TITLE: Sector C
GENRE: Near-Future Thriller
Vikram Shankar squinted down the long metal barrel. Framed squarely in the sight, not two hundred feet away, the white tiger sat on its haunches, its lower jaw drooping, ribs rippling under a mat of chocolate-striped fur.
A sweet shot.
Vikram's right finger closed over the trigger. He inhaled slowly, deliberately. Too seasoned a hunter to let the thrill overcome judgment, he took his time, savoring the anticipation.
The nasal whounk-ing of a snow goose flying overhead pricked the big cat's ears, and the heavy-set head swung toward the sound. With pounding heart, Vikram exhaled.
The sight bead wavered. He glanced down, and realized his left arm had begun to tremble.
Hell. Not now.
He willed his arm still, but it jerked -- wide -- then jerked again. The barrel danced in front of him.
Something -- whether the movement or some slight sound Vikram made -- drew the cat's attention. It rolled into a crouch, facing Vikram's blind. Sunlight bouncing off the snow caught its blue eyes and they glistened like tanzanite as it peered into the camouflage.
The rifle steadied as Vikram's muscle spasms quieted. Again he sighted down the barrel, waiting for another clean shot. As long as his arm cooperated, he could outwait the cat. And with two hundred thousand dollars his to lose if he missed the kill, he could wait a very long time.
After another moment, the tiger rose, turned and padded across the snow.