Wednesday, September 25, 2013

General Jenny

There's a lot of nonsense out there, ever since Private Benjamin, I guess, about ladies in combat or girl soldiers or whatever you want to call them. Well, that sort of thing is a lot of fun, but has no actual relation to reality, as any safely retired military officer will tell you. But that's about soldier stuff, you know, fighting.  Carrying fifty pounds of junk on your back and slogging through mud and trying to kill other people while they try to kill you. That's kind of a guy thing.

There are, of course, exceptions to that, but they have to be really great exceptions to be practical. You can't just include girls in an infantry platoon because they can pass all the tests.  They have to be a lot more than that to offset the enormous downside of a mixed-sex military unit.  They have to be, well, Joan of Arc or the equivalent.  And, lo and behold, L. Neil Smith has gotten extremely Heinleiny again and written about just such a girl.  Here's a chapter from his forthcoming General Jenny:

A Chapter From General Jenny
a Forthcoming Novel
by L. Neil Smith and Craig Franklin

Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise
[AUTHOR'S NOTE: A little while ago, L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise ran an earlier chapter of theis work-in progress I've been writing with my old friend, libertarian singer-composer Craig Franklin.
In the story so FAR, 'way down South, where the continents meet, a Miskito Indian village shaman tells his followers of a warrior spirit, in the form of a girl, a sort of latter-day Joan of Arc, who will help their people throw off a murderous dictatorship. Asked if this is a prophecy, he shakes his head, and shows them a worn, dirty newspaper clipping ...
In the following episode, it's a few weeks earlier. Colorado Springs high school student Guinevere "Jenny" Knox is a direct descendent of General Henry Knox, one of the American Revolution's greatest and cleverest heroes. From then until now, all the men in her line have been Army officers, although none has risen above the rank of colonel. Jenny has been determined since she was four years old to become a general.
Zimmerman High School is a private institution with unusual methods; its students like to think it was named after singer/writer Bob Dylan. Giving a report in her history class on the Chinese military genius Sun Tzu, Jenny is laughed at when she tells the famous story of his having trained the Emperor's concubines in the Art of War. Her teacher, a socialist who has always disliked her, goads her into betting football captain Kip Flanders she can teach the cheerleaders to defeat his team in a paintball game she describes as "Last Man Standing".
Sergeant Hathaway is a Marine veteran in charge of the Zimmerman High School ROTC program. He likes Jenny, who is his brightest and most accomplished junior officer, but he is certain she's about to be humiliated.
Elodia is the daughter of the Mexican consul. Serenity's parents are hippies and she is morally uncertain about this battle she's about to fight.
Having befriended the pep squad's beautiful and athletic captain, Pepper Davis—the "Daphne" to her "Velma", as Jenny sees it—puts the other cheerleaders solidly on her side. And the game is about to begin ...

