This story is by David Elderton and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Miranda placed her gun into Tommy’s palm and gently wrapped his fingers around it. She whispered, “You’ll need this for the fight, sweetheart. Don’t ask me how I know, I just know.”
He knew better than to argue. He dutifully pocketed the gun as he beheld the beauty of his wife and smiled.
He saw the 20-year-old girl he married a scant 60 years ago, the mother and grandmother she became, the soulmate she’d always been.
“Where did the time go?” they asked simultaneously. They laughed, as they often shared each other’s thoughts.
Tears welled up in Miranda’s emerald eyes. She needed more time to say goodbye.
But another termination team pursued them.
When the optional submission chip implantation became mandatory, Tommy’s family refused. Compliance Enforcement sent a 5-man termination team to pacify them. They ambushed and killed his two young nieces before Tommy’s clan could respond. The family prevailed, but didn’t have enough ammunition to defeat another team. They had to run.
Winding their way through a National Forest on foot, Tommy’s knee replacement blew out, crippling him. Since the snow delayed their progress, Tommy elected to stay behind. He’d engage the team, killing as many as he could, to purchase more time.
Tommy held Miranda close, her head against his chest. He knew she liked to listen to his heartbeat. Without looking up, she asked, “Do you have all you need?”
Tommy kissed her. “Now I do. But you’ll need everything else. I don’t want to give-” he stopped short.
Tommy realized when they overtook his position, they’d scavenge his gear.
“If I stayed with you, or came back-” Miranda trailed off.
He smiled. “Precious, our family can’t lose us both. We agreed.”
Miranda didn’t respond. Instead, she gathered up everyone for him.
Tommy was 80-years old, an Army veteran and retired college professor. The beloved patriarch surveyed his sizable family and smiled. “I am truly blessed. We gladly do what we must, to protect those we love. Kids, G-Pa has to stay behind. Go with G-Ma, do what she says. Don’t wait for me, ok? I love you all.”
Seven great-grandchildren, aged 6 through 11 years old, nodded. But the adults understood he wouldn’t survive.
Tommy gazed into Miranda’s eyes for the final time and recognized her expression. Together they said, “Two souls, one heart.” It was their motto for 60 years.
David, his son-in-law and former Marine, was skilled with firearms and outdoor survival techniques. He helped Tommy get into position behind a substantial granite rock.
“The family needs your skills more than I do, son. Take care of them.”
“I will,” David said. “Tommy, there’s no greater love. Thank you.”
Misty-eyed, the men shook hands.
“Any last-minute tactical advice, son?”
“Yes. Don’t miss.”
* * *
Tommy watched four generations of his family wave, then disappear from view. He brushed away a frozen tear.
He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, held it, then exhaled slowly. When he opened his eyes, he was in ‘Predator mode.’
Hell was coming for breakfast and he had a table to set.
From his elevated position, Tommy observed the snow-covered trail. The snow made tracking easy, but a storm was coming. If he delayed the Termination team until the storm erased the footprints, his family could escape.
Tommy used his rangefinder to determine exact distances to various landmarks. Then he arranged the guns in the sequence he’d use them. The bolt action rifle had a high-power scope. He could identify targets and tag them at 1000 yards, just like in his precision rifle competitions. He had the last five rounds for it and knew the rifle well. The cluster of red rocks, close to where they’d appear, was 1016 yards away.
When they advanced past his long-range defense, he wanted rapid, accurate shots. The AR-15 had a red-dot sight, ideal for fast-action shooting. He only brought eight rounds for it. He hoped it was enough to matter.
Last was Miranda’s gun, an anemic .32 caliber ‘point-and-pray’ pocket pistol. He counted three rounds in it, but at least they were hollow-points. He scoffed. The gun was worthless in a firefight. He only took it to make her feel better, but hefting the puny pistol somehow instilled a sense of confidence the rifles did not.
His ace-in-the-hole was a suppressor. It muffled the shot, stifling the sound signature. His location would be difficult to determine.
Tommy only had 16 rounds to ensure his family’s escape…and these guys shot back.
