A few days later, they were huddled together again.
“Okay.” Chess looked around at the faces of the other recruits. “They’re up on the hill. It’s open ground from us to them, so they’ll spot us instantly. Our other companions are down: it’s just us.”
“Just us,” Dallow echoed somberly. “What chance do we have?”
Mal let out an exasperated sigh. “Is there another way around?” she asked.
Chess considered her question for an extended moment. “There’s a path around to the right, but it’s not completely hidden. We’ll have to crawl and trust to our luck.”
“If we come up on that side, they might not expect it,” Tenor offered. “We’ll surprise them.”
“Everybody agree?” Mal asked. “Dallow…?”
“Why not?” Dallow groaned. “Die trying, right?”
A few minutes later, Chess looked around at his group again. “Okay, we made it this far. They are right in front of us, but they don’t see us. Again, there’s only open field between us and them.”
For a brief moment, Chess’s thoughts flashed back to his old game in the city and the way the Game Administrator used to lay out the scenes for the players. Of course, he had returned to that game in his mind many times since he had started playing the game with the recruits here. But this was the first time, really, that he wondered if any of those guys missed him or even remembered him.
“Huh,” Dallow interjected suddenly, and Chess wrested his focus back to the current situation. “Maybe… Yeah, we’re close enough.” Dallow frowned in concentration. “Yeah, we can do this…”
“Do what?” Mal asked quietly, but Dallow ignored her question.
“Tenor,” Dallow said. “You’re the fastest runner: I think you should take the lead here.”
Chess and the others looked at Dallow in surprise, but they let him continue.
“Yeah, I think so,” Dallow confirmed, nodding. “I think you should run straight at them.”
“And ask them for help?” Tenor hissed, disbelieving laughter in his voice.
“No, dumbass,” Dallow growled, beginning to rise from his crouched position. “Shoot them!” He raised his rifle and sighted. “You go, too,” he said to Chess. “Mal and I will cover you both.”
At that, Tenor jumped up and started running toward the hill. Dallow, standing at full height now, fired electronic shots in quick succession. Mal stood up beside Dallow and began to fire, also.
Up on the hill, the target lights on the opposing team’s suits lit up like multi-colored fireworks in response to the fired signals. The figures in the distance began to yell and run around. Most made an attempt to fire back, although a few of them were already shot.
After a moment’s pause, Chess lifted his rifle and ran after Tenor, shooting as he went. The hill before him blurred into a rainbow of motion beyond the sweat running into his eyes. He had almost reached the hill when he was hit. Then, according to the rules, he had to stop. His suit glowed as if he was wearing strings of Christmas lights. “Seems like it oughta’ be playing music, too,” Chess groaned to himself as the blinking lights disoriented him. Defeated, he put his weapon down, but he looked up in time to see Tenor reach the flag at the top of the hill.
Chess heard Mal squeal behind him as Tenor waved the flag in victory. Around him, a small crowd of members of the opposing team wandered aimlessly and colorfully. It was over, and they had won the game for their team. Despite his exhaustion, Chess grinned. Okay, it was only an afternoon’s practice, but they had done it.
Later, Ellis, of all people, came over to congratulate them. “From where I was watching, it looked like you came from nowhere and then hit a target with every shot you fired,” he exclaimed.
Chess found himself turning toward his teammates in amazement. “You know,” he said, “when it mattered… it was mostly Dallow.” Mal nodded vigorously in agreement.
“Well,” Ellis said, “I hope you are all on my team for the final field training exercise.”
“Coming up really soon,” Chess groaned quietly, feeling his momentary elation sink.
Continued next page...
It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address at Oglethorpe University, 22 May 1932.
I would like to move onto another subject, but I still have some things that I need to note about these two history books. The most amazing thing about reading both books is feeling as if you are watching history through the eyes of someone who is living in the time period. These are two intelligent and thoughtful men. One was the leader of a major political movement, and the other was a science fiction writer who might well be remembered for centuries. Both felt the need to know, internalize the lessons of, and share knowledge about history. But their greatest talents may have been in the way they wrote about -- and predicted -- from their present-day.
In Glimpses of World History, Nehru is writing in the early 1930’s: at the very beginning of Nazi Germany and also only about a decade after the Russian Revolution and the founding of the U.S.S.R. He speaks of the early, idealistic Russian Communists with some misguided hope. He speaks of the German Nazis and Italian Fascists with growing fear. He speaks of President Franklin Roosevelt and the business and social welfare reforms that are occurring in the U.S. with admiration. And he ruminates over how the mishandling of the aftermath of World War I, coupled with the problems that have been around since before the war broke out, are dragging the world toward war once again. Reading this section is sort of like watching a horror movie that you have seen before. You already know exactly when the door will be opened and the monster will jump out, but your heart still pounds as you watch the plot advance again.
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