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Posted on Jul 5, 2006 in Armchair Reading, Front Page Features, TIAOW

The Incorrect Art of War [Episode 20] – The Origins of the Species

By A J Summersgill and Jim H Moreno

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Starring:

Doctor Sinister

Doctor Sinister. An evil Supervillain with an insane lust for power. Although his secret island base has seemingly been destroyed, the Doctor still plots to become future Emperor and Warlord of the planet Earth. Enjoys the company of cats and cloned genetically modified Dinosaurs.

And featuring:



General Menace. Graduated from West Point Military Academy with honours, served for twenty-five years in the US Army, reaching level of 2-star General in command of training facilities before being recruited by Doctor Sinister to command his New Model Army of World Domination. Has a penchant for cigars. Narrowly escaped the apparent destruction of Sinister Island with his lord and master.

EPISODE 20 – "The Origins of the Species"

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Doctor Sinister and General Menace nervously push their way through a crowd of strangely garbed people who are, in turn, milling around inside a massive hangar-sized convention hall. Staring cautiously at a young lady wearing a stuffed flamingo on her head, the Doctor casts a concerned eye to his faithful henchman as they work their way down a wide carpeted aisle flanked by stalls and booths on either side.

Gaudy colours and brightly lit displays illuminate a seemingly endless array of displayed merchandise and paraphernalia as harassed booth staff try and attend to everyone clamouring for their attention. A security guard dressed as an Imperial Stormtrooper from the Star Wars films strides down one aisle and momentarily casts an eye over our two heroes before stopping to inspect their badges.

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Doctor Sinister: You don’t need to see our identification. We aren’t the men you are looking for. We can go about our business. Move along.

(The Stormtrooper shakes his head in disbelief before walking off)

General Menace: I can’t believe we got past that security guard, I thought we were done for.

You’ll find I can have a strong influence on the weak-minded. You will find me a powerful ally.

Why does this whole scenario seem strangely familiar?

I’ve got no idea.

This whole place is weird if you ask me. Are you sure you heard right from that truck driver? He said this was a war convention? Some sort of strategy thing?

Oh yes, absolutely. He said they’ve held one here annually for years. The code-name is Origins. 15,000 of the greatest military minds on the planet will be attending over four days. Just imagine the potential General – we can rebuild our army overnight, acquire new weapons, devise new stratagems…

…and talk to the mushroom people.

Pardon?

Over there my lord.

(A large blue mushroom is walking down one of the aisles ahead of them, having its photo taken with various children who rush up to shake its gigantic furry hands)

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Interesting.

My Lord, I really don’t think this is what you think it is…

Nonsense. It’s probably a field test of some kind of mind-altering drug for the future battlefields of the world.

I beg your pardon my Lord?

Oh yes, psychotropic drugs are all the rage you know – you simply release them into the atmosphere and the enemy start to see all kinds of weird things, including giant blue mushroom people.

Really?

Any other explanation would be just ridiculous – do you think for a moment that there really is a giant blue mushroom thing in front of us?

Given all the other things we’ve seen here your Excellency, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

What do you mean by that?

Your Magnificence, with respect, we’ve ended up at a freak show. This is just a meeting place for weirdoes…

Nonsense – I was quite specifically told that this was the Origins War Convention.

Your Superiousness, these people don’t look much like military strategists to me. And I’m fairly certain it’s called the Origins Game Convention. There are big signs everywhere.

More psychotropic drugs – that’ll be the cover story to keep the general public away. All we have to do is see through the brightly coloured shroud and uncover the real dealings going on.

If you say so. Can’t we go to a store and find some cigars?

I did find some cool dice though – look, they’ve got smiley faces and things on them.

Mood dice?

Yes, I thought we could use them for future executions – you know, if we roll an angry face it means dissidents get sent to the dinosaur pits, rolling a happy face means we just drop them off in a raft in the middle of the Atlantic with an oar.

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Very ingenious my Lord.

I thought so.

Sagacity, I find it hard to believe that this is as highbrow as you seem to think it is. Since we came here I’ve seen about two hundred vampires, a fluffy bunny woman and lots of people playing some kind of card game which appears to involve stuffing small cute furry creatures into objects the size of baseballs and forcing them into mortal combat against each other. This isn’t a game convention, it’s a charnel house. We’ve been had your Excellency.

