Matt Couper and his spotter, Freddy Terrell, were in position by the time the sun rose over the Tigris floodplain. As soon as sufficient light spread, Matt took his AW sniper rifle out of its soft transit-case. The weapon was sturdy but lightweight, a L96 bolt-action model with an aluminium chassis extending the entire length of the stock.
Having settled prone in the dust, Matt edged the stainless steel barrel out in front of him, lowered its bipod stand, and set the weapon in the narrow gap between two boulders. A metre or more high, the rocks afforded him cover from the rural village below. At the rear, he had to rely on minimising his movements and being partly cloaked by his camouflage uniform. It bore no military insignia but had discrete Baxters Security (UK) Ltd logos sewn on the shoulders of the shirt.
Though Matt and Freddy were foreigners, they were reasonably safe unless insurgents undertook a sweep of the wider area. If a sweep occurred, and the insurgents arrived in sufficient numbers, the mission could prove fatal. It was, however, a risk both men knew they were well compensated for in the eyes of their employer, and one they were prepared to take as part of the job. For both men, nothing compared to the adrenalin-driven challenge of slipping into enemy territory, accomplishing a mission, and returning unscathed; ideally, with ‘one shot, one kill’ efficiency.
Their support on the mission was a light armoured vehicle (LAV), manned by a crew of three British soldiers, which sat concealed from the roadside a kilometre outside the village. The Brits had dropped the two Baxters employees off in the dark to make their way stealthily on foot through croplands. Both were expert at orienteering and each had the use of night-vision goggles.
In planning the mission, using recent aerial photography, the two men had settled on taking up a position on the crest of a dome-shaped knoll (bereft of trees or bushes) less than six hundred metres from the near edge of the village.
Matt glanced to his right. Freddy had taken up a similarly concealed position and was studying the surrounding countryside through high-powered binoculars. A semiautomatic assault rifle was strapped on his back. Like Matt, he was wearing camouflage trousers and, over his breathable Ubac shirt, a Molle webbing vest.
They didn’t need to converse about setting up for the job; each man was an expert. If their wait became prolonged, and though Matt was the superior marksman, they would periodically exchange positions and roles to avoid fatigue. Matt had trained in the New Zealand Army after graduating from high school and had undertaken one term of enlistment, though he’d failed to qualify for the SAS (special air service). Freddy was ex-British Army, and had been in the British-commanded Multi-National Division – South East, seeing action in the Iraq Invasion of 2003.
The Assyrian Girl Description:
Security contractor, Matt Couper, returns from Iraq with memories of a fifteen year old Assyrian girl, Tara Nasrim, whose life he saved. Five years later, as a refugee, Tara shows up in New Zealand. Even there, Islamic extremism rears its head.
Religion clashes with love, vengeance is pursued, and Matt’s world overturns.
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