Chapter 4:

First mission ( part 1: You won't be the leader!)

The Dusk of Revenge

  As we waited in silence, hiding in a bush, we looked through the scopes of our sniper rifles to verify the pattern in which the target was moving. On days like these where the temperature is neither cold nor hot, we can wait for a long time with no problem. Yesterday, we had to wait for a whole hour without moving an inch from our locations until we got the orders to shoot.

It has been 25 years since the fights against famine, poverty, and multiple diseases ended with the scientists’ victory, but in exchange, they were utterly defeated by global warming and as a result, the global temperature went up by 3 degrees causing the ice to melt in the northern pole every six months a year.

On a day with nice weather, we do not have any problems. But since this is a daily training, we certainly did this on rainy days or on sweltering summer days. After all, we started doing this mock operation training a year and a half ago. I cannot remember the day on which we started repeating the same exercises every day, but it was right after we finished all the courses.

The commander said that we had to keep our physical condition in its best state. But seriously! That does not mean we have to do target elimination training every day!! Waiting for the commander who wakes up one hour after we had already started the training and waiting for his orders to shoot the target and move to the next exercise is a bit annoying. He, on the other hand, always says that this is the training of patience of a true soldier.

He had that weird habit of putting his hands on his waist and then laughing aloud while saying: “… Patience is what makes the swordsman a real samurai!” Age made him a bit softer and less strict when it comes to his daily routines. By the end of this year, he will be 65 years old. He cannot be as energetic as we youngsters. And while he wakes up late, he makes sure that we do everything perfectly.

You can say he is strict only when it comes to training. But even so, what is the story with the samurai thing that he keeps on repeating every time someone asks him to give us orders a bit quicker?! As if we had sword users or samurais in this group. Ah, wait! We have one! I almost forgot Shinji and his weird sword. Well, he is not a samurai for sure, but he wields a sword that you can call a Katana but when you look closely you understand that it had only the shape of it. He calls it an ultrasonic blade.

If you ask me, I think that it is a little bit of an awkward name but as long as he never yells it on the battlefield like what they do in Shōnen manga, then it will be all right. I am assured that will be all right since we are talking about Shinji Takahashi, the only member in this squad that rarely smiles.

He is the founder of this group and our leader when the commander is absent. To be precise he is not the founder but the first member to ever join. The commander was the one who prepared all the paperwork. He is the real founder in other words.

While I was daydreaming, thinking of trivial things like those that I mentioned already, I heard Shinji’s voice calling: “… Shuna! You heard everything I said now, did you?”

[Huh?! Was he saying something to me?!]

I smiled then answered with fake confidence: “… Yeah! Of course, I was listening to you. Why wouldn’t I? It isn’t like I was daydreaming or something! I am focused on the target. It isn't like I got bored or anything like that.”

[I got bored!]

He glared at me for a moment then replied: “Hmm… Then, can you tell me what we shall do now?”

Surprised, I looked around in a panic trying to find anything that would help in giving him a good answer to realise that there was no escape this time: “…What shall we do now?!”

He pointed his index at me with an angry look on his face: “…I knew you weren’t listening!”

I felt embarrassed while everyone was looking at me with a smile on their faces and murmuring “… you got busted”.

“…This is the last time I am going to repeat this, so you’d better be listening to this time. We’ve got our first mission.” I raised my head slowly to see his eyes shining as he said those words.

This is good news, especially for him who waited for four years for this moment. He turned when he noticed that I was directly looking into his eyes and continued explaining: “…The commander received this mission last night. I repeat that this is our first mission, so you have got to put in mind that the ministry of defence is waiting for good results to continue providing us with everything that we need, and we will be officially considered as the tenth squad of the special forces. Details about the mission will be given to you after lunch. Did you all hear me now?”

“…Roger that!” The others answered as they gave him a salute while I kept silent thinking about today’s training.

“…What about you Shuna? I heard everyone except for you.” He glared at me with even scarier eyes than the last time. “… Don’t you dare say that you didn’t hear me again!”

“…No! This time I heard you perfectly.” I bowed my head slowly as I tried to explain the situation: “…It’s just… I was thinking… If you met the commander already this morning, then you have the order to end the target elimination training for today…”

He smiled and… Wait, did he just smile?! It looks like someone was in a perfect mood this early in the morning: “Yeah! About that… Today’s sniper is you. Show us what you’ve got.”

Since we were waiting for only half an hour this time, I moved to a better spot where I could hit the target without being noticed on his radar…

The target, which is the roaming bot, was about 350 meters away. It is a machine programmed to move randomly in a restricted area and detect any movement in a circular area of a 250-meter radius. To be successful in this training, you just have to hit the target with a rubber bullet before it notices you.

