"Lagranderrota" by Juan Rodrigo Piedrahita Escobar


Monday Night Infantry
by Dave Whittier


“Good evening, sports fans. Welcome to Gagetown, New Brunswick, Canada, and another edition of Monday Night Infantry. I’m Frank Henwood.”

“And I’m Mike Purcell.”

“Tonight promises to be another four solid hours of blood, sweat, toil and tears. Two top notch teams on the card tonight: Canada is hosting New Zealand, in a minor dispute over wool tariffs.”

“That’s right, Frank. These two countries have taken their disagreement all the way to the World Court with no resolution, so we’re going to see a little ‘binding arbitration’, courtesy of the International Federation of Close Combat. Over to you.”

“Thanks, Mike. We’ve got some time before the players take the field here in the Gagetown combat area, so for those of you who’ve just crawled out of a cave and have never seen Monday Night Infantry, let’s turn you over to our color commentator.”

“Hi everyone, this is Maria Cantello, live from the IFCC control booth. I’ll be giving you all the action on artillery, mortars and close air support, so stay tuned, you’ll be hearing more from me later on in the evening. For now, let’s take a few moments to set the stage for the upcoming battle; it’s promising to be a good one.

“First off, the order of battle and terms of engagement were agreed to earlier in the week, in a meeting between Canada, New Zealand and officials of the IFCC regulating board. Since New Zealand is the defendant in the tariff dispute, they were given the choice to attack or defend, and they have chosen to defend. That gave Lieutenant Colonel Andrew “Spud” Mackenzie from Canada the choice of the size of unit he will attack with, and he’s chosen the maximum possible force for this severity of dispute: a battalion. Under IFCC regulations, the strength of the defending team is then adjusted in order to make the battle fair to both sides. In this case, New Zealand is awarded two companies to defend with. For those of you in the viewing audience who aren’t up on your orders of battle, that gives us three companies on the offence against two companies on the defense. In terms of bayonets on the ground, that’s three hundred crazy Canucks up against two hundred killer Kiwis.

“That may seem to be an unfair advantage in favor of the Canadians, but don’ t forget: those New Zealanders will be waiting in prepared trenches, with probable lines of advance registered as priority artillery targets, so the Canadians aren’t as well off as you might think. Plus, don’t be expecting to see any contemporary military hardware in tonight’s game. Both teams are restricted to kinetic or high explosive weaponry. That means no nuclear, chemical, biological or directed energy beam weapons out on the field. A dampening phase shield, courtesy of Interplanetary Marconi, has been erected over the maneuver area, and will block off any access to positioning, communication or surveillance satellites. For those armchair military history buffs out there, those men and women will be taking the field with maps, compasses, and binoculars!

“The last phase of preparations for tonight’s battle, completed this morning, involved setting out the boundaries of the maneuver area, allocating artillery and mortar fire missions, limits on engineer support, and the positioning of collection areas for the wounded. Back to you, Frank.”

“Thanks, Maria. We’re just about ready to start here at Monday Night Infantry. We’ll be with you live for the next four hours, or until such time as one of our teams is no longer combat effective and is disqualified. If both teams manage to tough it out until the end, a winner will be determined on the basis of casualties incurred and rounds expended. Back to you, Frank.”

“Okay, well, the staff at the IFCC control booth is telling us that we’re about to start tonight’s game, so let’s go down to Shane Becker, who is currently set up at the Canuck line of departure. Shane, are you there?” “I’m here, Frank, with Reconnaissance Platoon of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment. They’ll be tasked with securing the line of departure early on in the game, that is, making sure that the Canadians themselves don ’t get attacked while they are shaking themselves out and still very vulnerable. Once the Canucks are on the move, Reconnaissance Platoon will move forward of the main body and try to find the Kiwi team. Remember, Mackenzie and his Canadians only know the general direction they can expect to find their Kiwi counterparts; they have no idea exactly where they are. Getting his eyes and ears out into the combat area will be very important in the critical early parts of this game.

“I’ve managed to get the Officer Commanding Reconnaissance Platoon, Captain Serge Landry, out of his armored vehicle long enough to have a couple of words with us. Serge, what do you think your chances are tonight?”

“Well, Shane, I think we’ve got a pretty good opportunity to take the Kiwis tonight, but we’re going to have to work for it. They’ve got a good force put together, and their defensive team is really tough, but I think if we can pin down exactly where they are early in the game, we’ll have a pretty good chance of destroying their position.”

“There it is folks, you’ve just heard from Canada’s Serge Landry, Officer Commanding Reconnaissance Platoon. Frank, the Canadians have gotten word to start their engines. I think the game is about to commence, so back to you.”

