There were three hunters.
Kevin has been watching them for the last hour as they moved up the valley, following the river as it swerved here and there. Occasionally he lost them when they went behind the wall of cedar trees that lined the river’s rocky beach, but they were wearing bright neon reflective vests so he didn't have any issues spotting them again.
'Idiots.' He thought, 'They're not hunters, they're sportsmen.' That distinction was one of the factors that would decide whether or not they died today.
Kevin watched from a small cliff halfway up the side of Mount Quayle, large enough for him and his supplies, but small enough to just blend into the birch trees that climbed the wall of the rock face. Kevin was dressed in grey fatigues that he powdered with dirt to blend in better; he was also laying on his stomach to keep a low profile as he looked down the scope atop the rifle.
He figured he could've taken the three of them out easily from here if he had a proper rifle, but all he had was his grandfather’s forty year old .22 caliber rifle; a poor excuse for a sniper’s weapon. It wasn't just the weak bullet. The age of the rifle meant the barrel was full of crap that further limited its range. When they were close enough he was going to have to go down and get within thirty yards to make an effective shot. He could see their rifles were high powered with twice his range easily. Kevin also knew he'd have to fire off three kill shots before they fired back; not easy to do with a bolt fed rifle.
On the other hand, if he survived this at least he'd be able to upgrade to his choice of three new weapons.
Kevin took half an hour to get down the mountain where he easily found the hunter’s tracks. They weren't even trying to hide them, taking full steps into the soft ground with size twelve boots. 'They couldn't be hunting animals,' Kevin thought, 'these kind of steps are loud and sloppy.'
Are they out hunting us? Kevin had seen this before, they were either really arrogant or someone told them that Indians made easy targets. He's encountered hunters that come out here believing Indians were barely surviving, that they would be starving and cowering in mud pits. That couldn't be further from the truth. Kevin was living proof of that. At five foot ten he was a good hundred and seventy pounds of lean muscle, his skin was a healthy shade of olive, and he would never have been accused of being malnourished.
Something, he believed, he should make these three aware of.
It was another half hour before the hunters came into Kevin's line of sight. He'd already been moving carefully but when he spotted their distinctive orange vests he started using the trees for cover. Sixty yards out he knew the old rifle barrel would cause the bullets to arc off target; he bended at the knees to absorb his steps.
At fifty yards he could tell that two of the hunters were in their early twenties, one an over-weight redhead with a scruffy beard while the other was a tall over-lean clean shaven college kid. The third was pushing fifty with a thick grey beard, pot belly and toque. Kevin tagged him as 'redneck.'
Kevin started to listen in on their conversation as he stepped closer. The Redneck didn't say anything as the two younger men talked about school. Kevin slipped from moving around a tree and stopped everything, kicking himself mentally for focusing on the wrong thing. He decided he should do what he had to do, it was better that he didn't see them as humans. 'It'll be easier.'
Kevin moved ten yards closer and kneeled to the left of a cedar tree, bringing his rifle up to his right shoulder. He angled in the general direction of the Redneck and looked through the scope to pinpoint the back of the other man’s head.
Kevin hesitated, but only for a moment; this would not be the first hunter he killed but he always paused a moment to remind himself why he did this. He pictured his parents out in the woods, living in a small hut made of branches and deer skin. He pictured his cousins and his four year old niece living in a world of fear, a world of being prey. It was this hesitation that Kevin forced on himself so he could feel that there was a difference between himself and the three men in front of him.
Kevin emptied his lungs and held it; he pulled the trigger. The Redneck’s head snapped forward and he dropped to his knees, leaving only a red mist where he was the moment before.
The Redhead and the College kid stopped in shock, the colour draining from their faces as Kevin snapped the bolt back; the casing popped up and out as the magazine lifted the next round. The two kids turned as Kevin pushed the bolt back into place.
"Get down!" The College kid shouted as he shoved the Redhead aside and jumped the other way behind a tree. Kevin fired but the bullet whizzed off into the forest, both targets hidden.
"Dude, he's dead! He's dead!" Kevin could hear one of them panicking, the Redhead he thought.
Then the College kid fired six rounds from around his tree.
Kevin moved behind his own tree for safety and then came around to the right of it. The College kid fired again. Kevin relaxed when he realized that the other was only firing wildly and not anywhere near him. Kevin noticed that the Redhead had parts sticking out. He aimed quickly and fired.
"Ahhhh..." The Redhead screamed as the round hit his calf. The College kid stopped shooting and the only sound was the Redhead yelling.
Kevin pulled back and snapped the bolt forward as he watched the other’s trees. He plotted his course and began moving to the next area of cover.
"Steven? Steven? What's he doing? What's he doing?" The redhead said, on the ground clutching his leg as he tried to hold in the blood.
Kevin came up from the side of his new tree, fifteen yards in front of him he watched as the College kid put in a fresh magazine. The College kid twisted around and fired off a few rounds in a panic where he thought Kevin used to be. Kevin aimed and fired. The round smacked the College kid across the back of the head. He fell over onto his side and bounced slightly but with no further signs of life.
Kevin stood up to take the view in and then moved forward, pausing to see what the Redhead was going to do. The Redhead tossed his rifle away. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I don't know what we're doing! Please, please I don't want to die!"
Kevin aimed for the heart and fired. The Redhead tensed up as the round hit him in the chest. He grabbed onto the tree to stay up but slowly lowered back onto the ground.
Kevin took a moment to watch the Redhead die. He wondered if he should put another round into him to make it quick for the other man. The Redhead’s breathing slowed down and then stopped. Another moment and the last of his air leaked from his mouth.
Kevin felt remorse wash over him.
"They aren't human," Karen said to him later. She heard the gunfire and came to investigate only to find Kevin keeping watch over the bodies, "Keep telling yourself that."
Kevin looked up at her; she was cold. Dangerously cold. Karen was five foot six with smooth skin, the shade of coffee with milk and had long pitch black hair. Her looks would make anybody pause to stare, a mistake that would cost them their life. Karen had been a Stomex for twenty years, long enough to learn the tricks of the hunters and use that knowledge against them, also long enough that Kevin wondered if she had any real emotions left. All he saw was a husk; cold, calculated and without remorse.
She did have feelings though, but she had reason to hide them; they belonged to her and her alone.
"Just remind yourself, what kind of human would happily go out and kill another for sport?" She said, as she started collecting supplies from the bodies. "They wouldn't. These things would. They're not human."
"I'm fine." Kevin said.
"You don't look fine," She continued.
"No? How do I look?" He challenged her.
"Like a noob. If you're going to puke, puke over there somewhere." She ignored his stare and went back to looting.
Kevin gave it another minute and took the rifle off the Redneck.