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         The sun was close to sinking behind the trees as they crouched at the edge of the woods, everyone staring down at the creased and dirty map.  The final field training exercise had been underway since the previous afternoon, and they were no closer to achieving their original goal.  In fact, Chess mused as he briefly rested his burning eyes, the situation seemed pretty hopeless at this point.
          “I still can’t believe Brandt’s on Ellis’s team,” Mal was saying with a smirk as Chess opened his eyes again.  Once again, he tried to wipe the sweat off his forehead, but it kept coming down.
          “Yeah, great,” Dallow hissed.  “All that means is that he’s more angry than usual and he’s really good at this stuff… and Ellis is really good.  And they’re both working against us.”
          “Still, you gotta admit it’s kinda funny,” another recruit put in.
          “Yeah, I was laughing my ass off when our rescue teams got mowed down.  Twice,” Dallow growled.  He ran a dirty hand over the map in an attempt to smooth it out.  “Okay,” he mused.  “Our first attempt was to open fire at one side of the hill while the rescue team tried to sneak around back…”
          “Wow, that seems like it was a year ago, already,” the recruit next to Chess commented.  He rose to a kneeling position and peered at the map.  “The entire rescue team was knocked out in that one.”
          Dallow shook his head in disgust.  “They were too focused on getting into the cabin and didn’t pay enough attention to their surroundings.  We need to rescue the hostage, but not at the expense of the rest of us.  The second team did better, moving forward in waves.  At least they made it back.”
         “Yeah,” a recruit at the edge of the circle said, “maybe we should do another variation of that maneuver: have more people covering as a couple move forward.”
          “Probably would work if we had started like that,” Dallow agreed, eyes narrowed as he looked at the handful of people surrounding him.  “But now there’s only a few of us left unhurt.”  He sounded discouraged.  “What gets me is that none of this  - none of it worked successfully in the computer simulations either.”  He laughed without mirth.  “But we had to try something.”
              “It’s definitely a steep learning curve,” Mal agreed.  “But you’ve been a good leader.  We’re still here.  And we have until noon tomorrow.”
          Noon tomorrow.  The words echoed in Chess’s brain.  He felt exhausted, defeated.  Would they make it another day or should they just give up now and go get some rest, he wondered.  A noise, like branches breaking deep in the woods behind them, made him jump.  “What was that?” he yelped.  Then his face reddened as he realized how cowardly he sounded.  But when he looked around at the wide eyes of his fellow recruits, he did not feel so bad.  “What’s out here?” he asked more quietly.
          “Lots of things,” one of the recruits answered, frowning in the direction of the noise.  “Lots of people wandering around… people from the villages out here, looking for food – always food being thrown out near an army base, right?” he grinned tiredly.
          “And just people on their own,” another recruit added in a whisper, as if telling a scary campfire story.  “They say there’s lots of lost people just drifting through the woods, surviving on acorns and stuff.  Plus the dissidents are never far away.”
          “And then there’s the Tonton Macoutes,” Mal added.  She blinked as the entire group turned to frown at her.  “What!  I swear: that’s what they call the gangs out here.  My cousin says --”
         Chess listened with a new, vague fear.  It had never occurred to him to be afraid of more here than simply failing basic training.  That one overwhelming fear had sort of taken up his entire mind.  He glanced back toward the woods again as the chatter continued.  Now, something else thing to fear…
          He realized, though, in the back of his mind, that another thought had been growing during the past weeks: the thought that he sort of liked working with these people.  Most were sincere about protecting the country, and they were brave.  If it was what he had to do… well, then he could see fighting for something important with these guys... or at least giving it his best try.
           He was quiet for a few more moments, fighting with his usual self-doubt.  And then he took a deep breath and faced the group.  “I think we could win this,” he said quietly.  “I have an idea.”  

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War, War, and More War

Perfectly sane, good men have been drawn back to combat over and over again, and anyone interested in the idea of world peace would do well to know what they’re looking for… The defense of the tribe is an insanely compelling idea, and once you’ve been exposed to it, there’s almost nothing else you’d rather do… The only thing that matters is your level of dedication to the rest of the group, and that is almost impossible to fake.

War by Sebastian Junger

         In A Short History of the World, H.G. Wells is writing a decade earlier than Nehru, just a few years after the end of World War I. He writes with great disappointment about the outcome of the gathering of nations at the end of the war: “The Germans, Austrians, Turks and Bulgarians were permitted no share in its deliberations; they were only to accept the decisions it dictated to them.”
         Next is the part that is amazing to me, but perhaps it was the trending opinion among thoughtful world-affairs watchers of the time: he predicts WW II, which begins almost two decades later:

We are beginning to realize that that conflict (WW I), terrible and enormous as it was, ended nothing, began nothing and settled nothing… The crudely organized egotisms and passions of national and imperial greed that carried mankind into that tragedy, emerged from it sufficiently unimpaired to make some other similar disaster highly probable so soon as the world has a little recovered from its war exhaustion and fatigue.

         One more thing I want to note: many older books (that I suspect might no longer be under copyright?), including those by H.G. Wells, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, etc., are available for free download as e-books or as plain text at Project Gutenberg.(And if you wish to copy quotes, this is a great resource!)



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