“Thanks Shane. I’ve just received word that the Canadians have just crossed the line of departure, and Monday Night Infantry has begun. Let’s see if we can’t get a word from Biff Henderson, our Eye in the Sky somewhere over the playing field. Biff?”

“Frank, I’m currently in position with Sky Cam 1 over the front of the New Zealand defensive position, at what will soon become the forward edge of the battle area. IFCC regulations prohibit broadcast of the precise tactical layout of the defending team until the first meeting engagement, but I can show our viewers the shot from Sky Cam 2, currently trailing the advancing Canadians. As you can see, the CO has chosen a “two up, one back” formation. That’s really unusual for this phase of the game, having two companies abreast leading the advance, followed by one company in depth. He could get his team into trouble if they run into any restricting terrain. Plus, if he gets two companies pinned down in a firefight he’ll only have the depth company available to swing around and try to finish things up. It ’s a risk, but if he’s lucky he’ll have a lot of bayonets available for that first, critical engagement. It looks as if Mackenzie intends to finish this game off as quickly as possible. Frank.”

“Thanks, Biff. Things are just getting started here on Monday Night Infantry, so let’s pause for a few moments for these important words from our sponsors.”

* * *

“Welcome back to Monday Night Infantry, with your hosts Frank Henwood and Mike Purcell. Mike, while we were away on commercial, we heard that something might be amiss down on the field. Do we know what’s going on yet?”

“Well, Frank, details are sketchy at the moment. We’re trying to get in touch with Maria Cantello at the control booth and see if we can’t find out what’s happening. Maria, are you there? Maria?”

“Yes, Mike. Sorry for the delay, we’re trying to get some more information down here at the control booth, but it looks as though the Canadians may have violated the rules of engagement. I … wait … I’ve just been informed that Shane Becker is with the forward elements of the advancing Canucks and actually witnessed what transpired. We take you now to Shane Becker.”

“Thanks, Maria. I’m with soldiers of Reconnaissance platoon from the Canadian team. We’ve had an accidental weapons discharge here in the front lines. Not a serious problem under usual circumstances, but unfortunately the weapon in question was a pulse laser cannon. This is, of course, in violation of the rules of engagement for this particular match, and I’m afraid the officials will not look kindly on this infraction. Nobody was hurt, and we’re still well back of the Kiwi defensive zone, but a pulse laser cannon has been fired on the field. Frank.”

“Okay Shane, thanks. Well, what a disappointment for the Canadian team. As you in the viewing audience are probably aware, rules of engagement are adjusted according to the severity of the dispute being resolved, so many of the team’s fighting vehicles are permanently equipped with many weapons that may not be used in a particular match. They are, of course, supposed to be deactivated for the duration, but some soldier’s itchy trigger finger is going to cost the Canucks a big penalty.”

“That’s right, Frank. These sorts of things do happen from time to time, but it’s still a setback for the team involved.”

“You’re absolutely correct on that point, Mike. You’ll remember last season when the United States released persistent nerve gas over the advancing Chinese team, instead of the non-persistent type specified in the rules for that game. And of course, who can forget the disastrous nuclear debacle in the match between the Koreas back in 2140?”

“Debacle. Is that actually a word, Frank?”

“I think so, Mike. It’s right here in my game notes, so it must be. Folks, we’ve just received word that the officials have assessed a one platoon penalty against the Canadian team. In terms of platoons on the ground, their combat ratio has been reduced from an already challenging nine against six to a truly precarious eight against six. Those Canucks are really going to have to put it to the Kiwis to overcome this disadvantage. So there it is, folks. The Canadian team is assessed a one platoon penalty for discharging a pulse laser cannon on the playing field. On that note, we’ll be right back after these important commercial messages.”

* * *

“Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen, this is Frank Henwood, with you again live from the Gagetown combat area for tonight’s edition of Monday Night Infantry. My co-host Mike Purcell has just been informed that the advancing 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, has already made first contact. Mike?”

“Frank, this development is really incredible, especially in the wake of the stiff penalty they just received for that accidental discharge. Word from Biff Henderson in Sky Cam 1 is that elements of Reconnaissance Platoon have collided with the Kiwi forward defensive positions and are now waiting for the main body of the assault force to arrive. Biff, can you tell us what you’re seeing right now?”

