01 April, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 2:5

This is the fifth section of the second chapter of Sonnets from a Proton. The novel starts here.
The next section is here.


The door to Gwen’s office opened without a knock, without a ring of a bell. No announcement, no guards, just an open door, a surprised Malka and a smiling Gwen.
“Ah, you’re here; good, come in.”
Malka made her way slowly into the room “I thought I should start with reporting into you properly Sir.”
Gwen gave her the kind of look that really needed a set of glasses to look over to pull off successfully “You haven’t spoken to anyone else have you?”
“No Sir”
“You just came straight here?”
“Yes Sir”
“You keep calling me Sir.”
“Yes Sir”
“You know what we said about more tests”
“Yes Sir”
“Remember what we said about those.”
“Yes” Malka hesitated
“Good. Maybe it won’t take too long to re-train you.”
“Permission to speak freely?”
“No more than usual.”
Malka hesitated again but thought she was getting the sense of the conversation, “What am I doing here?”
“Wrong question. The question you want to know the answer to is what are we all doing here.”
“The human race? Us on this base? You and I in this room?”
“Good you can learn. But not quite, let me try and guide you, what made you come here, why did you choose this as your next posting?”
“It was a good promotion. Unusual environment.”
“And?”
“There wasn’t much more Sir.”
“Oh there was. You see I know the reputation we have. It’s not a great one and you certainly aren’t the normal sort of candidate we attract. So I ask again why? And please don’t try my patience by trying to lie.”
“May I sit down sir?”
“Good god woman, how slow a study are you?”
Malka took the nearest seat to her facing Gwen. She thought for a moment “What reputation do you think you have?”
“I didn’t say think, I said know. Besides I asked you first, so answer.”
“I thought I could bring some discipline here. I have always been a believer in the right attitude at the right time, work hard play hard, but I don’t like the slack attitude this place has a reputation for and what I’ve seen so far supports that. I thought I would go far by making a positive difference here”
“I’m glad I didn’t give you full permission to speak freely otherwise I hate to think what you’d have said” Gwen smiled “You really should have listened to me when I left last night you’d have learned a lot this morning, as it is I’ll have to hand hold you through it now.”
“Would I learn much from ill disciplined troops?”
“Yes. And they’re not ill disciplined they have a certain skill set.”
“I don’t understand”
“Then I’ll explain.” Gwen seemed to be trying to get herself comfortable in her chair “What enemy were you trained to fight?”
“Any enemy.”
“Really, they taught you politics, language, economics, xenobiology, did they?”
“The basics sir”
“Put a cadet who knows the basics against a seasoned veteran and what happens?”
“The veteran normally wins”
“Yes, why? They’ve had the same training.”
“More experience, the veteran is less likely to hesitate. The veteran is more practiced, things come more automatically.”
“Anything else”
“A thousand other things”
“Exactly. So how can you fight any enemy without being practiced against all enemies? If you put a veteran of the Crimean wars against a raw recruit from the Saudi wars, I think the raw recruit would win even if both were given equal weapons because the raw recruit will be experienced with the modern weapons. So how do you drill someone to cope with all warfare possibilites?”
“It’s not possible”
“Exactly. So we have the worst or if you like the best job in the military we train to fight the unknowable enemy that may never come. We are planning and training to fight the unknown and unknowable.”
“And you do this by encouraging slack discipline, insubordination  and ignoring thousands of years of military precedence?”
“By jove I think you almost have it.”
“What?” exclaimed Malka incredulously
“You know, but you don’t yet know that you know. Let me start from the beginning.”

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