Whilst I will concede that is most odd, perhaps it’s not too late to give up hope.

(The two men proceed through the mass of people until…)

Aha!

(Nervously) Aha?

There, do you see it General? At least one of these stands is selling something that might be useful to us.

(A video screen sits on a large pole above one of the booths, displayed on it are images of various warships and military jets engaged in combat. Large explosions alternate with flashing letters of the word "Harpoon")

I concede that you may be right my Lord. The Harpoon missile system would certainly be useful to us.

Excellent! Then let’s go and buy some missiles!

It may be best if you stay here Excellency, we are probably both wanted men, but with that eyepatch you are a dead giveaway, whereas I will be able to bluff my way through the sale a bit more easily. Arms dealers might be on the lookout for someone matching your description.

Staying here isn’t much safer…

Respectfully, my Lord, amongst the vampires, the mushrooms and the bunny women, you look positively normal. You’ll blend in fine over here. Let me go and speak to the proprietor and see if we can reach a deal.

(Sigh) Very well…ask him if he takes VISA.

(General Menace heads forward as Doctor Sinister tries to look unobtrusive and nonchalant amongst the crowd. After some frenzied negotiation, the General comes back again)

Well?

It’s a game.

What is? The negotiations? I’ve told you before General, you need to be aggressive. And if he won’t take VISA, I’ve got an AMEX card too.

No, the Harpoon thing – it’s a game.

It’s a game?

Yes. A video game. I told you, this is a game convention, not an arms dealership.

Are you sure?

Yes. He offered to sell me a copy for thirty dollars – a CD ROM. For my PC.

And?

Well, I bought one, it’s not like we’re got anything else to do, what with us being homeless and everything…

Damn.

Oh, did you want a copy as well? Maybe I can get a deal on two copies…

Shut up! I’ve got to think – this is disastrous. We’ve come all this way for nothing.

It would seem so.

Unless.

Unless?

We roll a die, let me see how I feel about the situation.

(Doctor Sinister crouches on the floor and rolls a happy face)

You’re going to decide what we do based on a dice roll?

Absolutely, and according to the die I’m pretty relaxed about the whole situation. So let’s take a wander around the rest of the building. This is just the main hall, according to the map there are two other halls and several meeting areas. Let’s investigate further.

Well, OK, but one of those halls is full of those card playing furry creature haters. We can skip that one.

Fair enough.

(Leaving the hall, Doctor Sinister and General Menace find a desk with a large sign headed "War College". A door behind the desk is slightly ajar, a lecture appears to be taking place inside)

Now, this is more like it! You see? I told you there was more to this place than meets the eye – we’ve found the real meat of this place now.

(They head inside. Half an hour passes before they emerge once again. Doctor Sinister clutches a thick large blue book)

Well that was certainly interesting.

Didn’t I tell you General? Wasn’t I right all along? A whole lecture on military theory and application, and a bound set of maps to support the lecture.

Yes indeed my Lord, it was definitely an informative lecture. Although perhaps only truly useful if one wants to go back in time to 1941 in order to wholly recreate Operation Barbarossa and encircle Kiev with the 11th Panzer Division.

What’s that supposed to mean?

Oh, don’t get me wrong, that guy knew his stuff, but military tactics are more advanced these days, so it’s not very relevant to our cause. It’s good stuff for historians though. Or, ahem, wargamers.

There you go again.

Sagacity, what will it take to convince you?

Convince me of what?

That this isn’t what you think it is. I mean…look…

(Two Medieval Knights in full armour brandishing swords walk through the corridor followed by a man holding a foam-rubber axe and two young children comparing sets of cards. Doctor Sinister crouches down and rolls the dice again, this time he gets a mildly happy face)

Hmmm, not bad I suppose. Let’s go upstairs – perhaps the real arms dealers are hiding in a secret area. This is all part of the test.

Argh!

(Doctor Sinister and General Menace take a ride up an escalator to the second level where they come across yet more meeting rooms. Each room is full of large tables upon which enormous maps are positioned. Dozens of men, young and old, are gathered around these tables and there is an air of hushed expectation)

Here we are, this is more like it. No doubt these men are engaged in fervent negotiation.

