Letters from Iwo Jima

March 12, 2008

MPP Games’ Brothers In Arms Series IV

Iwo Jima: Climb the Mountain

Bearclaw Paintball- Fayetteville, Tennessee

Friday, October 19th

My Dearest Mikko-chan,

The Emperor, in His glorious wisdom, has assigned me to the island of Iwo Jima.  The American Devils will be landing along the beaches in the morning, but we know not yet where.  Why they would want this desolate stretch of sand and hills, I cannot understand…though it is not my place to question the brilliance of our leaders.

General Kdiddy-sama has assigned my squad to the headquarters as reinforcements to rapidly deploy to wherever we are needed in the morning.  Sake is flowing amongst the troops and spirits are high.

There is bad news being whispered amongst the units, however.  These Americans will most likely have heavy armor to support their infantry.  I may die tomorrow, but I will bring honor to you and my homeland.

I have written my death poem.  All that is left is to die gloriously.

-Tree

Saturday, October 20th

My Dearest Mikko-chan,

Today has been a violent series of battles, yet I still live.

Early this morning, the Americans began their assault on the beach.  Artillery from their ships pounded this desolate hellhole of sand…though our bunkered emplacements along the beaches remained unscathed.

The southeastern shores were the target.  With a meager 25-man detachment defending this stretch of oceanside desert, General Kdiddy-sama quickly deployed the rest of our troops on the island to support them.  Whether we arrived in time was yet to be seen.

Americans poured from the landing craft in waves, shooting into the bunkered Japanese troops crouched in the ridgeline of the trees.  As the Devils ran forward to die, I was also running toward the sounds of combat.  My death poem tucked tightly into my uniform over my heart, I plunged through the tranquility of the forest towards the ever-increasing shouts and screams of the battle.

I was assaulted by the sound.  Like a torrent of hail crashing upon the wooden shingles of our home, the sound of the massive confrontation threatened to break my resolve.  No amount of training could have prepared me for the withering firefight that I saw before my eyes.

I clutched my gun tightly, fearful to fire a shot.  Surely if I fired at one of the American Devils on the beach, they would spot me and end my humble life.  To my left and right, others began to fire.  I watched their shots reach through the trees and find their targets.  American soldiers were eliminated in droves.

The death poem’s delicate paper brushed against the flap of my pocket.  Funny how such a small whisper of a sound caught my attention in the deafening exchange of gunfire.  It gave me purpose…I raised my gun and added my own weapon’s voice to the cacophony of noise.

We took casualties.  Not so many as the Americans, but the volume of troops pouring from the landing craft never seemed to stop.  By midday, the Americans had driven us backwards into the trees and established a base of operations off of the beach.  Word of our adversary’s name had filtered through the ranks by now.  The American General, Death By Daddy, was a well-known name to many of us.  It is no wonder the American dogs fought with such determination to secure the beach.

I was continually on the move…probing the American lines along a flank, or forming up with my other squadmates and pushing hard directly at the middle of their lines.  Many times I was wounded.  Many times the brave medics were there to patch me up.

Ah Mikko, I must tell you of the brave woman medic.  I have never seen such fierce determination as what Deb showed today.  Where men were cowering behind cover, she was in the thick of the battle- weaponless and unafraid.  Truly, the Emperor’s daughters may take strength in her dedication to our homeland just as we men did today.  If not for her and the other medics, many more soldiers would have perished…possibly giving the tide of American soldiers an opportunity to sweep through our lines.

Thankfully, this was not the case.  The infantry battle remained heavily in our favor.  The tanks though, were a different story.  Access to anti-tank weaponry seemed very limited.  The Americans sent tanks through our lines as many as two at a time to wreak havoc on our outpost in Suribachi and elsewhere.  I personally witnessed the might of these tanks and fear that they may turn the advantage back towards the Americans’ side.

I had established an ambush position just off the road between the American base and the fortress at Suribachi.  The growling sound of a motor announced the tank’s approach.  I tucked even closer to the ground…attempting to hide my body beneath nothing more than a few fallen leaves and a small sapling.  I watched the tank approach through my peripheral vision…praying that it would not spot me.

Remaining motionless, I used my ears to keep track of the tank’s position once I could no longer see it.  I dared not move my head.  It was so close as to be right on top of me.  I could hear the muttered gibberish of the Americans talking to each other as the tank motored forwards.

The squealing of brakes announced that something was wrong.  The tank had stopped directly beside my hiding spot!  I closed my eyes and waited for the hail of shots to riddle my body.  Seconds passed and I was still alive.  Ever-so-slowly, I tilted my head to the side to see why I was not yet another corpse on the battlefield.

The turret of the tank was not pointed at me, but instead on the fort at Suribachi.  A heartbeat after I had laid eyes on this goliath machine, the hissing report of its main gun drowned out the sound of my heartbeat thundering in my ears.  For what seemed like an eternity, I watched helplessly as the tank systematically destroyed every tower and building within the fort, eliminating many brave Japanese defenders within.

Petrified, I remained still… so still that my muscles had begun to cramp.  A searing pain in my calf assaulted me…not from an enemy shot, but from a charlie-horse of knotted muscle.  Just as the pain became too intense to bear, the tank began to grind forward again, on its way to the next target now that Suribachi had been demolished.  I gritted my teeth and waited for the tank to roll away from my position, and then began to stir…working out the cramp in my leg and hobbling away from the roadside.  I never again got close to the road today…I could not risk my luck in surviving another close encounter such as that.

It is getting dark now, and our orders are to snuff all lights to prevent an American Airstrike from decimating us as it had earlier today.

-Tree

Sunday, October 21st

Mikko-chan,

I no longer fear battle.  I have seen too much of it in the past 48 hours to ever hesitate again.  I had reached the limits of my strength by dusk yesterday, but many brave Japanese soldiers carried on the fight through the night.  Missions were run in almost complete darkness, and short-range firefights broke out sporadically…making many of us in the camp stir in our bedrolls, but yet glad to find a few moments of respite from the battle.

