“Where’s the sun?” Bill asked. He was really just talking to himself. He crept upstairs and looked at the streams of light coming in through the windows.
Soon the sun will be shining right into the western facing windows. Right now the upstairs is in shadow.
On a hunch — Bill walked over to the computer and told it to show him how much of each sniper nest could be seen by any of the other sniper nests.
“Damn! Look at this! Those three professional looking sniper nests really are blind. They might have picked really good places to shoot at us but they can’t protect each other.
“If we act now we just might be able to take out the western sniper team — the one on the west side of the house. The other teams can’t provide supporting fire because they face the wrong set of windows. As the sun drops a bit more, the eastern sniper team will be facing right into the sun. The northern team is gonna be a challenge but they can’t see into the upstairs rooms at all. We gotta nail that western team right now.”
“What are you gonna do? How can you really expect to out-gun federal assassins?” Sally asked.
“These mindless shits think they’re dealing with some yahoo who has nothing but a 12-gauge and a couple of six packs of beer. These guys are just too used to nailing amphetamine dealers whose level of intellect rises only to the level of riding a Harley Davidson and getting their names spelled right on their knuckle tattoos. These shits, they’ve made the biggest and last mistake of their lives.”
Bill went back down into the concrete cellar and collected two large black padded nylon bags. He brought the bags up to the rec room.
One bag contained two hundred rounds of ammunition and some cleaning supplies. The other contained one of the strangest rifles ever made. It had been made ten years before under contract for the CIA — and after completing the contract the inventor had “died unexpectedly.”
Bill had purchased the thing from the inventor’s widow — plus the old guy’s lathe and two boxes of tools.
The rifle was a lightweight version of the pre-World War Two German Panzerbuchse M SS 41 which fired the 7.92 mm model 318 SmK H Rs L-Spur cartridge. The original German rifle weighed 50 pounds and could shoot a projectile through more than one inch of hardened steel. The M SS 41 had been designed for the Waffen SS. What the CIA’s inventor had done was find a way to reduce the weapon’s weight to less than 20 pounds and vastly increase its effectiveness. The German weapon had been designed to kill light tanks at short range. The new weapon had been designed to kill people at great distances.
The inventor had been a real nutcase and kept no records. The CIA had no idea that this “extra” rifle had even been built. They thought that they had collected the entire production run — when they killed him and burned his office and workshop to the ground.
The rifle was fitted with a United States Optical 2.5 to 16 power scope — the finest telescopic sight in the world. Each rifle cartridge had been modified to use an internal fire tube that allowed the flame from the primer to disperse evenly. The interior of each of the cartridges had been coated with a 50/50 mixture of hard wax and titanium dioxide powder. This mixture was applied by a computer-controlled system so that the interior dimensions of all the cartridges were effectively identical. More importantly, the mixture had been carefully shaped within the cartridge to limit the powder’s movement. Even pitching the rifle up or down did little to change the position of the powder within the cartridge. As each round was fired the burning powder would vaporize the wax and the titanium dioxide powder would be released to completely coat the interior of the barrel.
Because the gun sent bullets out the barrel at 4,400 feet per second the barrel could wear out ten times sooner than barrels pushing bullets at normal velocities — even 2,750 feet per second. This meant that an unprotected barrel would last fewer than 200 shots. Titanium dioxide acted to protect the barrel and allowed it to last well beyond 1,000 full loads. To make the situation even better the barrel and action had been cold treated ten years ago — when such technology was classified “TS.”
Each bullet had been made of sintered zirconium and then coated with a copper jacket. Each bullet had an almost microscopic wax-filled hole down its longitudinal axis which allowed the flame from the powder charge to ignite the zirconium. Yes, this also allowed some of the energy to escape out the front of the bullet as the bullet left the barrel. It also — intentionally — allowed some of the titanium dioxide to puff ahead of the bullet to pre-coat the barrel even on the first shot.
More importantly, the zirconium burned so fast that it created a partial vacuum at the front of the bullet and the fumes generated from the burning zirconium mitigated the vacuum at the base of the bullet. This all acted as a miniature “base bleed” technology which mimicked that used by Dr. Bull in the artillery pieces he designed and sold to South Africa and Iraq.