(Under his breath) Yeah, probably about which burgers they want next.

(Doctor Sinister strides into the room and heads to one end where an empty set of tables are playing host to a massive map. The Doctor takes a seat)

Hmmm… OK, so perhaps it’s not a dealers’ area, but it’s certainly got something to do with the military. Look at these counters arranged all over the map in some kind of advanced battle plan. There are thousands of them. This isn’t a game, this is for real…

You really think this is a top secret military planning area my Lord? Odd that there was no security on the door…

(Oblivious) Look at the complexity of this map. The detailed statistics and planning going into this battle.

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Hmmm, September 1943 – this is another Russian front scenario my Lord. It must take them days to play through this game…

(Still not listening and waving his robotic arm across the map) You see? Look at the vast numbers of counters on this map. It’s clearly some kind of battle plan for a massive attack on Russia. Maybe I could offer my services as a strategic advisor using those tips we got downstairs in the War College. They would value someone with my unique insight and experience.

(Hiding the sarcasm) Oh yes Sir, absolutely.

Although I wouldn’t have my troops arranged quite like this. I think additional forces are required for the central push. If I just… (Doctor Sinister picks up one of the large pairs of tweezers lying on the table next to the map and begins moving stacks of counters forward into a spearhead formation)

Erm, your Excellency…I really don’t think…

(Sweeping enormous numbers of counters across the board with his arm) There, that should do it.

Excellency, you’ve just committed the entire force of German Panzers to engage the enemy whilst sitting in a swamp. They are now three hundred miles ahead of the rest of their army, with no supply, whilst being surrounded in impossible terrain without Infantry support and appear to be within the range of enemy bombers and artillery.

You worry too much General, it’s really quite simple, they break out and strike for Moscow to end the war.

But…

Come, let us leave the board as it is, and when the military planners come back from lunch they will see my genius and come looking for me. Leave a card behind so they know who to look for.

Erm…OK.

(As Doctor Sinister and General Menace leave the room, they pass four other men entering the room who proceed to head straight for the vacated table. Doctor Sinister smiles at the General with an eager grin as four howling cries emanate from the far end of the room behind them. One quick dice roll reveals a sad face)

Ah. Perhaps it will take a while for them to appreciate my genius, let’s make haste back downstairs.

My Lord, please, I beg of you, we’re wasting our time here. This is not, repeat NOT some kind of high academy for war and strategy, it’s a game meeting, admittedly with some useful discussions on military theory and with some really cool wargames, but we’re not going to be able to acquire anything here that’s actually useful to re-establishing our power base, I beg of you, let’s go now before we end up getting ourselves into trouble.

Let me see how I feel about that. (This time the dice reveals a happy face again) OK, that’s good. Let’s just try the last hall General, I want to be sure.

(Sigh) Very well.

(Entering the last of the big halls, they are presented with an incredible display of miniatures on more tables with eager men and women hunched over each diorama, moving intricately painted figures and rolling large many faceted dice)

Don’t try and tell me this is just games General – no-one goes to this much trouble for Monopoly.

Ooh, there’s some Warhammer over there, I used to play some of that…

(Choosing to ignore the comment) Now this is impressive – a scale miniature of some kind of island assault, complete with ships, planes and military installations – fantastic!

(Picking up a thickly bound book and some dice) And an impressive set of rules to go with it. This is the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. The miniature islands are Hawaii. It’s just another game your Superiousness – for the last time, this isn’t a military conference, it’s a games convention!

I refuse to believe that.

(A lady dressed as a Fairy sidles up to Doctor Sinister as some people gather round and take photos of the two of them together. As the Fairy departs, Doctor Sinister rolls the dice one last time and it reveals an angry face)

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Apparently I’m very upset about that. Let’s get out of here.

Yes my Lord.

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Where will fate send Doctor Sinister next?

Will the authorities catch up with him – do they even care?

Will General Menace ever decide he’s had enough?

And will the giant Fairy lady ever learn to fly?

Find out in the next surprising episode of…The Incorrect Art of War!!

A J Summersgill

andrew@armchairgeneral.com

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