers in their ranks. Unless you are a superb shot with a sniper rifle, like Frank. Taking on the greatest challenge of his life, he works unceasingly at honing his physical abilities to a razor sharp edge while risking his life on perilous missions to other worlds. He is challenged both mentally and physically not only by his friends, but by an implacable enemy bent on ensuring he meets a violent death.
Targeted Age Group:: All audiences
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 3 – PG-13
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
One of the benefits I was given by joining the U.S. Army was a maturing of my character that was of immense value. It also helped provide me with a wider view of the world than what I could have achieved otherwise.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The different people I met while in the military provided me with great samples of different types of characters. A few were also derived from people I've met throughout the years and were memorable in one way or another.
“The weapon on the desk in front of you is called a Kochler 33 rifle,” intoned the Drill Sergeant standing in front of the platoon-sized class of recruits. He lifted the rifle and pointed at the barrel. “It fires a ten millimeter slug, and has an effective range out to four hundred meters…”
Frank almost vibrated in his chair with excitement. Finally, after four weeks in training they were going to be allowed to fire a weapon. This was something new for him. He’d never even touched a rifle, let alone any other firearm in his life. The slim manual they’d issued each of them last Friday had been read and re-read by him over the weekend, and now they were hours away from being able to fire the rifle. He’d even forgotten the embarrassment of having his head shaved the first day of basic. Never had it this short before.
“…Now that I have demonstrated how to break down and put this weapon together, each of you will do so with the one in front of you, on my command.” He paused, glancing around the room. “Begin.”
Before he could think, Frank had stripped the weapon into its four basic components: barrel, stock, trigger mechanism and bolt action. He watched the rest of his platoon fumble their way through disassembly of their rifle. It had definitely helped not only repeatedly reading the manual for the weapon, but watching the instructional film in the post library on his days off.
Two minutes later the drill sergeant nodded. “Not too bad, children. No one dropped any pieces of their weapon.” He shook his head, a frown building. “Too slow. Way to slow. Okay, let’s see if you’re any faster putting it together. Begin.”
Again it was only a matter of seconds before Frank was finished. His fingers trailed over the weapon, reveling in its feel. Right now it was configured with a peep sight. Later, according to the manual, they’d be using an electronic scope.
He stiffened when a voice spoke behind him. “You used this particular style of weapon before, trainee?”
“No, Drill Sergeant.”
There was a pause. “You used any kind of weapon before?”
Now it was his turn to hesitate. “Not–not a firearm, Drill Sergeant.” He heard footsteps move away and gave a deep sigh. Blend in, you idiot. Don’t get so excited. Might do something stupid. Then he’d probably have to run three kilometers after lights out, like three nights ago. God, he hated laps. Running had proven to be his weakest point in training so far.
Afternoon training was anticlimactic. Luckily the morning rain had lifted, and temperatures warmer than usual for early spring had arrived. An hour’s lecture on weapons and firing range safety followed by another hour doing dry firing to ensure everyone followed commands while in their position on the range was boring. But necessary. Two trainees had already earned themselves limitless pushups by not being careful where the barrel of their weapon was pointed, and causing an extended half-hour of dry firing to make sure no one else acted stupid. Finally, everyone was prepared.
“Ready on the firing line,” came the call from the tower behind the shooters. “Lock and load one five round magazine. Ensure your safety is in the off position. First target will be at fifty meters. Wait until it appears before firing.” Seconds later, a head-sized target rose up from the ground. “Engage your target-five rounds…Fire.”
Frank eyed the target through his peep sight, centered and fired. A small hole appeared in the middle of the target, bringing a brief smile to his lips while he squeezed off the remaining four shots in two seconds. Shots from the others were still echoing downrange when he carefully placed the rifle on sandbags in front of himself after safing it and leaned back with a satisfied smile. Didn’t need to use the spotting scope each position had been issued to see the holes on a target this close.
“Cease fire, cease fire on the firing line. Ensure the bolt is locked to the rear and place your weapon on the sandbags in front of you, barrel pointing downrange.”
Three more times they fired at the fifty meter target. This time Frank spaced his shots a second apart, not wanting to bring undue attention to himself. By the time they switched to the 100 meter target, he was in a groove. Even at that range, he grouped his shots so tightly the holes in the target could be covered with his thumb.
“Engage two hundred meter target. Lock and load…Fire.”
Just before he fired, Frank hesitated. He’d elevated his aiming point just a hair on the hundred meter target, more from instinct than anything. What about now? His first shot showed him. Not only a little low, but to the right. The distance was the reason for a drop in altitude. But what would have caused a shift to the right? The movement of a tree limb caught his eye. Ah! Wind. The wind was affecting the bullet. Not much, but enough. He adjusted and fired, noting with satisfaction through the spotting scope he was back on center mass.
By the end of three hours firing, everyone was comfortable enough to have begun placing every round in their targets. “Cease fire, cease fire. The firing range is now closed. Ensure the bolt of your weapon is to the rear, and stand in your foxhole until cleared to exit by the Range Safety NCO.”
* * *
Sergeant First Class Roberts trotted down the stairs of the firing tower. “Pretty good day, guys,” he said to the four Staff Sergeants gathered below. “Y’think Sergeants Smith and Carruthers will have any problem gettin’ that bunch into their barracks and cleaning weapons?”
Staff Sergeant Akers shook his head. “Naw, in fact they’re probably glad to have us Staffs outta their hair. According to them, they do all the work anyways.” Everyone chuckled at that, while following Roberts inside the first floor of the tower.
“What’s this I hear about having one of the recruits ace the targets?” Roberts asked while sitting in front of a computer console.
Akers gave a sharp nod. “Check out the computer’s report, Platoon Sergeant. Position eighteen. Trainee Pierce was dead on target for all but one shot, and it was only three centimeters off center. That one’s when he seemed to be adjusting to how far the bullet dropped at two hundred meters, plus windage.”
Roberts studied the monitor a full minute before shaking his head with a sigh. “Damn me, I think we might have another hot shot. Haven’t seen one this good for a couple years.”
“And this guy’s never touched a weapon before which makes it even more fun,” Akers said with a smile. “If he’s doing this good with his instincts…”
“Hey, c’mon,” Staff Sergeant Meyers said. “Let’s not get the cart b’fore the grav sled, okay? Might be a one-day wonder, and nothing else.”
“Yeah, we’ll see,” Roberts said. “I’ll check out his records a little closer. Might be lying about his weapons experience.” He stood up, moving towards the door. “In the meantime, let’s get back to work. Make sure their weapons are up to snuff before you let ‘em go to chow.”
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