Eventually, even these skirmishes died off in frequency until finally silence ruled the forest.  It was a fitful night of sleep for me…the run-in with the tank haunted my dreams.

I awoke early this morning, the sounds of mess kits clattering as soldiers wolfed down hastily prepared meals.  I began to reload my kit and was amazed that I had burnt through more than 2,000 rounds the day before.  As I was provisioned with more ammunition, I gawked at a fellow soldier who was telling me that he alone had shot more than triple this amount.

In fact, the quartermaster had not been prepared for the sheer ferocity of the battle, and had sent for additional ammunition to be sent to our facility.  Thankfully, it had arrived in time…so no one was short for ammunition.  If yesterday was any indication of things to come, I would again be running low on ammo by the end of the day.

At the HQ, I formed up with my squad and began the march towards the lines we had established the day before.  The morning was humid, and within a few moments my vision was starting to fog up.  I squinted through the poor visibility and pressed on.

Unlike yesterday, I was not in the least bit hesitant to fire my gun.  We pressed straight through the middle of the forest and assaulted the American base, forming a wedge and bisecting their skirmish line.  I took up a position behind a small barrier of fallen logs and loose brush…looking for signs of movement through my fogged vision.

I did not have to wait long…American devils were attempting to re-establish a skirmish line directly across from my position.  My squad and I harried the enemy and eliminated many of them during the firefight.  I was wounded in the arm and fell back to the HQ for treatment.  Not to worry, it was a clean shot and the medics tell me it will heal just fine.  If nothing else, it is minimal enough that they did not relieve me from duty.  Soon after I was patched up, I had orders to return to the battle.

The fates have a twisted sense of humor.  I rejoined my squad and we began fighting along the hill just south of the Suribachi roadway.  Not long after we had found entrenchments to hold the line, the growling of a tank engine approached.  I knew what was coming, and screamed for anti-tank support, but it was nowhere to be found.  With dread clenching my stomach, I saw not one, but two tanks approaching our position.  Again, they stopped along the path directly outside of the walls of Suribachi.  Their turrets were not pointed at the fortress this time…the Americans controlled the fort.  My squadmates and I found what cover we could and waited.

More babbling gibberish and pointing gestures from the tankers, and the two machines began trundling south past our position in the woods.  Another close call, but this time there was no relief.  American troops began pouring out of the Suribachi fort and following the tanks south.  My squadmates and I waited as long as we could, and then opened fire.

We caught many by surprise, but their numbers were too great.  We were sent packing in short order and we rendezvoused at our headquarters to regroup.

Word trickled through the ranks that the Americans were attempting to make a final push to establish a more permanent position on the island.  The next hour of fighting would determine the fate of Japan’s property…the island of Iwo Jima.

Once more refilling our ammunition supply, the Japanese army was assigned to take and hold three strategic points on the island.  With the end of the conflict in sight, we grouped up by squads and hustled towards our objectives.

Resistance was met almost immediately.  By the time my squad approached our objective, it was already in the hands of the Americans.  The forest became our best ally, providing concealment for us to encircle the American position.  At an unspoken signal, we rained fire down upon the group of buildings from the surrounding hillsides.  Japanese and American forces collided in close-quarters fighting as groups of brave soldiers began a room-to-room frenzy of flashing swords and point-blank encounters.

From my hillside perch, I watched us slowly retake the town.  I kept suppressive fire aimed towards the Americans’ line of reinforcement…pinning a few soldiers who were attempting to relieve their beleaguered comrades in the town.  Sweeping through them, the rest of the Japanese force eliminated the last bits of resistance and the town was ours.

Soon after, the battle had ended.  The Americans, having failed to establish a firm foothold further into the island, had given up their beachhead HQ and were loading troops back onto the landing craft in an organized retreat.

Ammunition had run out for many of us, and so we followed Bushido.  One of our XO’s was reported to have taken nine enemy soldiers with his blade before falling to the enemy.

Mikko, I have been given the order to pack my gear.  My service to the Emperor has rewarded me with a trip home before I am once again called on for duty.

I have burnt my death poem…this island has rid me of the need to carry it.  My poem will be forever ingrained in the sands of Iwo Jima.

-Tree

MTP’s 5th Birthday Bash

August 26, 2007

I recently went to Middle Tennessee Paintball’s 5th Birthday Bash.
And a bashing it was. Pummeled by heat, sun, and humidity…it was challenging just to keep hydrated. The level of sportsmanship and fun though, was on the opposite end of the spectrum. I met many “cool” folks, and had a blast.

Let’s go over some of the highlights, shall we?
Facilities: A great field is defined by the hard work that is put into creating it. MTP is no different than many others in the area. Places like Bearclaw Paintball’s expansive woodsball fields are a tribute to the Scenario Gamer’s dream, but MTP rivals Bearclaw…just on a smaller scale. MTP has two primary woodsball fields. Lovingly known as “big woods” and “small woods” by the local players, it provides a challenging bit of terrain for even newcomers like myself.

Interspersed with the local flora, you’ll find bunkers, barriers, and the usual “deer trails” that provide un-cluttered transportation venues between hot spots. And like most fields, you must be very careful when traversing these trails, lest the evil snipers ambush you.
I’m one of those snipers. What I love about this field is that there are plenty of places where the undergrowth is allowed to grow wild. No bushhogging it down so it resembles a speedball field with trees instead of bunkers. This is reason enough to keep me coming back for more.

Prepping for the day
The day started off well enough. I met up with my teammates of the Nashville Ridgerunners and shot the breeze while we waited for the call to orientation and chronographing. We talked about our markers. We chatted about our mutual interest in playing Battlefield 2 online. We talked about the olden-days (okay, I just listened to the stories…I’m a newbie to paintball and listened in slack-jawed silence while they swapped stories about the original days of the sport).
Once orientation gathering was announced, we kitted up and moseyed to the staging area. Bill (the field owner) gave everyone a run-down of how the event would proceed, and began splitting us into teams.
Lots of people gave me funny looks. Stands to reason, as I was testing out my newest creation…a ghillie suit made from the Special Ops Paintball Action Ghillie material. I’ve earned the nickname “Tree” due to my interests in blending in as much as possible. This event gave me the opportunity to try out my newest creation, and boy did it work.
The first mission was a Beach Landing. My team was slated for defense against the invading army of “Green” ribbons. The object was to get a large canister into the woods, and pound it against a specially marked base to end the game.

