Turning the Tables by D.I. Jolly
Whisper Sargent Ironsides,
‘Take a look down in that valley and tell me what you see.”
Jenkins picking up his binoculars and did as he was told.
“I see … b-b-bad intel, sir.”
Sarge let out a snort and leaned back against a tree.
“You got that right, but kindly be a bit more literal.”
Jenkins swallowed and looked again.
“I see, 6 times more troops than we were told about, all complete with vehicles and heavy armaments, which they also weren’t supposed to have, sir.”
Jenkins turned to look at his Sargent.
“What are we going to do now sir?”
Sarge grimaced, pulled out a cigarette which he stared at for a minute, then thought better of it and put it back in the box.
“Well, first of all, we should deduce how we got into this mess so we can accurately weigh up our options. Why do you think our intel so bad?”
Jenkins let his mind run over everything they’d been told before leaving the base and one single and very bleak thought came to mind.
“The enemy has agents in our military who are feeding us bad information to help them win the war, sir?”
Slipping the box of cigarettes back into his pocket and putting a match in his mouth instead, Sarge replied flatly.
“It is a dark day indeed for the army, son. But there is another possibility you’ve overlooked.”
Jenkin’s voice was almost hopeful and it made Sarge twist his head until his neck cracked.
“It is always possible that we have bad intel because we have bad information services, or that the information we do get is badly interpreted by agents, or whoever was checking where to send which maps and numbers got the information muddled and sent the wrong things to the wrong people. Human error is always, and often very likely, the culprit.”
Jenkins thought it over for a second then slumped back against a tree of his own.
“Jeez Sarge, I don’t know which is worse. That we work for a corrupt military or an incompetent one. Hell, I guess for all we know it could be both.’
He looked up at his superior officer and sighed.
“So, now what?”
Still looking and acting quite causal Sargent Ironsides smiled at the young man.
“Well, we’ve got a few options there. We could radio in what we’ve found risking alerting the enemy to our position, either by the transmission being intercepted or by giving information to a possible double agent and get murdered in our sleep. Or we could get back to the troop, get back to base and report what we’ve seen, even though it would be a direct breach of our orders and would almost certainly get us court-martialled and jailed. We could abandon our posts and run for it, live a life in hiding as deserters of the war and if found we’d almost certainly get court-martialled and hanged. Or we do what we were ordered to do. Delay the enemy by means of an ambush so that the main base of operations has more time to mobilise and either mount a full counter-offensive or evacuate… in which case, given the sure size of the force we’re facing, we’ll almost certainly die.”
Jenkin’s paled visibly and for a moment Sarge wondered if the boy might throw up, but he managed to keep himself together and after a minute said.
“Well, it looks like they have regular patrols and enough people to keep it up 24 hours, so I’d suggest we set up our ambush in the woods and attack them when they’re on the move. If we set up snipers in the trees on either side of the road and machine guns in trenches, we might be able to confuse them long enough to set off ordinates and block the path and maybe take some of their transports with it. If we wait until after the attack to send radio communication, we won’t be able to save ourselves but we might be able to save some people back at base.”
Sargent Ironside stared at his lost cause soldier for a full minute before he was able to actually form words.
“Well I’ll be butt fucked, this might be my proudest day since joining the service. I think I’ve actually managed to make a good soldier out of you after all.”
For a moment Jenkin’s lit up with pride and his cheeks flushed, but reality quickly came crashing back down.
“Too bad it had to be at the very end though sir.”
Inspired by Jenkins plan Sarge quickly got to his feet and pulled Jenkins up with him.
“Nonsense. If we give up before the fighting starts we’re sure to lose. What we need to do is re-evaluate the win condition and find strength in its possibilities. We might die sure, but we need to create a solid blockade before then, and radio back to base to make sure they know what’s happening, spies or no spies. If we can accomplish that, then we might lose our lives but we will have won the day. And the more of them we can take with us, well that’s just the icing on of this very shit cake. Come on son, we’ve got work to do.”
Jenkins saluted and followed, feeling reinvigorated by the words. They agreed to lie to the rest of the men about just how much worse it really, but not about how the outcome was going to go. Sargent Ironside stood in front of the 15 young soldiers and honestly said.
“I’m proud to stand with you on the field of battle, facing unbeatable odds and stare death in the eyes as if to say that if he wants us, he has to come and take us. We will no go down without a fight. We may lose our lives, but we can still win the day. And in the end, it’ll be the honour of my life to die beside such great soldiers as you!”
All the men, including Jenkins, cheered and they got to work. Late the next night the signal came that the enemy was on the move and by early the next morning, after 6 long hours of fighting, Jenkins crouched over Sargent Ironside, one hand on an explosive trigger the other firing a stationary machine gun, kneeling on a towel which he was pushing against a bullet hole in Ironsides’ shoulder. Jenkins pulled the trigger turning the forest in front of them into a blazing inferno and securing that on that day 16 people fought with honour and desperation but managed to hold off an army of 3 thousand long enough to get all the information that was needed back to base and to blow a hole in the forest big enough to delay the approach for at least a week. Although many of them had died, 3 managed to survive and get back to base, and when they got there, they were received as heroes.