Zeus and Io - Books 1 and 2
Copyright 2012,2013 by Harry Carton
It took Navajo Pete about two days to upgrade the day scope for the M200, to his standards. He had all the parts and was about to fit the scope to a fancy hunting rifle for a customer in Denver. He said the Denver customer could wait a few days. All he had to do was fit the new device to the mount for the M200 and get it sighted properly. It was about twenty times more powerful than the regular scope, and if I wanted to switch it over to a night scope all I had to do was plug in a battery.
I filled in the time by going out into his 'backyard' and shooting at things. It was a light slope up to a distant cliff. He'd come out with me in the mornings, set up a range finder, and then left me alone for the day. I had a thermos, a cooler with some food, and he loaned me a hat to make sure I didn't fry my brain in the sun.
"Don't shoot nothin' that's alive, and don't shoot at no cactus. Although there ain't no cactus out here anyway. It's a good thing to remember that in Arizona. They'll arrest you fast for shooting at cactus. They're somewhat less picky if you shoot an Indian – slower on the arrest, anyway."
Sharp took Arti over to the Navajo Gun Club, where he was teaching her something – who knows what. On the second day, they decided to take her motorcycle. They were gone until long after dinner. It turns out that they took a picnic basket and went to see the Petrified Forest. I was in bed in the camper conversing with Io through my mobile device when they eventually came roaring in at 2130 hours. They went inside the dark house and were there for about an hour.
"Get a lot of shooting done today?" I asked, innocently enough, as she came in.
"Don't be snarky, L.T." said Martinez.
"Matter of fact, yes. We did an hour at the Gun Club before we went anywhere else, and then almost that long when we were on the way back," she said. "How 'bout you? Got your fill of killing rocks?"
"I haven't gotten 'em all yet. There are still some rocks out there. Io says 'Hi' by the way."
"'Hi, ' back. Tell her 'Thanks for the Navajo lessons.' I'm really doing better at that. BlueBird and Sharp can almost understand me now," she said with a laugh. "Has Navajo Pete got your optics ready yet?"
"Still working on it, I guess."
I leaned over to see out the doorway. She was at the far end of the camper with her back to me and had peeled off her t-shirt. I did what any normal male would do: I continued to look when an available, attractive woman was getting naked. She pulled on the oversized Sleeping Princess t-shirt and then reached underneath to drop her panties. Embarrassed at myself, I leaned back toward the center of the bed.
"You'll only get the morning to shoot," I continued, "'cause Pete wants you to come out with me while we try the optics."
I heard the pounding of naked feet and then she appeared in my doorway, leaning on the jamb. Her left knee had a bandage on it. That was new.
"HE DOES?" she said sounding really excited.
"We both think that'd be best."
"What does he want me to do - I'm not going to shoot that monster am I?" The words were coming out so fast they were jammed together. "I don't think I could - I never shot anything before yesterday - he wants me to shoot it - you want me to - I can't do that - I don't know how - what if it goes off in the wrong direction - or..."
"STOP!" I had to shout to break thru her wall of chatter. "You're not going to shoot the M200, so don't worry about that. Do you know what a spotter is?"
Her hand was over her mouth as if she had to physically stem the flow of words.
"Spotter? What's that? Sounds like somebody who picks out targets or something – spots things to shoot at."
"That's about right. A spotter will find the range to the targets for a sniper. He will read the wind speed and direction and all the other factors that influence the shot. It's a very important job. If that gets messed up, the sniper will probably miss the shot. But it's fairly easy. You just read the numbers off the instruments you have. We'll be a long distance away from them. No risk to you."
"S ... Sniper?" She nearly whispered. "Of course, he'll be the sniper ... And I'll be the spotter. Just like that. I'm going to decide who gets killed."
I could see white all around her hazel eyes. Normally they were soft. They crinkled up when she was laughing and they were half closed when she was trying to make trouble ... sort of like Daffy Duck trying to put one over on Elmer Fudd. Now, they were very, very round and opened wide: like she had just discovered that we were going to kill somebody, and she was a part of it. We were, of course, going to do exactly that.
"No, you're not going to decide. We already have that answer. The terrorists will get killed. I'm going to shoot them."