Round 1: Defense on Beach Landing
My “Orange” team did a phenominal job of holding off the invaders. They never once made it to the treeline where we crouched, laying down a horrid amount of fire into the Hyperball obstacles that they hid behind. In fact, the scenario seemed rather one-sided. I wasn’t looking forward to switching sides and trying to assault.
When the first round was called, it was a no-brainer. Not only did we dominate on defense, but we managed to capture the barrel…effectively preventing the Greens from having a chance to complete their objective.

A player has the red/yellow objective barrel (middle) and is moving up the field as teammates support him .

Afterwards, we walked back to fill up on air, paint, and lots of water. The first round of the Speedball Ace’s Tournament got under way, so me and the rest of the Ridgerunners cooled off in the shade. We’ve all agreed we’re not cut out for the Speedball scene.
After we’d all gotten a breather, it was time for the next Beach Landing…this time with Orange on the offense. Remembering the slaughter we handed out the first round, I was willing to give it a shot, but wasn’t looking forward to the anticipated number of trips I’d be making back to the respawn point to tag back in.

Round 2: Attack on Beach Landing
We had two divisions…the woodsballers, and speedballers. The speedballers had a nice pack lined up on the left flank, and the smaller contingent of woodsballers took the right flank.

I move up from the starting point…sticking out like a sore thumb in my new ghillie.

Things started out well, and only got better. With the amount of paint flying on the left flank from the speedball contingent, the Greens stacked up to oppose them. Little did they realize that their right flank was suffering. A number of early casualties on the defenders’ side from my team’s own assault up the right side gave us a narrow window to exploit.

Will has a great vault over a barrier captured on film. I’m hunkered down providing covering fire on the far left.

We not only exploited their weakness, we broke completely through. The woodsballers on the right flank made it to the treeline, and quickly piled in to our natural environment. Leaving the foreign territory of the hyperball obstacles in the clearing, our confidence soared as we began melting into the vegetation. We blasted up the tapeline and began to circle around…coming at the enemy forces from their rear.
After about 10 minutes, our barrel-toting hero thumped the objective…ending the game in a total victory.

Next up was another round of the Ace’s Tourney, and another break for the Ridgerunners. We were in high spirits after winning both rounds of the Beach Landing…and Capture the Flag would be coming up next. We began planning our strategy while guzzling down the fluids.

Round 3: Capture the Flag (1)
It was decided that an early flanking maneuver along the tape would be the key to a flag cap. We’d grab whatever fast runners we could find, and proceed as far into the opposing force’s backfield without firing a shot. The larger contingent of speedballers would zip up the middle and take positions in some cover…causing as much racket as possible to make the enemy think that it was our entire force.

It sounded good in theory. It even started out well. Breathless and weary (I’m a smoker, so the dash across the field was really hard on the ‘ole body), I followed the rest of the flanking force into the backfield of the enemy completely unopposed.
Hand signals flashed, and we fanned out…heading towards the flag. It looked like the coast was clear.
A couple brave souls moved up to the flag. As an Orange player reached out for the flag, a Green ambush sniper popped up from out of nowhere and took him out. A hail of fire returned the favor…eliminating the stealthy guy (I admire him…he waited until just the right moment to pop up). Will (a Ridgerunner teammate) ran up to grab the flag. With an hand on the flag, he had it! And then Déjà vu happened. Another sniper popped up and shot poor Will right in the forehead just above the goggles.

We avenged Will’s “death” and finally were able to snag the flag on our third attempt. The element of surprise was gone though. The Greens had heard the exchanges of fire and had begun to pull back to see what was happening. We had just sprinted from one side of the field…and the folks like me who were in no shape to go dashing back the other way decided to “Take one for the team” by staying behind to provide as much distraction as possible.
It worked. With flag in hand, a small group led by Will started picking their way back towards our own side. Not that I was able to keep up with him and the small pocket of defenders running interference for our flag carrier.
Nope…I stayed behind. And just like I’d planned…I took one for the team. Just one. One shot right in the goggles. I congratulated the Green who shot me on such a great shot, and began to make my run back across the field to the respawn point.

Highlight: Psychological Warfare
This is where the art of scenario/woodsball gaming gets really twisted and fun…I arrived at our respawn point, announcing loudly that I was a dead player and not to shoot me. I actually was in the out-of-bounds zone following a deer trail back to our main base. I arrived with a fellow teammate waving at me frantically. I couldn’t figure out what was going on until he pointed at our tag-in point for re-insertion.
A Green player was braced against the stack of barrels, marker leveled right at my chest. I laughed out loud and said “Gee…no point in tagging back in, then, eh?”

The Green player demanded to know where the flag was. In my peripheral vision, I could see our blue bandana flag sitting atop a rusted barrel not 4 feet to the Green player’s right side. It was time for some bluffing.

“I dunno man. I’m guessing that your own team pulled the same move we did…we ran right along the tape and grabbed your flag unopposed. I’m guessing your team probably did the same, so I bet one of your teammates already has the flag.”

“Oh, yeah…probably so.” Was his reply.

“Yeah, you probably ought to move on back to help support your guys.” I said.

“We’ll give you a 10-second head start.” My other “out” teammate chimed in.
“Okay…I’m leaving.” Said the Green player.

Priceless! He walked off back towards the middle of the field…completely oblivious to our own team’s flag being within arm’s reach of him the whole time he had his attention focused on me and my other Orange teammate.
Me and my crafty teammate stared at each other in wonder…not only had we fooled the poor Green player into thinking his team already had our flag, but we’d gotten him to leave our base! We both tagged back into the game (by touching the barrels the Green player had been using as cover), and had a good chuckle after the Green player was out of earshot.

My crafty buddy went back out to hunt some Green, and I decided that I’d better stick around just in case another Green player happened along. I found a nice little spot of concealment and crouched down to wait.