The "Field of Valor", as Jenny's father insisted on calling it, consisted of about two acres of steeply-sloped, thickly-wooded, undeveloped land that belonged to the family of Cao Phuong Ahn. Her parents, Vietnamese immigrants in the 1980s, had invested in real estate at the bottom of the market, and by all reports, had done very well.
This particular parcel may have been the exception. One boundary was in dispute, and the zoning board wouldn't act on a request Ahn's family had made until the dispute was resolved. Even so, there didn't seem to be much practical use for the property, except, perhaps, as a battlefield.
Jenny had frankly been surprised when Cao Phuong Ahn's folks had agreed to let them use it for "The Big Game". Then again, they'd lived through a real war, a long, tough, murderous war, and probably didn't see much harm in toy guns and toy bullets—unlike some of her fellow students and their "progressive" parents who were giving her a hard time.
She'd even received half a dozen nasty phone calls.
The day was sunny and warm for this time of year. It would be somewhat cooler in the shade of the trees. Sufficient exercise woulkd keep them arm, Jenny decided. It was also relatively calm, although the air here at the foot of the Rockies was never still. The trees were almost all of the same size, their closely-set trunks four to five inches in diameter, a sign that a fire had cleared this hillside a number of years ago. They were mostly pine trees, with an occasional copse of white aspen, their leaves shimmering like tinfoil in the breeze.
The air smelled intoxicatingly of evergreen and sagebrush, warming in the sun, but you had to keep a lookout for the prickly pear clumps growing in the sandy soil, that sometimes almost seemed to leap out, as a cruel joke, for a victim's unsuspecting heel. Bees and big yellow horseflies buzzed past one's head as grasshoppers snapped from bush to bush.
A meadowlark sang and it was answered by a black-capped chickadee. Overhead, a raptor of some kind scanned the ground for rabbits or prairie dogs, its wings stiffened as it rode the thermals, tilting a little this way and that to adjust for the mild turbulence. Somehow it looked to Jenny like the little planes the Air Academy used to tow gliders.
A surprising number of spectators had shown up, although no effort had been made to publicize the event. Almost every team member's folks were here this morning, including her own, also various boyfriends and girlfriends. Sergeant Hathaway had come in full dress uniform; Craig had long since told Jenny of his conversation with the man about her. And there was also a couple of TV trucks, one from Denver and one from Pueblo, and an oldtime reporter from the Gazette-Telegraph, with a photographer.
And, naturally, there was Ivory, for the school paper, already clicking away, with Jenny's poor brother in tow, lugging her spare equipment.
The property, roughly trapezoidal in shape and somewhat wider at the bottom than the top, had been marked off with cheerful yellow crime scene tape generously donated by the local police department, where Emily Sorenson's mother was the Chief. A couple of her uniformed minions were in attendance with her, mostly to make sure innocent hikers didn't accidentally wander into the free-fire zone and wind up with a faceful of paint. The local firehouse had sent an ambulance and a couple of paramedics, but even they were primarily in a game-day mood.
The basic idea, hammered out days earlier by Jenny and Kip, with Mr. Goldfarb looking on, was that, at the referee's signal, both teams of eight young warriors would enter halfway up the slope, at opposite sides of the property, north and south. With as few rules governing them as possible, they would cross the area, making contact singly or in groups, and exchange "fire" until the last unpainted individual was standing.
At Jenny's suggestion—and with Kip's enthusiastic agreement— the combatants had chosen as the day's referee, Brother Aluminium Foyle, of the Cheyenne Mountain Our Lady of Chaos Shrine and Grill, a popular spot for area high-schoolers, where Brother Foyle held forth in a manner somewhat reminiscent of a combination of George Carlin and Gallagher.
Brother Foyle, who also hosted a Saturday morning show on local cable television, ostensibly intended for small children, but filled with inside jokes, double-entendres, and references to popular culture for his teenage audience, began the festivities—rather ambiguously, under the circumstances—with the benediction, "Confusion to the enemy!"
As longtime, faithful congregation members at his burger palace, malt shop, and Erisian shrine, the combatants knew to answer, "Hail Eris!"
Brother Foyle responded, "Hail, yes!"
Both teams gathered around him. As if seeing them for the first time, Jenny realized that the seven teammates Kip had chosen seemed to be twice the size of her own biggest fighter, Emily Sorenson. Although she realized that this wasn't a game of size or strength, and that victory would belong to the best tacticians and the sharpest shooters, it was still a very daunting sight. She tried hard not to gulp visibly.
All in all, both teams were a formidable-looking lot in their baggy camouflage battledress, safety masks and goggles, and light body armor. A local paintball and archery shop owner who ran an indoor combat facility where they'd practiced, had loaned them weapons and equipment, provided he was listed as the event's sponsor. The boys wore their football jerseys over their armor, adorned with their accustomed numbers. Jenny's mother had helped her make up little tabards, more like bibs, with the girls' initials on them, front and back.
All except Jenny, whose teammates insisted she wear ST, for Sun Tzu.
The boys had equipped themselves with the latest and supposedly best guns the shop rented, with reservoirs for paintballs the size of two-liter Coke bottles, and fancy electronic sighting systems. For her team, Jenny had chosen the simplest, most reliable weapons. They could be reloaded easily in the dense cover of the woodlot, and the trees limited the likely ranges at which they would be shooting, making fancy sights irrelevant. Less is more: a post in front and a notch in back.
