There’s almost nothing humanoid about the blurred black figure scurrying across the screen. Considering the footage is being shot by an unmanned machine hurtling through the air at 20,000 feet on the other side of the world, the resolution is about as good as Sara could hope for. Even if there existed a camera strong enough to capture every last follicle on the target’s head, though, she wouldn’t want it. That kind of technology would be enough to leave the whole intel shop salivating. But for Sara—the one pulling the trigger—blurry was better.
“Slant range, flight level two-zero-zero. High impact angle. Standby for targeting brief."
Sara turns wide, lazy circles over the homogenous cityscape as Hopkins tracks the target on the ground. Her eyes are heavy. What little sleep she’d gotten the night before wasn’t restful, and the caffeine rush from that morning’s coffee is starting to wear off six hours later.
“Greened up,” Hopkins says. The tremor in his voice is unmistakable, which only serves to shorten Sara’s already paltry temper. She’s not happy about this either. It’s not like she enjoys the killing, but it’s part of the job. It’s what she signed up for. And it’s what Hopkins signed up for too, whether he realizes it or not. She decides she’s going to talk to Hopkins’ supervisor after this mission. She’s going to recommend he be disqualified, or reassigned, or at the very least barred from flying with her again. And then she starts forming a mental catalogue of all of Hopkins’ shortcomings that she can use to justify her request.
The target turns down a narrow alleyway and Sara turns her attention back to the mission. She stares at the blurry figure. It’s impossible to say for sure, but he doesn’t seem scared. Sara wonders how much different he would look if he knew that he was being tracked, that there was a locked and loaded MQ-9 hovering a few miles over his head waiting for approval from a faceless kill chain on the other side of the planet. She wonders where he’s going, what he ate for dinner, if he’d even considered that it might be his last meal. She wonders what his name is.
That’s what sets it off for her. She learned long ago to focus on the target, not the person. To ignore the human element. To stay numb. But if he has a name, he probably has a family. Maybe a wife. Maybe some kids. Maybe a nine-year-old and a six-year-old, just like her. And if he has a family, then maybe all he’s doing is trying to protect them. She wonders if he truly believes in what he’s doing or if he’s just doing what he has to to survive. It feels wrong, killing a person she’s never met. It’s hard not to think that, in a different set of circumstances, that could have been her on the ground and him here with his finger on the trigger. Sara was taught from the very beginning to turn the other cheek, that an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. Yet here she is finishing the run-up for a strike on this man, this target, who doesn’t even know she exists.