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Executive Forces, a short story review based on Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars for the Nintendo 3DS. A covert military unit employs ultimate sanction against the enemy; at least that's what is in the script. Is the director being led astray by fabled military advisor Doug Trenches?
The blast from the Surface-to-Air Missile tore through the engine chamber of the troop transport aircraft. Duke, the veteran special forces operative assigned to lead this mission cursed as the plane started rocking and pitching with the turbulence generated by the gaping hole in the fuselage. "Where the hell did that SAM come from?" he yelled over the noise, "I thought the Kazakh Government called us here to help end the bandit raids - who the frak is shooting at us?" "I dunno, sir!" came the response from Richter, seated across from him. He was brick wall of a man, broad shouldered, muscular and happy to carry the heaviest of weapons. Richter yelled, "let's figure that out on the ground, we should ditch this bird!" As if by confirmation the cockpit door crashed open while Richter was speaking, Haze shouted out through the remains of the frame. He was the team's sniper support, but had also been assigned as pilot for this run, "it's a good idea, sir. The controls are screwed; there's no way we can make the target site and we'll never make it back to Bishkek, even if we called an abort!" A panel in the ceiling above the cabin tore open and the sound of rushing wind wailed through the cabin from the hole in the engine bay. Duke nodded, "agreed. Everybody gather your gear and bail out! Mint, grab your sentry kit and bail, now. Banshee, Saffron - you go with him, you're already kitted up. Everyone else, I want you to grab your gear double time and get the hell off this thing." There was a chorus of obedience from the squad. Duke turned back to the door. "You too, Haze," he shouted at the pilot, "give the bird a quick nose in the direction of somewhere safe to ditch and get out." He replied, simply, "Sir!" "And Haze," Duke continued, "we're bailing out now, don't make me come back up here after you. Get out ASAP. Understood, soldier?" Haze gave a shout of "Sir, yes sir!" and turned back to flying. Duke turned to see Mint kicking a small box near the hatch. Someone had written "Fragile" on the side as well as "This way up" arrows pointing to the bottom. Duke tutted, sometimes the squad treated the gear like their own personal toys. "Mint, Banshee," Duke shouted, "what are you waiting for? Haul ass!" Banshee pulled the emergency release on the Kestrel's loading platform and the hatchway opened. Mint hauled the box down and out over the edge. It tumbled away into space. "I'll race you to where it lands," Banshee yelled at Mint over the uproar, grinning wildly. With that, she and Mint dived out of the aircraft. Saffron was just putting the last few straps in place and then ran out over the side, after them. Richter had already strapped himself into the combat rigged rucksack housing the G101 Minigun. Richter was the only man Duke knew who would happily jump and run with the 30kgs of weight the weapon represented. "Go!" shouted Duke, and pushed Richter out of the hatch. Duke looked back toward the cockpit door - there was no sign of movement. "For God's sake, Haze" Duke muttered to himself as he could see the Kazakh scrub land appearing in greater and greater detail through the windows, "get the hell out of here." He took a step back and dropped from the aircraft. ****** "Cut!" yelled Arnold Wiseman, the director of Shadow Wars, the latest Hollywood military thriller in production. He slumped in his canvas chair and rubbed a hand across a troubled forehead. "That was great, Arnie," came a broad voice from behind the wall of cameras. It was Doug Trenches, the Military adviser to the production. Despite the fact that it was peacetime and, moreover, they were filming a movie rather than undertaking military action in hostile territory, Doug still insisted on wearing jungle camouflage fatigues and a chest rig, from which hung his novelty grenade-shaped lighter and sunglasses. Arnold Wiseman turned to look at Trenches. "Doug," he began, a little hesitantly, "are you absolutely sure about the accuracy of this scene?" Doug replied, deadly serious, "Sir, I'd stake my life on it." The movie was looking great, and Wiseman knew it. The effects budget was perfect and everything looked spot on. Being shot in glorious 3D brought the whole battle terrain to life. But these stories often sold themselves on their attention to military minutiae. They'd even had to change some of the action sequences to accommodate the different movement speeds of soldiers with different weapon load-outs. The Director raised his hands in what he hoped was a neutral gesture, not trying to rile Trenches. The Military hardware they been loaned was dependent on a good relationship with the veteran advisor, but Wiseman was having doubts about the direction Trenches had taken some of the script. "It's just," began Wiseman, "when Special Forces fly combat missions over foreign soil, do they really get the sniper to fly the plane?" "Aircraft," Trenches corrected him. "Sure, aircraft..." Wiseman accepted, "but the sniper...?" Trenches answered him, confidently, "you don't want to have to take any more people with you than absolutely necessary." Wiseman replied, "but they were all going to make a combat jump, in parachutes, right? Before they got shot down?" Trenches nodded. The Director continued, "so who would have carried on flying the plane... I mean, aircraft?" Trenches did look a little troubled by this, "maybe they were originally going to land the bird somewhere." The director agreed, cheerily, but pursued his point, "it's just that in a minute we've got a scene