I was trying to use the voice that Martinez had used on me, when I killed my first man in-country. I heard that voice on TV coming from the horse whisperer when he was trying to gentle a spooked animal. Everybody has a first time and it's almost always scary.
"We knew this was coming. This is one of the potential freak out things about this little trip," I reassured her. "You said you were going to save the freak out for when we get shot at. Nobody is going to be shooting at us. Your part will be easier than a video game. You just have to not panic or freeze up, when it starts to happen. You can do that. You're a tough woman."
"Okay, like a video game," she was talking to herself and had started to walk slowly back to bed. "I can do that. Just read the numbers off the display. So he can be the sniper. Then..." Her quiet monologue drifted off and I couldn't make out the words any more.
I got up and followed her. "You gonna be all right?"
"What?" she turned getting into bed.
I almost didn't notice the long leg that hadn't gotten under her sheet yet. Almost. It went up 'til it merged with her buttock. That looked nice too, with her sleep-shirt pulled up as she twisted to get into bed.
"Yeah," she replied in a near-normal voice. "I'm not fine yet, but I will be. Like a video game."
The leg slid under the sheet and she turned her back to me, curling up unconsciously in a fetal position.
"Hey, turn on some of that nice music you play. Goodnight, Arti."
There was quiet for some time, but then the soft melody of a Mozart concerto filled the camper. It was good music to meditate by, so I did.
The next morning we joined the Soaring Eagle family for breakfast, shortly after 0730. She made eggs, sausage and cornbread. I could have eaten all the cornbread that BlueBird could make. She noticed, of course.
"I'll show you how," BlueBird whispered to Artemis. "Later."
"No, you don't have to," Arti protested.
"He likes it. You should know how to make it."
"But we're not ... I mean ... We don't... " Arti was flustered.
BlueBird had a woman's smile. "Of course not. But you should have it. For the future, you know."
The three men at the table pretended not to hear anything. Me, because I was somewhat embarrassed. Who knew what reasons the crafty Indians had for maintaining their silence.
"The scope is finished," Navajo Pete said after a decent interval, to let the embarrassment erode. "We'll sight it in this morning, and this afternoon the Goddess of the Hunt will join us ... I've been thinking about it. You're going to hunt in Florida, yes?"
I nodded in reply.
"Flat land. Very few hills. I think I can get you some elevation, though."
Frankly, I hadn't even thought about that. That's bad. The land you shoot from and the land where the target is, is crucial. I had been 'too busy' with other things to give it a passing thought. What else had I forgotten?
"Not much, L.T. Not much," reassured Martinez. "You're good."
"What is that?" said BlueBird calmly. "Who was that?" Then she looked at me, with an inscrutable stare. "Your Spirit Advisor is very strong. I have not heard the Spirits for many years. You are blessed."
My eyes must have gotten as large as Arti's did last night. "Spirit advisor? I don't..."
The two Navajo men looked at me. Arti's head was on a swivel, looking from me to BlueBird.
BlueBird extended a hand and laid it on my arm. "Be not concerned. I will tell no one. Even if I did, no one would listen to an old woman's prattle."
"But, I don't ... I mean, it's not..." I spluttered.
"Be at ease, L1' t'11 '1La. This is what he called you, is it not? 'eLL Tee' It does not translate directly, the closest I can come is L1' t'11 '1La. It means 'One and Both'. I do not understand it, but then, who can understand the Spirits?"
Navajo Pete seemed more surprised than anything else. "Spirits, indeed. L.T. eh? BlueBird is the daughter of a medicine man and knows the Spirits. I only know the spirits of the Seal," he smiled. "An L.T. of the Seal is a strong spirit. A leader," he said with a laugh. He directed a thought to BlueBird. "Perhaps this is not a Navajo spirit, but a white man's spirit. That is why he used a name you do not know."
"Yes, perhaps," she answered.
Arti interrupted her head swivel, to fix her gaze on me. "Perhaps it means 'together.'"
"I kind of like that," said Martinez.
"Powerful that is: 'together, '" said BlueBird. "Together with the Spirits. It shall be your name in this house."
"Well, 'Together,"" said Navajo Pete. "Let's go out and shoot at some rocks."
