I didn't make it far when I heard them coming. I faded further back into the darkness and waited. I was glad to stop moving, my leg was throbbing and I was tired. Real tired. They were trying to be sneaky and doing a very good job of it. Being raised out here, and one being a full blooded Indian, I thought they would have managed to be a little stealthier.
I assessed my performance while I waited for them, doing the after action critique was what I had been taught to do a long time ago, and since it made sense I kept up the practice. Even when, like now, it was just me instead of a squad or more.
Instead though, for a second I saw her, we had just dumped our packs, she was smiling at me. It was somewhere in Virginia back in the early days when I knew, I mean I knew, that there was a chance that it was going to be all right. We could make it happen. I blinked internally, slammed the door on that piece of the past and refocused.
Surviving was about a lot of things and most of them were all inside your head. One of the biggies was the ability to be honest with yourself and others. Brutally honest. If you knew you couldn't do something but told yourself, deluded yourself really, that you could do something but couldn't, you got hurt, or more then likely someone else got hurt, and nothing happened to you which in my mind was even worse.
I stood there and watched Ty and Kat stumble into my kill zone. They stopped dead and just stared at the flames, the horses, the bodies, the aftermath. I did too but I was seeing something different. It was sloppy work on my part, stupidly executed, and I was lucky to be alive. What really galled me was the missed shots and slightly off placement when I did hit my target. Probably 99% of the population wouldn't even see it but I did. Someone like me, that 1%, would read it, and if they knew it was me would also know I was slipping. For the first time in life I knew that I was no longer the best in the world and I also knew, the world being what it was, that it was only a matter of time now. I couldn't remember who said it or even where I heard it but there were no "Second place winners" in my world. The strange thing was I didn't really give a shit.