Why was this gun and bullet so special? The bullet had far more penetrating power at 1,000 yards than a .50 caliber bullet had at the muzzle. In addition, zirconium is as hard as a diamond.
Lastly, when one of these bullets hit something it would send a super nova of burning zirconium splinters in all directions.
This new use for zirconium had only been discovered during the closing days of the Cold War when one of the nuclear weapons labs wondered what they could possibly do with 100,000 pounds of zirconium. Some researchers even wanted to use it to make the darts for SABOT tank rounds.
One lab found that they could sell it to makers of mortar rounds. An 80 mm mortar round made with zirconium beads instead of steel pellets was as deadly as a conventional 4.2” mortar round weighing more than twice as much. They finally put tons of it into cluster munition donuts for the AGM-154 — the newest class of anti-material and anti-personnel glide bomb.
Sintered zirconium was still not cheap. The sintered zirconium was a “modest” $800 per bullet or more than twice its weight in pure gold. Each completed rifle cartridge cost the government more than $1,900.
The only downside to this thing was that when fired it looked like some kind of horizontally exploding lightening bolt — and the bullet could be easily tracked right back to the gun.
The magic words were: Don’t miss …
Bill trundled the bags upstairs. He moved through the upper rooms in a way that kept him in the shadows — and away from the windows — and he moved with real purpose. He planned each move and rehearsed it in his head before he made it. He took his time.
He placed himself far back in the shadows of the room — and where he had a good view of the western sniper nest. He then opened the ammo bag and removed the aneroid barometer. He noted the air pressure and punched it into a little HP programmable calculator that had been Velcro’d to the inside of the bag. He then removed what he called his “whirly gig.” He added water from a little white plastic bottle to the cotton tab on one end and spun it for several seconds. He then entered the temperature displayed on the dry thermometer and the temperature displayed on the wet thermometer of the “whirly gig” into the HP calculator. The technical term for this device was sling psychrometer but that was too hard to pronounce — or remember.
He then entered the estimated range to the target (which in this case he knew almost to the nearest foot from his maps). Then he entered his exact altitude and the target’s exact altitude.
All of this information was processed by the little machine including the density altitude of the air as well as the most of the other factors affecting bullet drop. The HP calculator then told him how many clicks from baseline to raise his sights.
He knew that if these thugs could see him in the shadows of the room they would immediately shoot him dead. He could only believe, pray, hope that as hard as they might be looking through their telescopic sights and into the very window not fifteen feet in front of him that the sun was too bright and that the room was too dark for them so see him.
He looked around and the only place to put the rifle that was far from the window’s light and yet could then be aimed at the snipers was on the bed.
First, he crawled over to the bed and slowly removed the bedspread. Then he taped the bedspread to the rifle — at a point just beyond the front of the telescopic sight — so that he could crawl under the bedspread / rifle and be part of this amorphous mass of “bedness.”
He crawled over and took one of the drawers from a night stand and plopped it upside down on the carpet and then slid it onto the bed. Then with very slow and deliberate movements he put the rifle’s bipod into the drawer. The rifle’s muzzle was pointed out the window and toward the snipers.
While it looked goofy, he put on a Nomex balaklava, and eye protection and ear protection. And when he was really ready he put on his Nomex gloves.
He was now sitting inside his weird tent wearing some of the hottest hand and head gear imaginable. He figured it had to be 115 degrees and 100% humidity under all of this stuff.
He scooted his butt around so that he was as comfortable as he could get. He also checked to see what was behind him to make certain that he had at least 12 inches of clearance. When the rifle recoiled he did not want to break his shoulder by slamming into something behind him.
He then slapped the bolt forward and down and gently tried the trigger. CLICK.
He flapped the bolt up and down and slowly tried the trigger again. CLICK.
He did it again and again.
Now he knew how the trigger felt just before the sear released the firing pin. He could move that trigger ever so slowly to the rear until the explosion and recoil told him the round was gone — and he could do it without jerking the trigger.
Looking through the scope he could see the three snipers in the western team. Two of them were intently looking though binoculars at the house.
“Damn!” They were looking right at him — they just didn’t know it.