You can attack the target even from 251 meters away and still complete the mission with success but that’s too risky since you’re immobile when aiming at the target while it’s randomly moving. There is a good chance that the distance between you and the bot becomes less than 250 in any instant which will result in your failure. So basically, as long as you follow the rule “the farthest the best” you will succeed. I held my breath for a moment and fixed my eyes on the scope before I then pressed the trigger.

“…Target eliminated sir!” I stood up and stretched a bit while waiting for him to verify the results.

“…Well done, you can rest now for 5 minutes then join us to complete the rest of the training.”

I sat immediately on the ground waiting for the end of the five minutes. I had nothing to do at that time and I couldn’t join them before the end of the break. You have to follow the rules in every small detail.

Since today we finished the "target elimination training'' earlier than we expected, we were able to finish all the daily training before lunchtime. Thus, we had the time to prepare a good meal and all afternoon to talk about our first mission.

The meeting for the detail’s announcement was about to start so I had to go immediately to the commander’s office where he and Shinji were already there. When I reached the office, the door was locked from the inside and yet I was able to hear the conversation between the two of them. I was about to knock on the door when I decided to wait until they finished their talk.

The commander was maybe sitting in his chair behind his desk as he was reminding Shinji of their old memories. “…It’s been 6 years already. I still remember what happened at that time as if it happened yesterday…” A loud sound of igniting a lighter echoed in the room…

Fuming a high-class cigarette was a habit of the commander whenever he started talking about a serious matter. “…I just hope that you won’t have any problems if you had to face them this time. Do you remember when I told you to join the witness-protection program and live a quiet life? You still have the same option I gave to you at that time.”

“…My answer will never change,” Shinji replied immediately, “until I know the truth about what happened that day and get my revenge on the Red Claws...”

“…I made this squad while thinking that meeting people who lived through a situation similar to yours will change your mind!” The commander pushed away his chair to stand up and resumed talking: “I’ve never thought that we will receive a mission. Who would believe that another attack is about to happen in Tokyo this time?”

“…It doesn't matter where as long as we prevent it! For me, this is a golden opportunity to get some information about them. If everything goes well, I may finally have the golden opportunity to end their terror once and for all.”

“It looks like you’re quite excited about this!”

“Of course!” Shinji’s voice seemed exciting to me.

“And here I was trying to convince you to…”

“I waited six years for a similar opportunity. Thanks for your concerns but I won't back down.”

“…You have just to understand that I am worried about you. Five years ago, when I saw you getting reckless, trying to find any clue that may lead you to them, I got the idea of creating this squad as part of the special forces for a sole reason: To give you a place where you can share the anger and sadness that you had within you with people who can understand you and accept you for who you are now. But instead, you ended up closing in on those feelings of yours! Are you afraid of facing them? During those six years, I rarely saw you smile”.

“…That is not true! I am a human after all. I can smile like everyone else. Whenever I hear a joke, I smile and laugh like any human being…”

The commander interrupted him once again: “…I am not trying to give you a hard time or confuse you before the meeting. I just needed to make it clear that I am not trusting your ability to make a good decision in this mission. Since you might be blinded by revenge and cause the mission to fail. These are the lives of millions of people that we’re talking about this time.”

Shinji’s tone changed after hearing those words: “…You know very well that I only act rationally. Even in the direst situations I only act with the sole purpose of protecting innocent people.”

“…I can’t leave this mission to you. Not only you but everyone else here. Each one of the six of you is lacking what makes him a real leader. For you, it’s the revenge that’s blinding your eyes. Shuna has maybe the best performance in training after you, but she lacks attention and cares for things. She easily gets bored and that will have a big influence on her decisions. Akira, Rintaro, and Kazuto lack the fundamentals of being a leader which is strategic thinking. They are good at following orders more than giving ones. As for Rin, while she has great strategic thinking, she has no confidence in others. She can’t trust others with missions. She will tend to do everything on her own.”

“…All of this is based on the results of training. I am sure that we can all perform better in real situations. Akira has a sharp mind. I know that he’s not putting all of his potentials into good use but who knows how he will act when we’re in the middle of the battlefield… Rin will make great use of her talent…”

“…You never know. We can’t act based on presumptions in dangerous situations like this.” He pushed his chair again to sit and then said: “…Open the door, please. They‘re maybe waiting outside.”

When he opened the door, I thought I would see Shinji angry or sad since he was not going to be the leader of this mission, but I was mistaken. He acted as if the conversation never happened.