Rounding off the Round
About a minute or two later, I heard stealthy footsteps approaching. I readied my marker and hunkered down a little further to wait for them to expose themselves at the “Undefended” flag of our base.
Two players walked right past me…I could have reached out and touched them.

It was our flag runner and Will…returning safely to officially cap the flag and end the game. Once a ref yelled game over, I stood up from my hiding place and surprised the two guys. My ghillie suit had officially passed judgement. I was able to hide from Will, a vet of woodsball.
With the game over, we walked back to our staging are. By this point, we were all pretty tired. Mikey was beginning to show signs of dehydration, so we made sure he drank extra fluids and had a cool towel on his head. I myself was dragging. That run had really worn me out. An ambush sniper shouldn’t do that much running…but it was for the good of the team. I had done my part by keeping the Greens from being able to pursue our flag runner, then sprinted back for a respawn.
I got to tell my story about fooling the Green player…which drew a great deal of chuckles and congratulations. I felt great at having sprinted back to the respawn point. If I had walked as my body was wanting me to do, that Green player might have been able to eliminate our returning flag capturers.

We started strategy for the next round of Cap the Flag. I think we’d all decided that this wouldn’t work twice in a row. We were all feeling the effects of a full day of running around in 100+ degree heat in a glorious Tennessee summer.

Round 4: Capture the Flag (2)
It was agreed that we’d provide some mid-field defense, and let the speedball portion of our team go for the flag cap. We geared up and moved out. I stuck to the same side of the tape that we’d sprinted down the first time (but moved much slower this time).

The entire field turned into the more traditional skirmish. Both sides met at about mid-field, and neither gained, nor lost much ground. I was wary of how easily we’d run up the tapeline the first game, so I stayed close to it…watching for enemy players who might slip through.

Highlight: I’m still a newbie
I proved I was still a newbie. From my position, I could see and hear two players moving towards me. With their markers up and searching for targets while talking to each other about who was covering what firing lane, I assumed that they were enemies. I waited until they were both completely exposed and quickly took them both out with two well-placed shots at each person.
Needless to say, they were quite surprised to be hit. Especially by what turned out to be a teammate. Oh geez! I’d just eliminated two friendlies!

I apologized for the mix-up. Once they’d figured out they were hit by friendly fire, they were about to wipe and play on. I told them that it was against the rules, and that even though they were eliminated by friendly fire, they’d have to tag back in.

In hindsight, I wish I’d done more for those two guys. I stayed where I was and continued to look for more targets.
What I WISH I had done was walk with them to the respawn point, and then walk back with them to the action…helping them get back into the fight by adding another bit of firepower to help them have some fun. That would have been the more sportsmanlike thing to do. Lesson learned though, and if it ever happens again, I have promised myself to be a better team player. I still feel rotten about that.

A few minutes later, the two guys backtracked from the respawn point, calling out loudly “Sniper dude, we’re coming behind you…we’re friendlies.”
I tried waving at them, but it didn’t work at first…my concealment was just too good until they were right up on me. I waved again, and they finally saw me…exclaiming again at how well-hidden I was. Salvaging a little bit of honor, I moved up with them to the tape line and covered their advance into a copse of wooden spools.

Rounding off the Round
To make a long story short, the last match of the day ended in a draw. Time ran out before either team could make a flag capture. We all headed back to the rally point for final announcements and the grand prize giveaways.

The Day Draws To A Close…with a twist!
My relationship with Lady Luck has never been a good one when it comes to games of chance. I never win at cards, never win drawings, and fear the lottery for similar reasons. Today was a different day. The name of the winner for a brand-new Smart Parts SP8 marker was announced. It took a moment to sink in…they’d just called my name!

Standing up with a murmured exclamation of “Oh Me!” I made my aching legs walk over to Bill & the event crew to receive my prize. I was exhausted, but happily surprised by my luck. I was fortunate to have my photo taken with the rest of the Ridgerunners and my brand-new marker.

From left to right are my fellow Ridgerunners: Will, Mikey, myself, Chip, and Bill…owner of MTP. (Not pictured is R.J. who was also in attendance, but had left early)

Afterwards, we all packed up our gear and started heading home. Hot, Exhausted, and Happy…I drove back home. A great day…and happy 5th Birthday to the MTP field. I’ll be back!

Blood and Honor, The Journal of a 9th MID Soldier

Chapter 3: Out Like A Light

 

“Proph…I found your “diary” ole bro,” said Zoraster.

 

“It ain’t a diary feth-for-brains…It’s a journal.” I said.

 

“Same diff, you still poured your guts out,” he said, cracking a smile.

 

Funny he should put it that way.  Zor was on his way out.  No two-week pass like I got for my arm.  I mean [i]out with a capital Oh[/i].  In that last scrap with the enemy, he’d gotten a gut-shot.  Hurts like hell from what I hear.  Sure, the bonecutters had sewn him back up, but the damage was done. 

With no intestines, half of the pills they shove down your throat before being posted to a freezing hellhole such as the Northern Quadrant are useless.  If you have no stomach, there’s nothing to absorb the meds into your stomach lining to prevent Scalitosis. 

With no large intestine, there’s no helpful little microscopic critters that assist in digesting the indigenous plantlife and tree bark (which does NOT taste like chicken).

With no gall bladder, there’s no…well…actually that’s a pretty useless organ. 

But the point is that Sab lost it all to a chest-level APM mine.  Blew a hole right through him and it took him ten minutes to notice.  Now [u]there’s[/u] some guts for ya.  The poor bastard was too cold to realize his middles were missing.

 

“You don’t owe me anything Proph.  We’re good,” Zor said with a crooked smile, eyeing my half-case of MillCoors Plat.  I couldn’t help myself.  I crooked two fingers around the neck of a bottle and tossed it to him.

 

“Here Zoraster, It’s the least I can do for a reward.  I woulda had to start all over again in my JOURNAL,” says I, emphasis on the word journal.  Diaries are for girls.  Maybe not the one on my lap (who I’m beginning to wonder about) but definitely the quiet one with the huge erm…personalities that was giving me the eye from on top of my med chart.

