Thursday, May 14, 2020
Quest: The Telephone game
Quinn Spackle was in a tower watching the evolution of troops forming up, coordinating and repulsing an imaginary intruder.
It was not the first time Quinn had watched the exercise although it was the first time he had watched David Greene’s troops.
The evolution was proceeding at a walk-pace. Slow makes smooth and smooth makes fast.
Something was niggling at the back of Quinn’s mind. The evolution he was watching, though slow, was much less of a cluster-festival than the others he had seen. Still, something was bothering him and he couldn’t put his finger on it.
He heard the clatter of feet ascending the ladder that accessed the tower. Damn! He had hoped to keep the fact that he was viewing the proceedings a secret.
The kid whose head popped into the tower looked a little bit chunky but he was not the least bit winded. Looking over and seeing Quinn wearing “border guard standard” colors, the kid nodded and said “Can you move over. I need to be where you are.”
The kid obviously did not give a rat’s ass about insignia although Quinn granted that his were small and discrete. There is no point in making a target of yourself when things get sporty.
“No problem, Bro” Quinn answered. He stepped to the side and continued to scan unfolding scene.
Quinn spared the young man a glance. He carried an AR-10 with a large scope. He also carried at least twice the specified amount of ammo.
“Isn’t that shit heavy?” Quinn asked by way of clarification. By Quinn’s quick eyeball calculations, the kid was lugging at least 40 pounds of ammo and magazines.
“I would rather have it and sweat than not have it and bleed” the kid said cryptically.
The kid’s radio squawked and an exasperated voice bellowed “Donut, where the fuck are you?”
The kid apologetically told Quinn before he toggled the mic to reply, “My squad leader.” Quinn did not need to be told. The tone of the voice spoke volumes.
“I am in the tower” Donut replied.
“Why the hell aren’t you at Hill 2407? That is where you are supposed to be.” the radio bellowed.
Quinn made a mental note to remind his leaders that the sending end of radio communications are to be as quiet as possible. In the field, yelling is a dead give-away to the enemy regarding your presence and location. You become a target when the enemy has both. Quinn smiled at the grim play on words.
The kid shot a glance at Quinn who shook his head, trying to communicate that he didn’t want to get involved.
Better to let this play through and see how the organization handled snafus like this.
“I was there but the support troops didn’t show up, so I withdrew and moved to my second assigned station” the kid explained.
“That is not how these exercises are supposed to work” the squad leader informed Donut.
“But you said to roll through the exercise as if it was real” Donut replied back.
“Yeah, that was before we got word the asshole from headquarters might be watching us. This has to be fucking perfect” the squad leader said.
Donut looked over at Quinn. Quinn kept his face impassive. “Pretend like I am not here.”
Technically, a fighter can only take orders from his immediate supervisor. There is a lot of flexibility built into that rule. Sometimes an immediate supervisor becomes combat-ineffective and a gap in the chain-of-command cannot be allowed to cripple the organization. In this case it was clear the Donut's immediate leader was still in play.
Donut nodded his head. He understood. It was like when his cousin was hiding in the back room when the cops showed up. Play stupid and eventually folks go away and look elsewhere.
“Well, I am here now” Donut said.
Five minutes later the radio squawked again. “Donut. Why the fuck did you leave ten magazines filled with perfectly good ammo on the hill? You know that shit is almost impossible to get our hands on.”
It was the squad leader again.
Donut sighed. It was going to be a long day for him.
“You said we were simulating a massive attack. In my mind I started engaging the enemy at 1000 yards and I figured I would burn through 200 rounds before the return fire got to hot and I had to withdraw” Donut said.
“You were supposed to wait for the other troops before engaging the enemy” the squad leader said. “I want you to stay in the tower until I tell you it is time to leave.”
“Yes boss” Donut said, resigned.
Donut peeled twenty magazines off his web-gear and carefully deposited them on a shelf in the tower. “In a real battle, this is probably where I will buy it” Donut said.
“You said you would engage at a thousand yards. Can you hit that far?” Quinn asked.
“It depends” Donut admitted. “If the target is man-sized and he isn’t moving and I know how far out he is and the wind is steady...yeah, I got about a fifty percent chance of hitting him.”
“Why do you think this is where you will get killed?” Quinn asked.
“Infrared signature” Donut said. “Sending more than twenty rounds down the barrel makes it hotter than hell.”
Quinn felt compelled to say something to help Donut. “Wrap it in aluminum foil. I had an uncle with a grow room back-in-the-day and he fooled the cops by wrapping it with foil. It reflects the heat back.”
Donut nodded his understanding.
Quinn continued to watch the evolution from the tower. “How long are they going to leave you up here?”
“Oh, they will forget I am here” Donut said with confidence.
Quinn cast Donut a sidelong glance.
“Yup. It is like the game of telephone and I am the last guy in the chain” Donut informed Quinn.
“What do you mean, ‘like the game of telephone’? Quinn asked for clarification.
“Can’t nobody do nothing until the guy before him finishes his assignment and gives him ‘the go’.” Donut said.
Quinn realized that was what had been twitching his subconscious. Everything was sequential. Nothing was happening in parallel. While that might make for impressive parade-ground demonstrations it was a recipe for failure in the chaos of the battlefield
In fact, the more Quinn thought about it, the angrier it made him. He had gone to a HUGE amount of expense and trouble to make each defense zone resilient when the command-and-control chain was compromised. Lieutenant David Greene had taken the autonomy he had been given and created a dog-show bastard was not only slow but fragile.
“My name is Quinn. What is yours?” Quinn volunteered.
“Folks call me ‘Donut’.” Donut said.
“Yeah, I picked that up from the radio. What do you want to be called?” Quinn asked.
“My name is Mark, Mark Wohlfert.” Donut said.
“Pleased to make your acquaintance Mr Mark Wohlfert” Quinn said.
They spent another two hours in the tower before the exercise was cancelled. Donut was right, he had been forgotten. After all, he was just one man at the end of the communication chain.
Quinn stayed in the tower until after dark. He had a lot to think about.