by DeBobby Ross

It is a cool Oregon morning and for Hailey, war is about to begin. She is skilled. Her father, a former Sheriff, taught her how to hit a mark.

The event — first of the new season — is a get-to-know-you, team building exercise for the Cheerleading squad of the university.

“Okay ladies!”, shouts the Cheer Team Instructor. “You have your paintball guns and 300 rounds of ammo. The men have green ammo. You have orange. You want your team to win by being the last one standing. So defend yourself and protect your teammates.”

On the other side, an instructor talks to the men.

“Ohhh god, we are going to get smashed”, says Natalie, the star junior on the squad.

Hailey — the freshman — looks over, catches Natalie’s gaze, and smiles.

Natalie sees, raises an eyebrow.

Hailey looks across to the competition, 60 yards away. It is 10-on-10. All guys verses all girls. Hailey smiles again, whispers “bring it on”.

The Cheer Team Instructor begins her pregame speech, “Ladies, this is the challenge. Work together to overcome. We have three minutes and counting to the starting gun. Now what I want you to do is talk among yourselves, claim your immediate cover spots…”

Hailey lets the instructor’s words fade into the background. She has an idea. She will take one out immediately. Scanning the group, she wonders to herself, “Who is not paying attention? It’s Sunday morning… one of them has to still be drunk. One of them has to be high. Who? Him? No. He looks fresh. Him? No. She focuses intensely. Him! Oh, and he’s big. He’s going to be slow. Yes, and she can see he is zoning off. He is a dead duck.”

While the other girls crouch a bit, into running position, Hailey gets into firing position. She is right handed, so she rotates slightly and puts her left foot forward a half step. No clues, so she keeps the gun down, in draw position.

11 seconds on the clock.

The Team Instructor: “Avoid shooting each other. Friendly fire counts as a kill.”

“Oh, okay, now her goose looks to be a bit ready. Which way is he going to run?”, Hailey anticipates.

3 seconds.

The starting gun rises in the air.

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