 

Well folks, I’m feeling pretty good right now.  I’ve got beer, I’ve got some “special ladies,” (Not the Last Stop kind…the clean, non-Radpoisoned, 100% pure woman kind…even the blonde with the adam’s apple sitting on my lap right now), and I’ve got a great story to tell.

 

First, to the beer.  Thanks to DaddyofThree’s generous offer to buy my spot in active duty, I am now the proud owner of two cases of pure, unfiltered, coldbrewed Millweiser-Coors Platinum beer to keep me happy for the next week.  Well…more like half-a-case after the drinking and the bartering, but hey, it’s what keeps my narrative inspiration going. 

The ladies I’ve surrounded myself with are a byproduct of the beer.  You see…ever since the re-prohibition in ’37, alcohol has been hard to come by.  Millweiser-Coors has deep pockets and managed to get around the re-prohibition act of ’37 and so I must refer to it as a “cold beverage” since that’s all their advertising efforts have ever called their product.  Since I’m drunk though, to hell with it…I’m calling it a fething beer because calling it a cold beverage is just too fething panty-waist for a stone-cold killer such as myself.  Heheh…that last part was a joke.  I’m more like the innocent bystander who picks up a gun and miraculously survives the first attempt at trying to act like a hero.

 

In any case, when it comes to “cold beverages,” it’s like bartering Levi Jeans in what used to be Poland…one beer can be traded for a week’s stay in the finest hotel.  Well…out here in the field, we soldiers value such things much more highly than our creds.  A beer can get you into places where no amount of creds ever could.  A case of beer?  Well…look around me.  I’m surrounded by a dozen gorgeous women (and one ugly one with a five-o’clock shadow on my lap) who are willing to do anything I ask.  All at the cost of a lousy beer.

 

Sad?  Maybe.  Not nearly as sad as the fact that I’m now without an arm and had to spend this last battle as an observer from the safety of the command bunker.  Sure, we turned the tables on the filthy bastards, but that wouldn’t be much of a story if I left it at that.  Allow me to elucidate you…

 

We were stationed at the Statue.  Named for the big honkin’ statue that was named for some famous guy a while back.  Schwarzenyager or somesuch.  He was a bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned-politician-turned president.  It looked like a huge lump of wackadoo triangles and such to me.  I saw it briefly as I walked the camp between my “appointments” with the medicos. 

They’d routinely stop by and jab me with a needleful of some painkiller or another (I kicked the feth out of the first guy who tried an aerosol injector on me, so they went oldskool and used needles from then on) and let me roam about the camp with an escort.  Wet-behind-the-ears recruit who apparently did something wrong.  That’s the only reason I can figure they’d detail someone to look out for me.  I’m nothing special really…just another soldier who’s managed to survive sixteen years in this outfit.  I heard later from FatKid that this kid had actually volunteered for the duty. 

In hindsight, it makes sense.  The kid wouldn’t shut up…asking me questions about where I’d been and how I’d survived so long.  Funny he used the term “survived” instead of something like “succeeded.”  Sure, the life-expectancy of a soldier can usually be measured in hours…but I figure I’m cursed with sucking up those unused minutes from the guys around me who invariably die horrible deaths like Luke McCarthy…who took it right in the keester during a skirmish in Karkand some years back.  His stomach was so perforated he took in air every time he inhaled.  Bleeding out is one thing…bleeding out in a flatulent series of red-misting farts is something I don’t care to think about…makes me feel guilty for chuckling at a really bad situation.

 

Anyway, Squad FatKid was detailed with defense of the Schwartza-whatsit statue.  The enemy was expected any minute…like dinner guests who are on their way, but stuck in traffic, you know they’ll arrive…but it’s anybody’s guess whether dinner will be cold when they get there.

FatKid kept his boys frosty though.  Drakin had my baby doing laps up and around the ramps leading to the statue.  Lucy Quipment was in fine shape.  The Cogboys (slang-speak for the full-time engineers in the outfit) had her left leg fully functional and she was happy to be out and about.  Drakin was still trying to get a grip on my lady, but with my new arm, I wasn’t in any position to be doing it myself.  Matter of fact, I wasn’t even returned to active duty yet.  Medicos were warning me about the side-effects of the dope I was on.  Something about memory-loss or somesuch.  Yeah, I’m a little hazy in places, but it can’t be more than a week since they lopped off my stick-strokin’ hand. (Editor’s note: Proph was out for months, babbling incoherently…his short-term memory is completely gone.  It’s a wonder he remembers this battle in such detail after so much time)

 

I do remember with such clarity that even though Lucy’s leg was repaired, she still had a swagger in her stride.  Like a two-cred hooker, she swished when she moved.  Probably Drakin’s own sense of balance interfering with the lower seat of gravity that both women and walkers have in common.  A true walker pilot learns to focus from the hips after a while.  When someone says a walker pilot “runs like a girl” it’s taken as a compliment.  It means he’s thinking like his lady.

 

I watched Drakin make a few laps, then return to the statue proper to take a break and smoke a Stann.  Stann was popular in Pakistan back in the 21st century.  They’d chew on it for a high similar to meth.  Problem was, it turned your teeth yellow…and eventually black.  Rotted ‘em out.  Smoking Stann didn’t give you the same high, but it was completely side-effect free.  Tobacco smokes went out of style after the taxes on ‘em skyrocketed.  They’re like fish eggs…only the rich can afford the luxury (Editor’s Note: I’m assuming he’s referring to caviar here.  Never seen it myself.)

 

I moseyed back to the field hospital at my charge’s urging.  The kid must’ve been keeping time, because I was starting to feel an itchy sensation on my elbow (which I didn’t have anymore).  It was time for my meds.

 

My earpiece crackled to life. 

 

“Proph, Pfeil here.  You ready for some action?”

 

“Uh, yeah boss.  I’m ready.  Tell Drakin to pull his sorry ass out of Lucy and I’ll get her warmed up good and proper.”

