“Come in Captain.”
Removing his cap, Captain Tanner Shipley pulled aside the tent flap and entered the world of green and brown that some of the men called the turtle shell. General Saunders sat behind an Army issue desk studying the latest maps. All that could be seen of hard-nosed commander was his closely cropped silver hair.
“Sir, your requisition has come to my attention.”
General Saunders looked up for the first time and adjusted his spectacles to see his visitor more clearly. He waited silently for the Captain to continue.
“There appears to be a… oversight in the request.”
Like the seasoned poker player that he was, the General’s face never betrayed his thoughts and his voice held no trace of emotion when he replied.
Any hope Captain Shipley had held of discovering what kind of mood the General was in died instantly. His face carried all the emotion of an Easter Island statue.
“Well, uh… you have requested an additional 300 tanks, 1,200 shells, 2 companies for their operation and maintenance, along with the food rations and supplies to support the additional troops.”
Captain Shipley paused. He was not foolish enough to think the General would come out and address the problem, but he hoped for a simple acknowledgement. It took only a second to realize that he preferred speaking to the silence he would endure under that cold stare.
“Sir, the request did not include additional gasoline to support the new tank regiments. Our current supply is not enough to effectively maneuver that many tanks.
Another pause. Another quick regret.
“Permission to speak freely sir?”
The general removed his glasses and weighed the man before him on the scales of his eyes.
Captain Shipley knew the risk he was about to take, but the success or failure of this front could be the difference in the war. He would not give his own career priority over that.
“Sir, financially this request surpasses our budgetary allowance. Taking into account the addition of gas, we need to amend the requisition. According to my calculations, the greatest number of tanks we can reasonably request with the troops and supplies necessary to operate and maintain them in battle is 84.”
The General wiggled his glasses back over his ears and looked down at the map spread across the desk. He let out a low hum as he processed the information. When he looked up he could see beads of sweat on the Captains brow that had nothing to do with the desert heat.
“How many tanks are under my command at this moment Captain?”
“One hundred twelve sir.”
“The latest report shows that the enemy has 193 tanks along this front. 84 additional tanks would only help us match them. There would be severe losses on both sides with no guarantee of victory. With the addition of 300 tanks we would outnumber our enemy at over 2 to 1.”
“That’s correct sir. But we would not be able to move them. We would be sitting ducks. At that point we could out number them 100 to 1 and it would not matter. They will slaughter us.”
“That would be true, Captain, if I intended to fight them.”
Shipley’s face scrunched in momentary confusion.
“Sir? I don’t understand.”
“I have no plans on fighting them Captain. I am only interested in making them surrender.”
Captain Shipley nodded as understanding began to creep into his mind.
“I see. But sir, they will not surrender if they know we cannot move.”
“That is true. But you must remember, the enemy can only see what you have, not what you don’t have.”
Captain Shipley saw the simple brilliance of the plan. Fear rested in his stomach like a stone. He knew now that questioning the requisition had been a foolish mistake. The General removed his glasses once more to gaze at the man who stood dejected before him.
“I am curious though Captain… How did you come up with the number 84? My calculations yielded 87.”
“Did you include the adapters for the sand filters sir?”
The General leaned back in his chair and tapped the end of his glasses against his temple. A slight smile cracked his demeanor for the first time.
“Mmmmm. I did not.”
Returning his glasses to his face and once more leaned over the map on the desk. After a minute of silence he spoke without looking up.
“Is there something else Captain?”
Captain Shipley turned to leave. Just as reached the tent flap the General spoke once more.
“And Captain. Good job.”
“Thank you sir.”
The desert air hit Captain Shipley like a wall as he exited the tent. He no longer cared if the General smiled. His was big enough for the both of them.
Copyright © 2012 Adam Drake