"I don't miss" was the prompt on the ten minute thread. This actually took me somewhat longer, but I knew what the story was the moment I saw the prompt. Not quite sure exactly where it fits into things, but sometime after Magnetic Attraction.

I don't miss

"This isn't acceptable. Your attitude is slapdash and arrogant. Jason, you have a targeting computer for a reason. This time you got lucky, but in the future you will use it, do you understand me? Every single time. No more snapshots."

For a moment Mark thought his second would erupt in fury. He could feel tension radiating from Jason in the seat next to him, see his knuckles clenched white on the table.

But the other took two slow breaths and said, "I understand you."

"Good. You will proceed immediately to the simulator room and reacquaint yourself with the standard procedures. Sim three has been set for you. The rest of you, stay here."

Anderson doesn't need us, Mark realised as the Chief went into an entirely unnecessary briefing on the aftermath of their mission. He's keeping us here so Jason has to do his penance alone. Like Jason didn't know exactly what all the procedures were for the targeting equipment - the standard ones, the emergency ones, and what Mark suspected were a few he'd invented himself and not told anyone about.

Ten minutes of pointless boredom - he wasn't listening, he doubted any of them were listening, and they were all highly skilled in hiding it - and Anderson finally released them with yet another platitude about doing everything by the book being all-important. Which, Mark knew full well, would last just as long as it took for doing everything by the book to have been the wrong call. Nothing was all-important. In the field, you did what you had to. Not that he planned to discuss his opinion with the ground staff.

"Simulator room?" Tiny asked the moment the door closed behind them.

"Simulator room."


The room was dark as they piled into the observation gallery. Anderson had decided not to make Jason's humiliation public. That was something, at least. Just one seat was occupied in the room below them. One screen lit, and Mark's heart fell. One screen. The targeting computer used a second one. Jason had lost his temper after all, much worse than if he'd just yelled at Anderson in the debrief. This would be disciplinary action for wilful disobedience at the very least.

Beside him, Tiny sniggered, and Mark glanced sharply sideways.

"You think him disobeying a direct order from Anderson is going to be funny?"

"Relax, man. Look more closely."

Mark squinted into the darkness. One lit screen... and a jacket hanging over a secondary screen, LED indicator visible and glowing green just to the left of one of the cuffs. The targeting computer was on after all, and Mark realised that it would doubtless be running immaculately due to protocol. Jason just wasn't looking at it.

The main screen went blank as the run finished. Jason stood up, grabbed the jacket with one hand, the printout report of the simulator session with the other, and headed out.

"Wait here a moment," Mark instructed the rest of his team. He dived for the door and intercepted Jason in the hallway.

"What do you think you're doing? Anderson will have you up on charges!"

"I don't think so." Jason handed him the paper, and Mark stared at it in disbelief. Perfect.

"I'd have been thirty seconds quicker if I hadn't been waiting for the damn thing to bleep that it had a firing solution. I know he'll check the timings."

"I don't know what to say. Jase - what if you'd missed?"

His second caught his arm, swung him round, looked him in the eye. "Mark, I don't miss. I don't care whether Anderson believes me or not, but you have to. Do you?"

He looked at the printout again. Every shot perfect. Thought about that afternoon's mission, and the shot Jason had taken, past a hospital, past an apartment block, hitting the mecha in such a way as to drop it onto a derelict, deserted site, the only possible safe crash site in dozens of square miles. The targeting computer had never bleeped at all for that one. Did he think Jason should have taken the shot? Would he ask him to take it again, in a similar situation?


"Sorted, then." He balled the printout and tossed it into the nearest trash can. "Time for lunch? I'm starving."

And with the stress gone, Mark found he was, too.