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         The guards outside the cabin were yelling through the door, trying to ascertain what was happening.  Chess shouted back at them.
          “If you want your men alive, you will stay out there,” he ordered as forcefully as his dirt-choked throat could manage.  Then, he sank wearily to the floor.  At the edge of his vision, he saw Tenor move toward a rifle that one of the guards, apparently confident in the team’s continuing success, had laid carelessly to the side.  Then, rifle in hand, Tenor crawled over to Chess.
          “Are you hurt?” Chess asked, alarmed that Tenor did not stand up.
               “I’ve been sitting a long time.  Waiting,” Tenor hissed.  “What’s the plan?”
          “Uh…”  Chess blinked and scanned the area of the cabin briefly.  His heart, which had only just started to slow down, began to pound again.  He saw no flares in there… nothing at all, in fact, to make a light or noise big and sudden enough to be a good signal.  “Uh…”  He felt panic rising.
          “So where’s the rest of your rescue team, jackass?” a voice growled, interrupting his thoughts.
          Brandt.  Chess felt his panic turn to sudden despair.  Brandt was in there with them, and he was not hit at all.  In the flurry of attack, Chess had not even noted the identities of the guards.
          Chess glanced toward the door, which remained closed.  The team outside, knowing there was only one way out, was probably content to let him make the first move.  He could not even hear them talking out there.  He imagined the entire force surrounding the cabin, rifles aimed at the door, patiently waiting for him.  He sighed.  Brandt in here and no exit from the cabin.  He had not thought this plan all the way through.  Feeling hopeless, his eyes flickered toward the drill sergeant observer who sat, impassive, against the wall.
          Tenor was standing now, shifting his weight carefully from one foot to the other and wincing, but he kept his borrowed rifle trained on the guards.  Chess sat, cross-legged, in silence for a few minutes, gloomily staring at the guards and the blinking lights on two of their uniforms.
         Brandt started to speak again.  “You gonna sit there all night--”
             “Shut up,” Chess insisted.  Amid the despair, he felt helpless anger rising, too.  He had put forth all that physical effort tonight, and for what?  His clothes itched painfully and he longed for a shower.
          One of the guards who had been shot tugged at his own uniform and started to rise.
          “Sit down,” Tenor ordered.  “You’re dead.”
          “Yeah,” the guy replied.  “I’m dead, so what does it matter?”  He slipped out of his flashing shirt.  “This thing’s giving me a headache.”  With a brief glance at the drill sergeant, he added, “I promise I’ll put it back on when we leave.”  He tossed the glowing jacket into a corner and sank back down with a loud exhale of breath.
          Chess just wanted to cry.  Numbly, he looked toward the jacket.  For a moment, he felt hypnotized by the colorful lights, which seemed even brighter and more jarring as they strobed on and off in the shadowy corner.  And then, something connected in his brain.
          With two quick strides, he lunged for the jacket and was back in the center of the floor before his prisoners could react.  “Hey, come on!” the jacket-less recruit protested, but Chess ignored him.
              “Keep an eye on them,” Chess said to Tenor.  Then, ignoring all voices around him, he pulled a piece of cord from one of his pockets and started to wrap the jacket into a ball, densely concentrating the blinking lights.  “Here’s the signal,” he thought to himself.  Yes, but he still needed to distract all the guards that must be standing just outside the door, with Ellis as their leader.  He looked at Brandt.
          To Tenor, Chess whispered, “Can you run?” and heard an affirmative reply.  “Good.”  Chess stood up and ordered the two guards who were not shot to do the same.  “You’re going out there.”
          Brandt, rising, scowled fiercely at him.  “You shoot me in the back, and I will rip your head off and impale it on that toy gun in your hands.  No pretend.”
          Chess swallowed hard, quavering inwardly at the violence in his opponent’s voice, but he managed to keep his own voice steady.  “Move,” he commanded.  

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It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.
-attributed to Buddha

         The author of A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness begins with a definition of the prevailing theory about depression, the cognitive-behavioral model.  This states that depressed people have a learned helplessness and, because of past failures, see the world more negatively than it actually is.  However, the author says, there is a counter-theory to this, supported by numerous studies, which proposes that so-called depressed people actually have a more realistic view of the world.  By contrast, the studies seem to indicate that, in order to remain happy, well-adjusted people tend to allow for some amount of denial.
          The book then goes on to profile a number of larger-than-life leaders, including Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King, Jr., who experienced depression, bipolar disorder or other mental illnesses during their lives.  Using their experiences as illustrations, the author suggests that encountering difficulty early in life, which tends to bring on depressive feelings, may also engender the ability to empathize with others.  In addition, and perhaps even more importantly for leaders, having to deal with intractable problems, whether they are tragedies in life or the constant threat of depression, could make the individual better prepared to deal with future difficulties than are people who have not experienced much failure.
The saving of our world from pending doom will come, not through the complacent adjustment of the conforming majority, but through the creative maladjustment of a nonconforming minority... Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.



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