Arti slipped her Glock in the waistband of her very short short-shorts, and she and Sharp prepared to leave for the shooting range. The beltline of the shorts was well below her navel, while the t-shirt ended well above. She was going to be chilly in the cool morning of the high desert, but perhaps she wasn't wearing it for warmth. Arti fell into an easy conversation with Sharp, in Navajo. They both laughed. The motorcycle with the two of them on it was gone before us 'old men' could even get out the front door.
"I'll need your keys for later," said Navajo Pete.
"Uhm ... It's a computer enhanced car, so don't get surprised at anything." And with that, I tossed him my keys.
"Looks like you're in some heavy shit, L.T. – or should I say 'Together with the Spirits.'"
"You could come to that conclusion," I grumbled at him.
We grabbed the M200 from the back of the H2, where I'd been keeping it, and took it to his workshop. The new scope fit right on the rifle, as it should have. It was about six inches longer than the old scope and had a place to plug in a lead to a four-pack of AA batteries. With that little bauble active, and a flick of a small switch on the scope, it was a night scope. Not much to see in the daylight, of course, but Pete assured me it would give me almost the same resolution as the day setting.
We set out on foot, heading about forty-five degrees away from the house, with me carrying the M200. I slung it across my back, but it was easy to see why the SEALs didn't use it as a main weapon. With the scope and bipod, the rifle easily was over thirty pounds. Pete stopped to take a bearing from his house to a point on the distant cliff. After walking into the desert about 1,500 yards – nearly a mile – we got to a neat little pile of rocks.
"You see those rocks, all in nice little piles, with the bigger ones all stacked up behind them? The little piles are about 1,000 yards."
He dropped a box of shells and unslung his binocs. "Take a shot at the left most one. Aim about a foot below the top."
I did, but didn't see any hit on the rock, while he squinted down range, through the binocs. With the suppressor, the rifle coughed like a pellet gun, the sound seemed to come from everywhere at once. The recoil from the rifle wasn't as bad as it should have been, but the rifle tended to hop a little off its bipod. A turkey vulture that had been out for a little morning feast, took off from the rock pile. He took the M200 and put his little screwdriver on an invisibly small screw. "Try again," he said.
It would be easier if he did it himself, but I was just a white man, following the instructions of the sage native guide. We went through this little back and forth about five times, 'til he seemed satisfied.
"I don't have to tell you how to practice. We'll be out in about three hours. Have fun." He turned and walked back to the house.
I kept taking potshots at 1,000 yards. I was hitting more than not, 'hitting' being defined as getting real close to the spot I was aiming at. When I sheared off the top of one rock pile, I filled the magazine and worked on hitting five different piles as quickly as I could.
I didn't hurry, and before I got half way through the box of ammo, I could hear the Hummer coming up behind me. It pulled up to a dusty stop, and I snapped the lid closed on the scope. I turned around. Pete got out of the H2, and Arti was on foot, about 800 yards behind. I left the rifle on the ground, and the dust eventually settled. We watched as Arti walked toward us. She was wearing long jeans, a long sleeved shirt, and one of Pete's camo-design hats.
When she got up to us, she was ready to complain. "Why did I have to carry all this shit? And why did I have to walk when you..."
"Missy, HUSH!" Pete was a good NCO. He wasn't going to take any guff. He turned on her with an intense glare and a more intense voice. "You're carrying the equipment that is your responsibility. That is yours. Understand? Not his, not ours. But yours. If it's missing and the shoot is fucked up, it's your responsibility. If it's dirty, if it's not packed right and gets damaged, if anything happens to it, it is YOUR fault.
"That's number 1.
"Number 2 is: this is where we shoot from. The only thing that your shooter wants to hear from you is the readout of the few numbers on your display. No idle chit-chat. No complaining about how you had to lug that heavy spotter scope or the anemometer all that long way. He's carrying a thirty-five pound rifle. It's a hell of a lot heavier than the stuff you carried.
"No whining about how hot it is, or if you got a mosquito bite, or a snake just crawled over your boot. Just feed him the numbers and don't flinch when the gun goes off.
"Now then ... You got any questions?"