 

Uh oh…I forgot my sentry was right next to me.  “No way man…you’re under strict orders.  No combat.  No operating heavy machinery.”

 

“You callin’ my baby ‘heavy?’” I says.

 

“Um…no…sir.  You just shouldn’t be piloting a walker in your…erm…condition.” Says the little puke.

 

Well…about that time, DaddyofThree slinks up to me.  Stealthy little bastard.  Okay…not little in the literal sense.  Daddy is one brawny sumbitch.  His triceps have biceps sort of brawny.  But he was a silent walker.  You could have eyes in the back of your head (which most of the helmets in today’s war give you with 180-degree vision) and you still wouldn’t notice him strolling up to you.  If he’s trying to be sneaky, it’s ten-times worse.

 

“Proph, I hear you’re being called up for active duty.  The enemy is about ten minutes out and coming in fast.”

 

“Yeah, man.  I just got the word from Pfeil to kit up…’cept this puke of a bodyguard is trying to stop me.” I say, giving the poor schlub my best stinkeye to let him know I mean it.

 

“Look, you’re still recuperating, and I’m just getting off a guard shift…but I’m in better condition than you to hold ‘em off.  Give me your slot and I’ll….I’ll owe you some brewski.”

 

Now this is where I cash in on my current situation…but I wasn’t about to let him have it without a squabble.  “No way man…my slot is mine.  ‘Sides, where are you going to get enough brew to buy me off in this hellhole?” I say, making a big show of looking around the snow-covered hills surrounding the demolished city.

 

“I’ve got a case of  MillCoors Plat stashed away.  My daughters sent it to me a month back.”

 

I pondered a moment…then made up my mind.  “Nope…sorry bub.  This new arm of mine needs to get broken in.  I’d rather do it while my meds are down and my pain is up so I can get a good sense of what it’ll feel like once the Medicos turn me loose.”

 

“Okay…two cases.  That’s all I’ve got man.  Two cases of MillCoors Plat for your spot.” Said Daddy.  Well…everyone has their price.  I just found mine.

 

“Fine, but I wish you wouldn’t.  I’d hate to see you bite the big one and not be able to deliver.”

 

“They’re stashed in the Medico FAV…just under the gauze and stimmpatches on the left side of the rear crate.  If I don’t make it, you know where they are.”

 

“Done deal…now don’t get yourself killed…I want to rub this in long and hard after this is all over.”

 

With the haggling out of the way, Daddy had earned a spot on the active roster…against regulations I might add.  I had earned two cases of the most rare substance this side of the equator.  Hell…I bet a gnat was more likely to make diamonds out of coal squashed between his ass-cheeks than I was to see another bottle of MillCoors Plat…nevermind two full cases of it.  Only one thing left to do…

 

“Pfeil, this is Proph.  Medicos say I’m restricted from duty.  Over.”

 

“Fine…scrounge up DaddyofThree.  He’s freshest off the guard rotation.  Have him report in for duty immediately.”

 

“Sunnova…” Was all Daddy could choke out.  I laughed gruffly, patted him on the back and said, “Congrats bro…you’ve just been promoted to active status…and boy was it hard to convince Pfeil to let you in.”

 

Of course, Daddy heard the whole thing over comms.  It was kinda funny, but truth-to-tell, I couldn’t leave a brother hanging like that.  I gave him a couple of bottles from his stash to ease the hurt.

 

The feth turned to sludge after that.  I got ushered towards the field hospital as quickly as possible.  We never made it there though.  Arty began clobbering the place.  I saw Saboteur go flying from a pillar of explosive death not two dozen yards in front of me.  Shameful really…the guy had promise.  He’d made it a whole four months in the outfit just to get his guts splattered across some corporate office building’s windows.

The kid started pulling me towards the command bunker.  I didn’t resist much, as it seemed the Arty strike was walking fire in our direction.

 

We made it just in time.  The door to the bunker shut closed behind us and the last plasma shell from the artillery strike hit just outside.  Fused shut, the door to the bunker wasn’t going to allow me outside anytime soon.  On the downside, that meant no regrouping with my unit to pilot Lucy.  On the upside, that also meant no Medicos breathing down my neck shooting loonie-sauce into my veins.

 

In all my years of soldiering, this was the first time I’d ever stood foot inside of a command bunker.  I never knew what life was like pushing around little icons in the Holotank until I got trapped inside.  Pathetic really.  We’re out there bleeding and killing while the “nobility” gets to sit safely inside a Stonecutter-proof bunker directing traffic. (Editor’s Note: Proph must have been a fan of literature to use a reference to atomic weapons only named “Stonecutter” in Frank Herbert’s Dune series of novels.)

 

I watched as Cap’n Edge picked up the holographic icon of Fatkid’s insignia and placed it on the Schwartza-who-zit statue.  Immediately, a blinky-icon with a purple shield appeared over top of his soldier’s head in the O‘tank.  Lorax’s squad got picked up and moved to the Comm Tower…gaining an orange sword over his head.

 

I was disgusted.  THIS was how commanders made decisions and gave orders?  Moving squad leaders’ toy-soldier holographic bodies over the field and making little symbols appear?  No fething wonder the life-expectancy amongst the boys in the outfit was so short.  The unshaven pissants commanding them had no idea what it was like.  It was all a game to them.  Like playing chess…only the individual battles amongst pieces sometimes went against the rules of the game.

 

Apparently, Edge saw the look on my face…he locked eyes with me and said, “Wait Sergeant…I know what you’re thinking…but don’t pass judgement yet.  This is just the prelims.  The real PowerBall match won’t get started until the first set of downs is finished.”

I nodded my head like I knew what he was talking about.  Most soldiers watched the PowerBall leagues, but I myself never got much enjoyment out of it, so I had no idea what Cap’n Edge meant.  I stuck around anyway…just so I could wring his scrawny neck when my boys started dying.

 

With that concerned look that people give you when they realize they’re about to receive the ass-kicking of their life, Edge’s eyes were the last thing I saw before it went dark.  Pitch dark.  I gotta hand it to ‘em…the enemy was sneaky enough to get around our flanks.  They’d cut the power.