The middle sniper was behind a really big gun. That guy was staring right back at him over the barrel of a Barrett .50 — the largest sniper rifle in the world. It was capable of killing a man more than 1,800 yards away. This weapon was designed for only one thing — carefully and surely killing anyone that came into its sights. The Barrett held 11 shots and used quick change magazines.
Fear washed over him. If those bastards had any slugs carrying toxins and they fired one then he was as good as dead — even if they missed.
He could see a slight breeze making some small weeds near their hide flutter back and forth — ever so gently. The air currents near them seemed to be moving at not more than two miles per hour.
The heat waves he saw in his scope were vertical — the wind pushing those weeds must be blowing only near the sniper nest — where warm air climbed up the mountain. He wouldn’t have to compensate for a cross wind.
He could hear his own breathing. He could hear his heart.
He rotated the magnification ring — he could see the sniper’s face. The guy had a big nose and an even bigger mustache. The heat waves — the mirage — wasn’t too bad. This was a true image and he could aim right at his target.
He pushed himself away from the rifle and tried to relax. He took a deep breath.
He then carefully slipped one of the round, black, plastic, ammo containers out from under its elastic strap in the ammo bag. Each black cylindrical container held one round. Each container looked like a 35 mm can only three times longer.
There was a date of manufacture written on the side of it in white paint and there was a large white space for noting the round’s performance. He didn’t think that he would really need to record this data today. Besides, the CIA had already killed the guy who’s signature was on the container — and was the only person who would be passionate about the news of how his “little baby” performed.
He broke the seal with his thumb and then pushed the lid off the container and let the round inside drop into his hand. Doing this was like cracking an egg with one hand — hard to do without continued practice. The huge cartridge bounced out of his fingers and onto the carpeted floor.
“SHIT!” Bill grabbed the cartridge and looked very closely at the huge bullet. One small dent or scratch could make the bullet fly erratically — even miss the target completely.
Everything was okay — there was no damage.
He put the nose of the cartridge on the ramp inside the gun’s barrel. He then carefully slid the round into the chamber — he’d forgotten how long these rounds really were and was amazed that he was capable of taking the recoil from such a thing. He slowly moved the bolt forward and rotated the bolt handle down. He could feel the squeeze of the bolt wedging against the back of the cartridge.
He got into position — sort of an “I’m sitting on the floor with my arms draped around this big pipe thingie which is laying inside a wooden night stand drawer on top of the bed” shooting position.
He then moved the rifle around so that it aimed at the middle sniper without him having to use his muscles. He closed his eyes and waited to a count of ten and then opened them again. The sight picture had drifted a bit to the right so he wiggled his ass and tried it again.
This time when he opened his eyes the scope’s black aiming dot was still laid dead on the barrel of the Barrett .50.
He moved the center of the scope’s orange colored image up a little until the head of the sniper was covered by the scope’s little black dot. Then he squeezed.
He squeezed a bit more.
He could hear his heart and he could hear his breathing. His breathing sounded — with the ear protectors on — like Darth Vader. His heart was really starting to pound.
He held his breath and watched the little black dot bounce around the sniper’s head — one bounce on every thump of his pulse. The black dot was now drawing a little figure eight pattern on the sniper’s forehead.
It was not a boom. It was not a bang. It was a ripping of the sky. Inside the room it sounded like a tearing of the molecular structure of the planet. The recoil knocked him backwards until he hit the night stand. The rifle was now laying on top of him. The room was filled with gray smoke, white dust and acrid smells.
He tried to bring the rifle back up to position so that he could check out his shot but he instantly thought better of it and scrambled forward to the protection of the wall right beneath the window. At least this way they couldn’t just spray the window with bullets and get him.
The sniper had been looking through his scope at the second floor window when he saw what seemed to be a giant electrical explosion. The explosion got bigger and bigger and closer and closer — but it only lasted a little more than half a second. The sniper even tried to jerk his head out of the way of the fireball. He had moved his head less than one inch when it all just didn’t matter any more.
His two team mates didn’t have time to see anything. Before they could react, before they could turn, before they could even move or even look around, the sniper laying between them exploded.
The bullet hit the front center of the gunner’s nice black Kevlar helmet. The bullet was moving at about 3,900 feet per second when it hit. The bullet did not enjoy being deposited into a bucket of jelly — even if it was somebody’s brain.