He shouldered the bolt action and aligned the crosshairs on the trail by the cluster of red rocks and prayed, “Lord, please keep me alive long enough for my family to escape. Amen.”
Alone on the slope, the crisp breeze braced his face as the temperature dropped.
“Great. If these guys don’t get me, hypothermia will.”
His toes were numb, but he kept his fingers warm for proper trigger control.
Tommy perked up as the breeze carried the low-pitched hum of a distant snowmobile to his ears. He noticed he wasn’t nervous. His pulse was steady as the first snowmobile came into view.
They arrived much sooner than expected, but the table was set.
“Good morning, gentlemen. Come and get it.”
He placed the crosshairs on the rider and recognized the Compliance Enforcement uniform. He lightly pressed the trigger. Through the scope, he saw the rider and his passenger tumble into the snow.
“A two-fer! I’ll take it. Three to go.”
Another snowmobile came into view. Tommy worked the bolt, settled the crosshairs and fired again. Another killer fell.
“Could it be this easy? Just two-”
Seven snowmobiles crested the knoll, each with one person aboard.
“Oh. They sent two teams. Of course.”
He targeted the lead snowmobile and pressed the trigger. Another man sprawled into the snow.
The team realized they were taking fire and scattered into the trees for cover at 900 yards.
Tommy was patient. The longer it took, the better.
He dialed up the magnification on the scope to search for targets of opportunity. He discovered a man wearing a faded red cap.
“Ah, welcome, Mr. Red Cap.”
He was ensconced behind a rock with a scoped rifle, scouring the area.
“I’m Thomas and I’ll be your assassin today. Bullet for one?”
Tommy eased out a breath and fired. Red Cap dropped his rifle and disappeared behind the rock.
“Five to one.”
The hum of snow machines morphed into a growl as they approached, but Tommy couldn’t see them through the trees.
The wind picked up, blotting out all other sound. He thought his focus sharpened a bit.
At the 310-yard landmark, he spotted a man with binoculars standing tall, like a meerkat.
“You must be new.”
Tommy fired. The man stiffened, then fell.
“Four to one.”
His rifle empty, Tommy removed the bolt, rendering the firearm useless. He tossed the bolt into a snowdrift, then attached the suppressor to the AR-15.
Gunfire erupted from the trees like a Fourth of July finale. A barrage of bullets impacted all around him in a 100-yard radius. It stopped as abruptly as it began. Tommy deduced they just knew his general location and couldn’t know if he was hit. It was a cat and mouse game now.
Snow began to fall.
Tommy only heard the droning wind as he methodically scanned the area through the red dot sight. Then, at 50 yards, Tommy couldn’t believe the impeccable timing as two men raced across the trail, directly into his sights. Tommy triggered off a pair of seamless double-taps, two rounds into each man. They plowed face-first into the snow.
Minutes later, Tommy caught a flicker of movement to his right. The last two men tried to outflank him, but they closed in on the dummy sniper hide David had set up 20 yards away.
Tommy engaged both men before they could react. Their bodies slithered down the slope.
“Thank you, Jesus!” Tommy said, relieved.
He dismantled the empty AR-15 and tossed the parts into various snowdrifts.
Soon, the biting snow came at Tommy sideways, driven by the gale-force wind, obliterating the trail.
As Predator mode subsided, he fished a notepad out of his shirt pocket to write Miranda a letter she’d never see. He was stunned to see a bullet hole through it. It was soaked with blood. His blood. It happened when they fired on his position earlier.
“How come I’m not dead?!”
“Tommy! Look out!” Miranda shouted.
Reflexively, he drew her tiny pistol just as Mr. Red Cap appeared ten yards away. Tommy hammered his last three shots into him. Red Cap clutched his throat and staggered backward until he was devoured by the raging snowstorm.
Now his family was safe.
Tommy took a deep breath, then turned towards Miranda.
“Why did you come back?! Why-”
He was alone, save for the mournful, howling wind.
He closed his eyes and envisioned Miranda smiling.
“Two souls, one…”