 

What happened next was a true surprise…

 

 

(To Be Continued…)

I attempted to play woodsball this past weekend.  Went to a new field (for me at least) and met up with a couple of fellow Ridgerunners.

I say attempted because we were the only three who were there for a woods game.  Plenty of speedballers milled around firing off their mouths as fast as their trigger fingers, but it’s mutually agreed upon amongst my teammembers that we’re not Speedballers…so we did a bit of 2-on-1 action.

I’m the newbie on the team, so I have a lot to learn.  It certainly showed.  I got paired up with Will and we hunted down Chip (bait and switch more like…with me being the bait).  I learned some valuable lessons about the importance of movement on a woodsball field.

You either move a lot, or you don’t move at all.  There’s not much room for a middle ground.  My own personal style of play involves the latter.  I like setting an ambush and waiting for an unsuspecting victim.

With 2-on-1 though, it’s hard to sit still for long.  Will plays much more aggressively than I do.  I did my best to keep up with him, but never seemed to be much more than a meatshield/paint magnet.  Generally, I would end up drawing Chip’s fire while Will moved up for the kill.

Will and Chip are both great players.  They are constantly on the move…patrolling the perimeter of the field, doing hit-and-run skirmishes, and rarely if ever stay stationary for more than a handful of heartbeats.

Here I am, dressed up in my custom-ghillied dagger vest and AG Hood, traipsing around like I’m on a densely-foliaged runway.  My mind is screaming at me to find a good perch and wait, but my teammate is telling me to stay close and move as a pair.  I followed Will’s instructions as accurately as I could, but didn’t feel like I was playing “my” game.

Chip pointed out a very important point after we finished up…my ghillie was actually giving me away.  I have a mixture of Action Ghillie material and some “Sneaky Leaf” brand faux foliage zip tied to my hood and vest.  It’s the middle of summer, and yet I had a bunch of yellow and brown faux leaves strewn about my camo.  Chip said that if it weren’t for this very odd mismatch with my surroundings, he might not have noticed me a couple of times.

Basically…It stuck out like a sore thumb in this particular field.
While we were packing up, I took a minute to snip off all of the “dead” leaves while mentally kicking myself for such an idiotic mistake.  In my head, it looked neat and proper (there are dead leaves all over my home field).  On the new field, it looked very out of place.  Lesson learned…no matter how cool it might look, the important part is matching your camo to the surroundings you’ll be playing in…which may change every week.

I didn’t have the most fun I’ve ever had, but I didn’t have a lot of fun in some of my college courses either…and yet I still learned some valuable info that I’ve never forgotten.   This will be the case with this weekend’s excursion.

Well…it’s been a few days since I’ve posted (alright…more like half-a-month). Not out of laziness or because I have nothing to say…I’ve been working my tail off on a website.

May I present to the world, UnionSportsmen.org…a website dedicated to the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, a club for Union Workers with a passion for the outdoors.

The majority of the initial look & feel was coordinated in conjunction with BMA Media…a great shop for not only web design, but advertising and print media as well.

This site was built using Expression Engine as the basis, with a complete overhaul of the templating to get a unique look and feel with BMA’s help (Especially Bob Craig, BMA’s design guru).

There’s a learning curve to EE that I just didn’t have two weeks ago. I needed an orientation to the interface and some help in taking the look & feel from static HTML to the EE templating system.

Melissa from emtwo web studios became a very great resource. EE can be a bit intimidating at first. Not because it’s poorly put together, but because there’s so much it can do that it’s hard to know where to start. Mel not only helped in setting up the basic structure, but helped show me the ropes of templating, efficient ways to use the coding language, and threw out some great ideas for implementing new features I didn’t even know were possible. By the time launch date came about, I felt like I was a veteran EE programmer (and was able to share some new techniques with Mel once I got over the initial newbie phase). I can say nothing but good things about emtwo…so much so that I’ll be hiring them to help in the next phase of the site’s post-launch production.

From a development standpoint, EE does a great job of saving PHP-based developers like myself a lot of hassle when attempting to re-invent the wheel for a new project.

EE has its own proprietary coding that takes a lot of the hassle out of generating queries, keeping track of session variables, and having to code redundant things like “Forgotten Password” functionality.
The nice thing is that you aren’t cornered into their own coding language. If you need a particular page to jump through a hoop that the EE coding language can’t handle, you can escape out into PHP’s native language, do what you need to do, and then jump right back into EE markup later in the code. Talk about foresight on their part!

Aside from Expression Engine, I’m using a couple of other php-based pieces to make the site work.

First off, there’s the visitor tracking package. I’m using Mint and am enjoying most of the functionality it affords. Having worked with ActualAnalyzer in the past, there are a few features that I miss, but plenty more that I find much more convenient. The nicest part is the ability to integrate Mint tightly with Expression Engine. Using a couple of modules, I’m able to track visits not only by IP address, but if a registered user is logged in, I can tag them individually to follow the REAL people that matter and where they focus on within the site.

Second, and I loathed the thought initially…an advertising management package. I despise banner ads to a degree that only the people who know me can appreciate. The mere thought of placing a single ad on a site I develop leaves me speechless, beet-red in the face and seething in rage.

I talked myself down off the ledge on this one though…It’s not true advertising. We don’t charge anyone for ad space. We don’t even open it up for just anybody to be able to advertise. It’s strictly for our various corporate partners to gain a bit more exposure. Better yet, I control the placement and frequency of the exposures, so I can keep them within a tolerable level.
I’m using OpenAds (aka phpAdsNew) and aside from some crummy documentation that makes learning to get it set up and administer the darned thing an absolute pain in the ass, it looks like it’s going to fit the bill.