The bullet transferred as much energy as it could into this bucket and then continued on its way out the other side of the helmet. The bullet was moving at more than four times the speed of sound. The shockwave vaporized what the bullet didn’t squash.
The helmet spit bits of hair, skin, skull, and brain out of its tiny vent holes.
The exploding brain acted like a rocket engine and tried to launch the sniper out of his nest and toward the house. That effort failed when the helmet strap slipped off the now dismembered jaw and flipped the helmet ten feet forward of the sniper’s nest.
The bullet kept right on moving and a little more than one thousandth of a second later it smashed into a granite boulder — about five feet behind the sniper’s head. The bullet bore in six inches and vaporized — sending pieces of granite and flaming zirconium right back out of the hole.
Flaming zirconium came out of the crater at over 2,000 fps. The granite slivers came out at over 1,000 fps. All of this detritus embedded itself in the backs of the two remaining members of the sniper team. Unfortunately, they had decided that it was way too hot to wear their Kevlar vests. They both now looked like carelessly peeled tomatoes. And these tomatoes were screaming.
The white hot zirconium then set the brush around their nest on fire. The two mile an hour breeze coming up the hillside was just enough to get the weeds burning. The weeds quickly heated the oils in the chaparral. The chaparral literally popped into full flame.
The sniper team had done a good job clearing the brush from their nest. The team leader had stacked the small sticks at the south side of the nest. They had even used the larger branches to create shelves to hold their field phone, food and ammunition boxes.
The two snipers were amazed at how hot a flame from just a few burning bushes could get. The air temperature was over 105 degrees and now these flames pushed it to well over 300 degrees even where they were laying. The smoke filled their depression in the hill and then drifted up the hillside. The snipers couldn’t see and they couldn’t breathe. They edged to the north, away from the nest and waited for help.
These snipers had been issued twenty rounds of “special” .50 caliber ammunition. Had they been told the true nature of this ammunition they would have already thrown down their weapons and started running. No one had told them a thing. Each round was numbered and they knew that when the time came they would be given orders to use these special rounds one at a time and by round number. They had also been told to return each empty casing to its original slot.
The special ammunition was carefully stored in two egg-crate-like wooden boxes. These boxes were on the shelf that was now being heated to over 800 degrees.
This ammunition exploded.
The two remaining sniper team members were dusted with twenty grams of Saxitoxin — if administered correctly that would have been 200,000 lethal doses. They took a breath. They died.
One shot and three kills.
Bill was laying flat on the floor with his hands over his head.
But it was all quiet.
He lay there a few more minutes.
Then he smelled something burning. He looked up only to see the bed on fire. The rifle’s muzzle break had directed enough hot gas down and onto the bed and the bedspread that it had all been torched.
He scooted over to the bed and tugged at the blanket in a hand over hand motion. He tried to flip the flaming blanket over onto itself to smother the flames but that just didn’t seem to work so he just tossed it out the window. He ripped the bedspread off the rifle and tossed it out the window as well.
He’d spent $320 on fireproof Nomex stuff and it had paid off. He figured he looked like one of those seamen from a British World War Two movie — only their stuff was white and his was macho gray.
Where was the return fire from the other bad guys?
And he waited.
Then he waited some more.
No return fire.
He crawled back to his firing position and put the wooden drawer back on the bed. He then lifted the rifle and dropped it’s bipod back inside the drawer and nuzzled up against the rifle’s scope. There was too much smoke in the room to get a clear picture.
He could just see the sniper nest. It was black. And there was a small brush fire crawling up the hill.
He could see that his target had been hit hard — he didn’t have a head anymore. The guy’s body was well forward of the nest and there was blood and tissue trailing all the way back to the rock face at the back of the nest.
The hillside above the sniper nest was now ablaze. “They ain’t gonna put this fire out are they” He thought to himself …
“Hey Bill!” Sally called to him. “Come Down here!”
Bill scooted down the hall and down the stairs.
Sally took the headphones off and said: “The guys out there — the two other sniper teams — they think the ones you shot at were playing with a grenade and pulled the pin and blew themselves up!”
“Hey, I only shot one of ‘em. Maybe they had been playing with a grenade and really did blow themselves up!”
Sally put the headphones back on and listened.