“Well, Mike, as you’ve just mentioned, two vehicles from the Canadian reconnaissance forces cleared the crest of a hill to my south just moments ago, right into the Kiwi gun sights. The New Zealanders are employing the classic, yet tricky, reverse slope defense. That is, they’ve dug in on the side of a hill that is opposite to the expected direction of enemy attack. Without normal satellite surveillance, the Canadians didn’t know they were even in danger until it was too late.”

“Any casualties from the engagement, Biff?”

“Well, Mike, one vehicle did manage to retreat under cover of smoke to a position out of my line of sight, but the other was disabled by anti-tank fire and appears to be burning. I do see the distinctive blue glow of a stasis field off to one side, so there’s a pretty good chance we’ve got some survivors. We’ll have to wait and see just how badly they’re hurt. I should mention at this point at least one of those reconnaissance vehicles would have sent off a contact report to battalion headquarters, so it’s decision time for Mackenzie and the rest of the Canadian team. Do they move now and take the initiative, setting the operational tempo at a pace of their choosing? Or do they wait, maybe send out some more reconnaissance and try to determine exactly how the New Zealanders are deployed? Let’s not forget, for all practical purposes, Canada has no force advantage, even with their two-platoon edge. The next little while will be critical to the outcome of this match.

“Mike, you’re not going to believe this, so I’m going to have to switch the feed over to our other Eye in the Sky. Sky Cam 2 has been watching over the lead two companies of the Canadian team, but I’m going to adjust the view just a bit and show you the skyline to its north. See that small black speck in the distance, just about midline? Folks, that speck is Sky Cam 1! The speed with which those Canucks are advancing is nothing less than insane! Let’s show the view to ground again, shall we? Mike, I’ve been commentating these games for a lot of years, but I’ve never seen a sight like what we’re seeing tonight. That battalion is advancing at breakneck speed along a sixteen hundred meter frontage like an iron juggernaut. The dust is so thick down there I can’t even see the second echelon vehicles in the lead companies! It would seem like there’s no stopping this Canadian team right now, Mike. I’d estimate they’ll hit the main defensive position in minutes. Back to you.”

“Thanks, Biff. Frank, about this time a guy’s got to wonder: just what’s going on in that CO’s head about now? His reconnaissance hasn’t had nearly enough time to get either the lay of the land or the disposition of the New Zealand defenses, so he’s essentially running in there half-cocked and almost completely blind. What do you suppose he has to gain with this tactic?”

“Well, Mike, let’s not forget the third principle of war, and that’s offensive action. This Canuck may be crazy, but he’s got guts, and maybe guts are enough. We’ll find out in just a few minutes.”

“Hey, Frank, shouldn’t one of those principles of war be common sense?”

“Common sense is not a principle of war, Mike.”

“I thought not. We’ll be right back after this.”

* * *

“Folks, we’re back with Monday Night Infantry, and all Hell has broken loose here in the Gagetown combat area. Mike, let’s see if we can bring our viewers up to speed on the latest developments in what’s brewing up to be a tough fight.”

“Right Frank. As the folks at home can tell from their screens, there’s not a lot to see right now. As it turns out, Mackenzie must have instructed his reconnaissance to call in an artillery fire mission immediately on contact, in the hopes that they’d find the Kiwi defensive area. Not long after we went to commercial, the whole northern slope of the hill the New Zealanders had occupied was completely blanketed in, what would you say, Frank, smoke and high explosive?”

“Definitely smoke and high explosive, Mike. If you look carefully in the upper left corner of the screen you can see the distinctive starburst flashes of the white phosphorus rounds as they explode to form the smoke screen that’s blocked most of our, and the Kiwi defenders’, line of sight. Combine that with the high explosive, and you’ve got a lethal mix that should convince those New Zealanders to keep their heads down. Let’s switch our feed to Sky Cam 2 and see if we can’t get another perspective on this action.

“Here’s the view from Sky Cam 2. If you look here, you’ll see the Canucks are just minutes from cresting that hill. As a matter of fact, they’re just about to start up. . . wait . . . what’s this? Mike, those lead companies have just been clobbered with a devastating artillery fire mission. Wow! That’s gonna hurt!”

“Ouch! You bet, Frank. Those New Zealanders must have designated the forward slope of that hill as a defensive fire target, and pre-registered it before the game started. They clobbered the Canucks with pinpoint accuracy."

“They sure did, Mike. Take a quick look at the instant replay. You can see the forward elements of the Canadians just beginning to break out of that artillery firestorm. Some of those armored vehicles look pretty banged up, but they’re still moving, and moving fast! They’re climbing that forward slope now. Up, up, and . . . they’ve crested, right into a withering fusillade of direct fire from the defending Kiwis! Oh, they’re getting punished out there!”