where the squad have to destroy the aircraft's wreckage because they don't want secrets falling into the enemies' hands. Surely they wouldn't have left an intact aircraft unprotected?" Trenches put a cigarette in his mouth and unclipped the grenade-lighter from the harness. "Look, Sir. This is the way it's done, trust me! We should get on and shoot the next scene." Wiseman raised his hands again in a gesture of friendly submission. "Okay everyone, we're moving on..." ****** Haze picked himself up from the mess of his parachute cords and rolled clear of the smoldering wreckage. He'd landed within a few feet of the aircraft he'd crashed into the mountainside. He looked over the edge of the ravine. The sense of depth was incredible - the rocky sides seemed to stretch away down into darkness, even giving the seasoned soldier a feeling of vertigo, in its truest sense. He steadied himself on his feet and activated his radio. He looked down the scope of his rifle, bringing a mountain trail on the other side of his position into sharp relief. "Duke," Haze spoke into his comm, "I have three bandits approaching my position. They must have seen the Kestrel come down." Duke replied, "I'll be with you in 10." The squad had been scattered by the drop, each landing in a different spot and they had to re-group. Haze breathed out slowly. His position here gave him perfect range to the bandit in the middle. As he exhaled he squeezed the trigger on his M14 Enhanced Battle Rifle and it kicked but stayed firm. There was a puff of red mist and the bandit dropped to the ground. Strangely the other two bandits didn't seem to pay any heed to their fallen comrade or even their own safety. Any trained mercenary would have sought immediate cover following an attack from an unrevealed sniper, but the following bandit ran almost directly over the dead body and in doing so, also fell to Haze's precise marksmanship. He clicked another round into the chamber and focused on the lead bandit, the furthest from his position. He was too far away - he was heading for a bridge across the ravine that would ultimately lead him to Haze's position. His view of the approach from that side wasn't good. The bandit would be upon him before he could respond and his particular weapon performed very poorly in close-quarters combat. Nevertheless, Haze backed toward the wreckage to give himself as much leading space to the bridge as possible. Just as the bandit rounded the corner a familiar face appeared in the brush behind him. Duke raised his own SCAR-H rifle and riddled the bandit from behind. ****** "And Cut!" came the Director's instruction once more. "Very nice, people, very nice! I think we're going to go for a second take. He called out to the actor playing Duke, "Oh, Francis? On this next take can you try not to look like you know where the enemy are coming from?" The actor nodded, but Doug Trenches came striding over. "I don't think you need to worry about that, Sir," he told Wiseman, "these soldiers know exactly where their enemy are at all times." "Oh," the Director was surprised, "but I thought these kind of soldiers needed to sweep an area to check for enemy positions?" Trenches shook his head, "these are state-of-the-arts special forces troops. They get a direct feed from satellites overhead relaying the position of enemy units on the ground. That's the way we kick butt!" There was a pause as Wiseman took all this in. "Oh," he said, a little crestfallen, "forgive me but doesn't that kill some of the dramatic tension? If the heroes know exactly where the enemy are?" A dark look crossed Trenches' face, "Sir, it may not be entertaining, but it is the way we keep our people safe!" Wiseman looked disappointed as he called, "okay people, prep the next scene!" ****** Months later, when Shadow Wars had its public première, Wiseman breathed a sigh of relief. The picture had been received to great applause and he realised he had been worried about nothing. The minor issues which had rankled with him during production didn't seem to affect the enamoured audiences. It didn't matter to them that the squad captain suddenly switched weapons from a standard US-issue rifle to a German model for which the squad probably weren't carrying any ammunition; It didn't matter to them that the heroes seemed to shoot over and over again without ever reloading and it certainly didn't trouble them that the squad had foreknowledge of the enemy positions. As a production, they'd been forced to re-think the way they presented the action scenes. Instead of simply producing cat-an-mouse sequences, like they would usually have done, they approached the battles with a more strategic air, like a game of chess, or an elaborate dance with the participants vying for the perfect position and moment to strike. Wiseman had realised that he had gotten too close to the project. He'd obsessed over the tiny flaws he'd noticed - an easy thing to do when you are approaching material with a critical eye - and he had been in danger of missing all the elements that work very very well indeed. The six unique characters they had created worked together flawlessly. Fight scenes involving all six were an action ballet, with each bringing their unique talents to the field. The way the story meshed into the action sequences was better than many that Wiseman had seen or even made himself. He was proud of the great achievement and the audience had been impressed that a "3D event" such as Shadow Wars could also provide depth and character. Many other titles had not lived up to the same promise. Wiseman saw Doug Trenches approaching him down the aisle. Wiseman reflected that, in spite of his doubts, Trenches had done them proud. Without a word, Wiseman straightened up and delivered a salute to Trenches. He'd earned it.
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