Dressed in his Sunday best (even though it was Saturday, Brother Foyle pointed out), he wore a dark, sharply-pressed, pin-striped "zoot suit" with authentically enormous shoulders, a watch chain so long that he tripped over it comically, and a floppy, fuzzy, wide-brimmed fedora.
He flipped a quarter-sized brass coin into the air. It had a Roman likeness of the goddess Discordia (otherwise known as Eris) on one side, and Eris's mythological trademark, a golden apple, on the other. Tokens like it were used in the many game machines at Our Lady of Chaos. Kip called out "Heads!" but the disk landed on the green grass apple-up.
This meant that Jenny's team would walk from where they all were gathered by the roadside on the north end of the property to the south end. The theory was that this "preconnoitering" of the battlefield constituted an advantage, which was why the coin had had to be flipped. The reality was that over the last few days, both teams had explored the ground thoroughly, developing tactics they would use today.
Jenny's team gathered and, at her nod, began sifting into the trees. When they reached the other side, and were ready, she would blow a whistle. When the other team whistled back, they would re-enter the game area and the fight would commence. Brother Foyle planned to head for the center. Penalties had been established for shooting the referee.
Pepper, the squad's captain, would be in tactical command. Her job was to execute the strategy she and Jenny had sat up two nights in a row, working out. As they talked, a mutual respect had begun to grow between them. Pepper was extremely bright and had qualified to start the pre-law program at a famous private college in Michigan. She was tired, she confessed to her new friend, of everyone thinking of her as Kip's "trophy girlfriend", and seriously anxious to reshape her reputation.
Once they were deep among the trees and out of sight of the road, they began swinging diagonally to the right, up the hillside, all except for Margaret Onofrio, who had turned out to be the fastest runner of the team. Jenny had given her the whistle, and she had continued south, toward the middle of the opposite side of the woodlot.
That was the beginning of the strategy. When her team, further up the hill at the top corner of the property, was prepared—they had synchronized their cell phones—Margaret would blow the whistle, giving the other team a false idea of their location, and then run as quickly as she could to join her own team. They would start into the game field, provided with the double advantages of higher ground and surprise.
"Walking across a steep slope," Jenny had explained, first to Pepper earlier in the week, then to the rest of the pep squad team last night, "has its effects. It's surprisingly tiring, having always to lift one leg higher than the other; the footwork can be tricky and dangerous."
Pepper said, "We'll tackle the slope diagonally, a bit easier, and at the beginning, when we're fresh." She had warmed to Jenny's plan immediately and clearly enjoyed sharing it with the other girls. "Then we'll attack the boys going straight downhill, which is also a lot easier."
"Thanks to gravity," said Jenny, "they'll have an unconscious tendency to trend downhill, the same way fleeing animals always run in circles, because one front foot always strides a bit longer than the other."
"No kidding," Shirley Miller mused. "I didn't know that."
Elodia said, "I did. Wolves count on it. They hunt in mated pairs. One pursues a deer or an elk as it runs in a circle, while its mate sits at the center, resting. Then the first wolf will come in for a breather while the other one chases their prey for a while. They keep swapping off, like a pair of tag-team wrestlers until eventually the animal they're chasing tires out and slows down, and it's dinner time!"
Everybody had laughed at the way Elodia's eyes had lit up as she told the tale. She spoke perfect, unaccented English and several other languages.
"So in effect," Jenny had concluded, "The boys will be in retreat before we ever see them—or they see us. They'll hit the south edge of the field without running into us, and be confused—until we attack!"
"If we strike fast, we'll have all the advantages," Pepper told them.
"And we're smaller targets!" said Margaret.
Everybody laughed.
So now here they were, Pepper, or PLD, in the lead, the rest of the squad behind, and Jenny watching everybody's back. As they turned right, Margaret, or MLO, kept heading south. Jenny was aware of the ancient military adage that any battle plan, however well-conceived in theory, begins to fall apart within five seconds of its activation. The trick was for your plan to fall apart more slowly than the other fellow's.
Jenny had thought a lot about what Kip's plan was likely to be. He and his team were football players, She guessed—or hoped—that it would likely be extremely straightforward. Move to the south, slowly spreading out, until he encountered the girls' team. Outshoot them and win.
After all, they were only girls.
On the other hand, Kip would likely have been coached by their history teacher, who theoretically knew all about important battles, from those of Alexander against the Persians, to those of Hannibal against the Romans, to those of Wellington against the French, to those of Nimitz against the Japanese, to those of Giapp against the French.
On the third hand, Mr. Goldfarb, being the good "progressive" that he was, didn't really like teaching about war, famous battles, or the military, even though he was teaching in one of the most thoroughly military towns in the world. Mr. Goldfarb liked to teach about liberal legislation: child labor, minimum wage, the 40-hour week, workman's compensation. Maybe he'd prove more of a liability than an asset to Kip.
They just arrived at the chosen location when they heard Margaret blow her whistle. Whether the team was ready or not, the big game was on.

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