She ripped the headphones off and looked up at Bill. “You better do something fast because they’re sending in reinforcements.”
Bill trotted back up stairs and crawled over to the west facing windows. He took the steel handle and groped around till he hooked each shutter and closed it. He made certain that the shutters were really closed and the bar keeping them closed was latched in place.
He then collected all of the sniper tools and ran down the hall and set about carefully preparing for the sniper nest to the north.
He only entered in the new altitude data and the HP calculator told him to drop his point of aim eight clicks.
He was sweating.
His body itched.
With all of the Nomex protective gear covering his body the heat was unbearable. He had to get out of there. He wanted to get this thing over NOW.
He was able to put the rifle’s bipod on the seat of a chair. He scooted down and peered through the scope. The northern sniper’s nest was just in view over the window sill. He chambered a round and scrunched down — holding his position with his stomach muscles. No screwing around this time. He just found his sniper and laid the scope’s dot on the son-of-a-bitch’s head and fired.
Then the room exploded!
BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!
Ten .50 caliber rounds came out of the sniper’s Barrett. Five rounds dug into the thick wall just below the window. Three rounds spattered into the room. Two rounds cleared the house entirely and headed south only to dig long furroughs someplace in Mexico.
The snipers had been discussing whether it was time to change positions.
Sniper three had been on the scope for ten minutes and it was now time for sniper one to relieve him. Nobody could keep up this level of intense concentration for more than ten minutes. If anybody had even flickered past the FBI’s target window, that person — man, woman, child — would have been shot dead.
The fireball came up from the house and, again, only the sniper behind the Barrett actually saw it. Sniper three really tried to escape. But there is very little you can do in 3/4ths of a second.
Bill’s shot hit way low. More than a foot low and actually two inches into the dirt below the top of the berm. The round dug a two foot long trough in the earth in front of the Barrett and then rocketed out of the ground and along the side of the Barrett’s magazine — denting it.
The zirconium bullet then hit the sniper dead center. As the bullet started pressing against the sniper’s chest he was pushed away from the Barrett and his finger pulled the trigger. The Barrett continued to bounce and fire as the body twitched and now dead finger pulsed the trigger.
The bullet did not pass though this sniper easily. This sniper was wearing a bullet proof vest with frontal ceramic armor layered over a standard Kevlar vest. The energy not transferred into the ceramic and then into the front layer of Kevlar moved through the sniper’s body and was transferred into the layer of Kevlar on the sniper’s back.
This sniper would have been much better off if he had simply laid on top of a stick of dynamite.
The white hot zirconium slug slammed into the sniper’s liquid filled internal organs and exploded into thousands of nuclear-white splinters. The sniper was blown in half. The upper half flopped into the dust two feet in front of the nest. The bottom half of the sniper just wiggled as nerves fired randomly.
A fine pink cloud drifted out of the nest and across the hillside.
Bill checked himself all over for bullet holes and cuts. He was fine. And this time the furniture wasn’t on fire.
He picked up the rifle and looked through the scope at his targets.
He watched with fascination as the two remaining snipers grabbed their Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine guns and hosed down the area around them. They must have thought the shot came from someplace really close!
Bill loaded another round, laid the dot on the next target and fired.
It looked like a turtle being run over by a truck. Stuff spurted out all around the edges of his black vest. He seemed to just flop around and then come apart and drop bits and pieces here and there.
The last target just sat there in shock.
Bill loaded another round.
The sniper turned toward Bill and stood up. Then he threw up his hands. Then he pulled off his Kevlar helmet and threw it to the ground. Then he ripped the Velcro bindings off his bullet proof vest and threw the vest to the ground.
Bill stared at his target intently. Bill put the scope’s dot right on a little shiny, sweaty, spot at the center of this guy’s chest.
“What do you assholes think we are? Completely stupid? I remember the video tapes from Waco. You went in there and murdered 10 people — men, women, and children in your first attack, and because you thought you were still dealing with Negroes the whole thing went wrong and you got your asses kicked.
“And what did you do then?
“You then threw up your hands and said ‘Oh Please, Oh Please, Oh Please’ and slowly backed away. And those poor Jesus freaks — in Christian Charity — let you leave!
“And then what did you do?
“You came back with a tank and murdered everyone!
“This ain’t Waco.”