Third, and everybody needs to listen to this…the Expression Engine default set of tools for entering content into a text field sucks. It’s absolutely terrible. You get the basics of bold, italicise, and a crap-tastic URL linker. I needed something that would make it a bit more friendly for my Content Manager to plug new articles into the site.
Again, past experience came into play…then was modified. I initially had my heart set on using FCKEditor. Integration with EE wasn’t exactly the most easy thing, and with a severe timetable until launch, I didn’t have the time to hardcode my own way of forcing it in.
Instead, I found that TinyMCE worked well with Expression Engine. There’s even a plugin that integrates it seamlessly. Well…that took care of the majority of the toolsets, but image insertion was still a hurdle. Rather than pay a bit more for TinyMCE’s image manager, I found iBrowser to be the answer (okay…actually Mel from emtwo found it and got it configured.  I just watched and giggled with glee once it worked). Free is good. A bit of configuring later, and the toolset was finished.

Overall, I’m very pleased with the site. There’s still a lot of development to do for future enhancements, but the Phase I site is up and running. Here’s to the entire team who helped get this site off the ground…if I ever meet you in person, the first round of drinks are on me!

Muffle that Hopper!

June 13, 2007

The harsh rattling sound of a half-filled hopper always seems to give you away at the wrong time.  Silence may be golden, but it’s hard to achieve.  Let’s first try for “muffled” and “easy.”

One word: Moleskin

Look around in the camping or footcare sections of any sporting goods or major retail store. Moleskin already has an adhesive backing and is strong enough to stick even while wet.
They come in sheets that are meant to be cut in order to get the shape you need for a blister and so you won’t have a problem snipping the edges to fit your hopper’s internal contours.

Crack open your hopper (not literally of course), line the insides with moleskin, and you’re good. Save the snippets for your gearbag. You never know when you might need it for the real purpose during a scenario game.

Materials Needed:

Hopper
Screwdriver
2 Packets of Dr. Scholl’s Moleskin (they come 3 sheets to a packet. I used about 4 1/2 sheets to coat the inside of my A-5’s hopper)
X-Acto Knife
Scissors (Optional. I had them handy, but never used them. The X-Acto was all I ended up using)
Chopping board

Procedure

Use the screwdriver to remove the bindings of your hopper. Make sure that as you separate the halves, you take a moment to look at how the lid and spring are assembled. It will help you when it’s time to put the lid assembly back in when you are finished.

Before peeling off the adhesive backing, premeasure what the moleskin sheet is going to look like. Cover as much area as you can, but make sure you don’t coat the area right around the funnel at the bottom of the hopper.
Leaving this area clear serves two purposes:
1. It ensures that there is no chance that a ball will get clogged at the feeder neck end of the hopper by having that extra bit of moleskin layering making the opening too tight for a paintball to fit through.
2. If a ball ever gets chopped, you won’t have an absorbent layer of Moleskin right there soaking it up.

Once you’ve eyeballed how the portion you’re covering is going to look, lightly score the moleskin with the X-Acto knife…drawing a line at the portions you’ll have to cut away to make a snug fit.
Next, remove the moleskin from the hopper and place it on the chopping board. Using the score lines as a guide, apply some pressure this time and cut off the pieces you won’t need to cover the surface you’re working with. Make as few cuts as possible, leaving pieces that can be used to cover other areas.

Once you have your piece cut, peel off the adhesive backing and apply it to the surface area. Start with adhering one edge of the moleskin and slowly working your way across to the opposite end that you started from. This helps eliminate air bubbles. You want to get every bit of the adhesive you can snug against the surface of the hopper, so go slowly and try to press the air bubbles out of the moleskin as much as possible.
If you’ve ever done any wallpapering, it’s probably a familiar process.

Take your time and work your way from the bottom area of the hopper towards the top end where the lid is. Use the largest pieces possible at the bottom, and save the snippets for areas along the “roof” and sides of the hopper’s interior. Let’s face it…wear and tear on your hopper might eventually lead to pieces of moleskin to lose their adhesive properties. The portions at the bottom of the hopper will probably see the most wear, so having large surface area pieces there ensure that small snippets are less likely to come loose and clog the funnel end.

Once you’ve gotten the large areas completed, doublecheck that there are no portions of moleskin that overlap with the edges where the hopper sides fit together. Trim any pieces that might overlap or otherwise prevent the two halves of the hopper’s body from fitting together snugly.

When coating the inside, keep in mind that not every square millimeter of surface area needs to be covered. Look for areas that have uneven surfaces. Make sure that these areas are covered, as they are more likely to cause a rattle.

Closing it back up
When you are satisfied, close up your hopper. Fit the two halves together without the screws. Eyeball the outside and make sure that there are no small areas of moleskin protruding from between the halves. Go back and re-trim any portions that do poke through.

Replace the spring & lid, then put the two hopper halves together again. Doublecheck that the spring is doing its job before screwing the hopper together again.

I ended up having to use my X-Acto blade to help me re-set the spring onto the hopper lid. It took a little bit of fiddling with, but I eventually got it to re-seat before I put the two hopper body halves together.

Once finished, cover the bottom funnel with your hand, pour a couple handfuls of balls into the hopper, and shake it around a bit.

You’ll notice that there’s no longer a harsh, plastic sounding rattle. Yes, there’s still some noise, but it is a softer, muffled sound instead of a loud clatter. Rattle around the same amount of paint in one of your paint pods to get an idea of the difference.

If you do still hear some clattering sounds, you may have missed a spot. Keep rattling the balls around until you get an estimate of where inside the hopper it is coming from before you take the hopper apart again.

The beginning

June 12, 2007

Here’s the inaugural post…just an FYI for things to come:

You can expect topics such as

  • Paintball (General)
  • Paintball(Woodsball-specific)
  • Computer Gaming
  • After-Action Reports on events that I attend
  • How-To guides on misc. subjects
  • Product reveiws of things I’ve actually bought and used
  • Rememberances of times past
  • And the usual laundry list of whatever I dream up

Just a few caveats so you’ll know what to expect…

I rarely, if ever curse in my writings. If I do, it’s to prove a point through emphasis or because I’m writing “in character” during a short story. I won’t be posting naked photos of me (trust me, it wouldn’t be pretty) or anyone else. I won’t be ranting…much. The overall content of this blog will be a mixture between informational resource and entertainment.

I’ll usually update once a week..maybe more during these initial days as I compile some of the topics I’d like to include. After that, it’s anybody’s guess.

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