|This article, DT 2020: Regulation Four DQ, was written by Distant Tide. Please do not edit this fiction without the writer's permission.|
There is a clause amongst the pages-long conditions handbook regarding the prestigious UNICOM Special Task Sniper Invitational:
‘Regulation 4. All event participants must come unmodified, unenhanced in any manner that allows an unfair advantage over their fellow competitors. Expanded regulations are as follows: ...’
2524. A year before the augmentations. Linda-058 stood back on the firing line as shouts of “ceasefire” ran up and down the assembly of accomplished riflemen and women from all corners of the UNSC Armed Forces. Airborne. Rangers. ODST. Marine Corps. Air Force. NAVSPECWAR. Naval Intelligence.
And the lone, up-and-coming SPARTAN-II – barely thirteen years of age.
The event proctors already took her rifle, her ammunition. She got pulled aside, for a reason she couldn’t begin to know.
She felt more than two dozen, accusatory pairs of eyes locked on her scrunched back from the snipers, masters in their art of war with decades of training and battlefield experience to each their names. She read books by these soldiers, watched and practiced the regimens they recommended. Now as they reeled in her target plate for examination, she could only feel immense guilt to which she could give no name.
The dear Staff Sergeant who invited her to the event was screaming and hollering up a one-man storm, arguing with the proctors before any judgment could be laid out.
Maybe she should have seen this coming – Spartans were supposed to expect things to not go in their favor, nothing ever went to plan. They were to make do anyway.
“She didn’t do anything wrong! Why did you pull her from the line? She’s just a kid – she couldn’t have done anything wrong!”
“Regulation Four! Back off, Sergeant. I am more than comfortable asking you to leave the premises if you won’t calm yourself.”
The Staff Sergeant and another proctor practically manhandled one another off to the side before letting go, straightening their jackets as they scanned one another with predatory grimaces. Another proctor was calling down to the line chief, “Can we get an ammo check?”
Linda looked up from her slouch, face aghast. She dared not speak up but stared as her magazines were run by a proctor to the control booth a few meters away. Her sim-target plate arrived, plastered with the typical paint-round powder used for sim-training and competitions such as these.
Marks were good – almost perfect. At least that’s what she told herself from a glance as the group of grumpy proctors went to work looking the plate up and down. Five shots, taken with a match, sandbag-stacked SRS99 rifle from the prone position at an open-air distance of two thousand meters.
The metallic-red paint stuck well to the titanium board, noticeable scratches from where the simulation rounds airbursted into fragments and paint. Impact points were evident, from the center point – a grouping of five shots within three inches of each other. She got through a single four-round magazine, began her second only to be pulled aside.
In a few seconds, the running proctor came back only for a Marine Force Recon shooter to demand an answer, “Well, are her rounds hacked?”
The proctor shook his head, eyeing Linda with doubt and a hint of suspicion. “No, it’s match-grade ammunition. Pulled from our armory – she’s using in-house ammo; the girl brought no home-grown kit.”
“What about the rifle?”
One of the proctor field stripping her rifle called from the strewn weapon and steel table. “No, it's our serial number too. All the parts are standard configuration, she got it straight from the Special Warfare Center. This is all ‘our’ equipment.”
Someone down the line from the Army Rangers growled out to a near shout, “What the hell then? How’s she getting near-perfect shots?”
“Maybe it’s her scope! A hack or some third party app?”
“No, stock programs. Nothing looks odd… The Site AI just got back to me on the debugging – nothing wrong with the scope or firing mechanism. The gun’s as it came from the locker.”
There was more shouting now as Linda looked away, refusing to speak up or make eye contact with the now utterly befuddled crowd of military sharpshooters. Some were even getting up now, coming to examine the rifle, the bullets, and the target plate themselves.
“Is she a freak-of-nature? An ONI science experiment?” Someone from the Navy Special Warfare team asked – potentially someone she might have met at another point, not realizing what she was.
The Staff Sergeant was now quietly approaching Linda, grabbing her by the shoulder with a gentle squeeze. He seemed to be eyeing the crowd with hesitant suspicion, his third sense for trouble was kicking in, setting the small Spartan girl’s nerves on edge.
Linda knew she was an odd-looker. Young, barely on the edge of puberty. She looked built, inhumanely so – as if she were genetically-altered or juiced-up. Younger shooters, even children sometimes made appearances at the competition, hosted by Korea’s Special Warfare Center. But no child ever beat experienced warfighters or conditioned for the simulated battlefield cacophony used to simulate warfighting conditions. There were prodigies, but not like this – they usually were a formality. Usually.
“I want her medical record,” a proctor began to demand to a nearby superior, having exited the control booth to witness the commotion.
“Forget it! We’re out of here, don’t bother,” the Staff Sergeant promptly butted in, drawing attention to him and Linda as he guided her away from the gathering, back towards the gymnasium – her weapon and ammunition, forgotten.
They would be looking for a ‘Linda Graves,’ daughter to a Misriah Armory colonial division head. If they searched, they’d come up with nothing. Linda Graves didn’t exist.
A voice of a proctor called to the control booth chief, “I need a marker – Regulation Four, DQ for Linda Graves, Lane Seven.”
The duo walked a couple of football fields until confidently out of earshot from others. The Staff Sergeant gave Linda a comforting shoulder squeezed but refused to make eye contact with the dreary-eyed redhead child.
Linda spent three years, hours of every day breathing in gunpowder, shooting her rifle, and simulating every scenario she could conceptualize in the Reach Naval Officers’ Academy’s shooter-sim room.
“Did I do something wrong?” She finally asked.
“No, Trainee, you did nothing wrong.”
‘Regulation Four, Item Twelve. In the event of a confident confirmation for an R4 violation, the participant and their sponsor will no longer be invited to future UNICOM competitive events and similar training exercises.’