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         Over the next few weeks, more recruits joined the free time chats around Chess's and Dallow’s cots. Chess half suspected that they showed up mostly because Mal was present, but at least the discussions helped to kill the otherwise boring hours. Usually he didn’t say much, and, in listening, he learned some stuff from the other recruits who had family members in the military.

         “Man, that guy, Brandt: he’s definitely gonna go Homeland Defense,” a recruit growled.
         They were just back from supper on Sunday night and thoughts of the week ahead weighed heavily on Chess’s mind.
         “Why do you say that?” Mal asked. She was sitting on Chess’s cot, as usual, and the scent of her freshly-shampooed hair was overwhelming his senses. He shifted and tried not to look as though he was inhaling too deeply.
         “Aw, he’s just totally out to show off how good he is,” the recruit answered, absently swiping over his link-screen. “Remember that computer simulation we did on Friday? He’ll get the job done and come out looking good, no matter who else gets hurt. Home Defense loves people like that.”
         Mal squinted at him. “My cousin’s in Homeland Defense,” she said, sounding offended.
         “Aw, they like good people, too,” the recruit shot back, shrugging. “I hear they take the best and send the rest overseas.”
         “To die like soldiers,” Chess added quietly. He now knew that Brandt was the name of the huge recruit who had bullied Dallow early on. “He’s not a team player, for sure.”
         “Well, Homeland does important stuff,” Mal protested. “They protect all those villages.”
         “Yeah, protect,” the recruit grumbled. “Forget it,” he said in answer to her questioning look. “It doesn’t matter to me: I know I’ll be going overseas.” He looked down at his link-phone again.
         “Me too,” Chess said. “Yeah, that computer simulation we did was a wreck, huh?”
         “Well, we had four choices of strategy,” Dallow put in, sounding exasperated, “and none of them worked. How do you win that?”
         “Yeah,” Chess answered, sort of musing to himself now. “I think I would have gone another way…” He looked up and noticed that the entire group was staring at him. “Uh, but, you know, we only had four choices,” he finished lamely, hoping someone else would start to talk. Through the barracks windows, he could see the sunlight fading fast.
         “You do anything like this in that game you used to play, back in civ?” Dallow demanded.
         “Uh…” Chess desperately wished he had kept his mouth shut, like he normally did. “Uh, sort of,” he stammered, feeling his face redden. “Uh, but we could come up with our own strategies. We didn’t just choose from pre-planned ones.”
         “That sounds really interesting,” Mal smiled at him. “Tell us about it.”
         “Oh…” Chess looked around wildly. The space seemed to be closing in on him. “Oh no, it’s… boring… And, uh, it has no relevance to this stuff at all. It was like: fantasy stuff… like ancient or medieval times… Uh, we spent most of our time searching for treasure…” He took a deep breath. They were all still staring at him, possibly seeming even more interested now. “There were no platoon leaders in the game, for certain,” he concluded, feeling sweat beginning across his back.
         “But you got to plan your own strategies,” Mal encouraged him. “That’s kind of relevant.” She wrinkled her nose. “Most of us could probably use some practice like that. Tell us,” she urged.
         “Uh, maybe some other time.” Chess forced a smile and tried to appear nonchalant. He took another deep breath and leaned back on his cot.
         “I wouldn’t mind someplace where there’s no platoon leaders,” Dallow grouched.
         “At least no platoon leaders like Brandt,” the other recruit mumbled softly. “You at least want someone who’s not going to get his own troops killed.”

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Choose Your Own Adventure

Saavik: Admiral, may I ask you a question?
Kirk: What's on your mind, Lieutenant?
Saavik: The Kobayashi Maru…On the test, sir... will you tell me what you did? I would really like to know. …
Kirk: I changed the conditions of the test; got a commendation for original thinking. I don't like to lose… I don't believe in the no-win scenario.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

         Fan fiction is officially described as “using existing characters and situations to develop new plots.” ( Role-playing gamers do this all the time, even when following the plot lines of a published game. The game manuals strongly encourage this. Consequently, the ability to plan and execute strategies, based on evaluation of existing circumstances, develops. With that idea in mind, it is easy to believe that the Dungeons and Dragons game was initially meant to be a game of warfare, albeit medieval warfare.
         I have been privileged to have the opportunity to sit in on a long-running game and just observe, completely ignored by the players. I have never encountered a situation that comes close to this: where a group of people is so engaged for so many hours in interacting, contributing, and working cooperatively. I think the companies who put together those motivational team-building games for businesses might learn something from tabletop RPG’s. (And I am now imagining LARP-ing with my coworkers…)

"I'm not of this world," the Doctor said very seriously. "I am a Time Lord, a being from a distant planet called Gallifrey…
Cap's face said he didn't believe it any more than Almanzo did.
Doctor Who / Little House on the Prairie Crossover Fan Fiction



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