Thursday, January 16, 2020

Corn Dog (fiction)

Quinn and Straeder were in-processed together along with about thirty other unfortunates who had been scooped up.

The only personal items they were allowed to keep were their shoes and corrective eyeglasses.

They were issued one blanket, one pair of gym shorts and one tee-shirt, orange.

In spite of the futility of running away, five men tried that first day. Discipline ran to floggings before meals. The more people who had discipline, the later food was served and the meal still ended on time.

The only physical they were given was that they were of an age to shave and appeared to be less than forty. That, and they had a pulse.

The first week was not very challenge. They ran a quarter mile every morning. Did push-ups. Dug holes. And engaged in “team building” exercises that somebody had found in a corporate training manual.

Straeder followed Quinn’s lead and did not excel in anything.

As Quinn explained to Straeder, “I don’t want anybody to give us a second glance.”

“How do you do that?” Straeder asked.

“Be in the middle of the herd. Don’t be the best. Don’t be the worst.” Quinn said.

Quinn, for his part, was very glad that they were only running a quarter-mile. He was virtually hopping on one foot. He wasn’t last but he wasn’t far from it.

Apparently, the military leaders planned to bus the fighters everywhere. What Quinn could not know was that the desertion rate ran as high as 5% a mile when marching/running “in the wild”. Delivery rates were much higher when bused.

The other venue where Quinn violated his own advice was the shooting range.

They were given instruction and were handed air rifles for practice. Quinn was given a beat-up, Crossman 2100 that had seen better days. The rifle was sloppy and the trigger had a mile of take-up and as rough as dragging a dead deer across a corn field but there was nothing wrong with its bore.

It wasn’t just Quinn’s pride that prevented him from sand-bagging on the shooting range. It was the fact that good shooting habits had saved his life more than once on the battle field. He simply could not afford to let sloppy habits get a grip on him.

By the third day of shooting, Quinn had figured out that he could offer to get both his target and the targets of the shooters next to him. Then Quinn simply handed his target to one of the other two shooters and kept theirs.

Quinn started to gain an understanding of why Capiche had been able to “roll up” the invaders from Livingston County even though vastly outnumbered.

For one thing, they were not physically fit. The wheat rations were given out without requiring any work. Consequently, most people stayed home except to collect their allotment. Most of the young men were content to play video games on their hand-helds, devices that required almost no electricity.

The other factor that was readily apparent is that the common foot-soldier was as motivated and as competent as the Russian serfs in World War I. They were being groomed as place holders and cannon fodder.

Torvaldsen believed in Management by Objectives. Objectives had to be measurable.

It is far easier to measure, and to game, the number of boots on the ground rather than the quality of the men in those boots. It came as no surprise that Torvaldsen’s generals wrote their metrics to emphasize quantity over quality.

Quinn also quickly deduced that the only way this force was going to fight in a battle was if each group of serfs had NCOs immediately behind them, ready to shoot deserters as they broke ranks.

That drove an exceptionally high NCO-to-fighter ratio. Because Torvaldsen’s military could not be selective, the NCO force was riddled with sadists, drunks and knob-polishers. That validated Quinn’s decision to not be a stand-out. He did NOT want to be an NCO in a force that might be tasked with invading Capiche.

The downside for Quinn is that one of the sadistic knob-polishers decided to make his life hell. Quinn pushed the sadists buttons. Quinn enunciated clearly and spoke more slowly than most. Quinn had a limp, the inevitable result of his ankle being shattered.

The sadist gave Quinn the nickname he lived with as a soldier in Torvaldsen’s military “Corn Dog”.


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