She took it pretty good. Of course, he didn't holler at her. When he gave a similar speech to a green lieutenant, just taking over a squad in training, it was about fifty decibels louder. Of course, the stuff about 'getting a mosquito bite' was different. As I remembered it, he'd said something about a scorpion biting your cock.
She looked at him, then at me, and then unslung her backpack.
"Just show me how to use this stuff, and how to pack it away so it's safe."
He unpacked the small Kestrel weather station, the somewhat larger optical scope, and the hand held ballistic computer. He showed them all to Arti, and then repacked them in their individual cases, in the backpack.
Taking a step back, he said, "Your turn."
She unpacked the scope first and set up its tripod stand. When she unpacked the computer next, she didn't have enough hands to hold everything.
"You can put it on the ground. This equipment is designed to be used in combat situations, dirt won't hurt it," Pete advised.
She opened the Kestrel like Pete had showed her, and flipped up the corner to expose the anemometer. Everything was opened and ready to use.
"Good. Now pack it up and put it away, as fast as you can. There may be bad guys coming after you at this point, and if necessary, you want to be somewhere else when they arrive."
She fumbled a little with the tripod scope, but it was all packed up in decent time. "Do it again," said the NCO.
She did. "Do it again." She did. "Again." And so on for about 20 minutes. I wanted to have a go at it, and did it with considerably more clumsiness.
Arti said, "I have until – well several more days to practice. I'll get it."
"Right," said our training officer. "That's the easy part. Take a look at the ballistic computer. Now some of this you can probably figure out why it's important. Wind, altitude and such. Why do you think it's got a place to enter the GPS coordinates?"
She gave him a look that would have had any SEAL down in the mud doing pushups. "Because, at the equator, for example, a target is traveling at 1,000 mph from the earth's rotation, and the ballistic travel time for a .408 bullet over a two mile range is two seconds. And we want to account for the distance he will move in that time ... When Zeus told me I was coming out here last night, I stayed up half the night looking at the specs for the spotter's job. The internet is wonderful, isn't it?"
"Well, I'll be dipped," said my 'Spirit.'
"Exactly right," said Pete, as if he expected her to know that. "That is just one of many things you'll have to enter to get the correct firing solution. Most of 'em won't change from shot to shot. Some will change."
She nodded her head. "If we're going to hit two targets..." I noticed she had changed from 'shooting men' to 'hitting targets' – almost all the operators did; it distanced you from what you were going to do. " ... in a row, nothing will change except the wind."
"Right. Now let's try some shots. Here are the headsets I want you to wear. You might not be next to each other, so this might make conversation better."
I looked at him. The spotter not near the shooter? But Arti, knowing nothing, wasn't surprised. Well ... not exactly nothing. She knew about the earth's rotation. I'd never taken into account the earth's rotation; didn't even think about it before.
We put on the headsets and I got in behind the rifle. Arti set up her scope. "What're we aiming for, Zeus?" came through the headset – rather loudly.
"Geez! You trying for rock concert loud? Turn that thing down!" I grabbed my ear and feigned pain.
She turned the volume control and whispered in my ear. A very sultry whisper, I might add. "What are you going to shoot at, Zeus?"
"Cut it!" said our no nonsense instructor. "Just keep it simple. There'll be too much pressure to do anything else."
"Do you see the lighter color splotch in the second to the left pile of rocks? That's my target."
Arti took the readings and began to input them into the computer. Eventually that told me what adjustments to make in aiming the rifle. It took her several minutes.
"Sorry it took so long. I'll get better."
I took a breath, let half of it out, and the gun went off.
"You hit it! You hit it!" came the shout through the headset into my ear. "Oh, sorry." She took off the headset. "That was great shooting, Zeus!"
"It was terrible," I corrected her. "I aimed at that spot, and hit a spot much lower and to the right. If that was his head, sitting in a car, I just obliterated the radio."
"All right," she said, putting her headset back on. "Did I do something wrong?"
"No," said Pete calmly. "But the wind changed from the time you took the reading to the time you gave him the numbers. It was too long. Try taking the wind reading last, putting it in and then giving him the reading as fast as possible."
We practiced that a few times. It was better.
"Now for the elevation. C'mon over here."
He went to the H2 and lifted up a cargo net that had been attached to the roof. It had been modified to be mostly opaque in the center portion.