“Fusillade. Is that actually a word, Frank?”

“I’ve got a word for you, Mike. Go look up pusillanimous.”

“Good heavens, Frank. Do you kiss your mother with that mouth? Folks, it looks as though the Canadians have formed into a firebase just on the New Zealand side of that crest, and they’re starting up a little suppressing fire of their own. Frank, we’re starting to see a sprinkling of stasis fields down on the battle area, but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to find a spike in the casualty stats for this engagement.”

“I agree, Mike. This isn’t a military engagement; it’s an out and out street brawl. The worst isn’t over yet, not by a long shot. Now that the Canadians have gained some semblance of initiative over the field with that suppressing fire, the next step is obvious: we should be seeing some kind of flanking maneuver. Let’s turn things back over to Biff Henderson and Sky Cam 1.”

“Thanks, Frank. Folks, as Frank mentioned, the next logical step in this battle would be a flanking maneuver by the attacking force. Since only the two forward companies of the Canadian team are in contact and exchanging fire at the moment, that leaves the depth company, now referred to as the assault force, the freedom to swing around and hit the defenders from the side. That would catch the Kiwis in what tacticians like to refer to as “enfilade fire.” Personally, I prefer to call it “a heap o’ trouble.” If that Kiwi force lets itself get pinned down like that, it will be hard pressed to scrape a win out of this match.

“Sure enough folks, if you look at your screen you’ll see about a dozen Canadian armored personnel carriers coming around the base of that hill. They’re moving fast, and should be at the New Zealand position right . . . about . . . now. The Canuck force is just short of the defenders’ positions and, yes, they’re dismounting! Ladies and gentlemen, what an exciting moment here at Monday Night Infantry. Those troops will be going at it up close and personal, and we’ve got it all for you, live! Note how the Canadians have spread themselves out in an extended line, facing the New Zealand trenches. They’ll advance by employing cover and movement, where one portion of the force maintains fire on the defenders, while another portion moves forward and finds their own firing position. Folks, let’s find out if Maria Cantello at the IFCC control booth has any more information on this amazing engagement. Maria?”

“Frank, as our viewing audience already knows, we’ve had an awful lot of action in the past few minutes, and I’d say the officials have their hands full at the moment just trying to sort things out. We know the Canadians capitalized on an early first contact by moving two companies up to the forward edge of Kiwi defensive position and swinging around that depth company, but it’s not a sure bet at this moment that it was enough to get them out of trouble. However, if I had to make a call right now, I’d probably call in favor of the Canucks. Frank.”

“Thanks, Maria. Well, folks, it looks as though this game may in fact go to the Canadians. You know, Mike, that’s a big break for Mackenzie’s team, coming off that disappointing loss to Spain over cod fishing rights in the Grand Banks. It’ll be nice to . . . wait, folks, I’m being told there’s some late breaking developments here . . . ladies and gentlemen, you’re not going to believe this, but it looks as though we’ve got a last minute diplomatic settlement! What do we know, Mike?”

“Well, this sort of thing is unusual, but not unheard of here at Monday Night Infantry. Sometimes the disputing countries will continue negotiations while the battle is raging and may come to an agreement before the game is resolved, especially when the diplomats have their eye on a pending future dispute. Unfortunately, diplomatic settlements take precedence over any resolution on the playing field, so I’m afraid those troops down there fought their hearts out over nothing. Frank, any idea who conceded the dispute at this time?”

“Yes, Mike, and ironically it was Canada. That’s right; Canada has conceded their position on the wool tariff in exchange for future considerations in the upcoming paper and paperboard summit. That’s got to be a major blow for that Canuck team, considering the hammering that was going on out there. On the plus side, however, the injury stats for tonight’s game do not count towards conference standings either, so New Zealand retains fourth place, while Canada remains a strong contender for second. Frank?”

“Well, ladies and gentlemen, in light of these surprising developments, I guess that just about wraps it up for another edition of Monday Night Infantry. We’re a little bit ahead of schedule at the moment, so for the next three hours you’ll be watching highlights from last season’s exciting hydroelectricity finals between the Republic of California and the United States of America. Tune in again next Monday, when we’ll be bringing you Denmark against the Netherlands, locked in battle over textiles duties, together in the picturesque Khankala combat area in Chechnya, Russia. So until next week, this is Frank Henwood.”

“And Mike Purcell.”

“Wishing you all the best. Goodnight.”

Story © 2003 by Dave Whittier whittier@shaw.ca

Illustration © 2003 by Juan Rodrigo Piedrahita Escobar piedrahitaescobar@hotmail.com

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