There was something about the air that morning. A recent battle
had opened up a whole new vista on the now-grayed field. Commander
"Smiles" MacKinlay could tell something was wrong. The
battle had ended all too quick. The enemy had made a hasty retreat
and Smiles was suspicious of the reason. There was obviously a trap
set for them. His platoon had camped near the battle-field overnight
and had planned to cross it to give chase to the enemy's forces.
Smiles turned away from the ashen plateau and faced his men. There
were few injured. Among the most healthy were recruits Newb and Leet.
The two were best friends, joined at the hip. Smiles admired their
teamwork but knew that Newb's ineptitude and unstoppable bravery
would bring his friend, and eventually the rest of the group, down
with him. Leet was a skilled soldier, a real favourite of Smiles'.
How the two got along so well was beyond Smiles' capacity to guess.
But, Smiles now saw Newb's purpose.
"Attention, maggots!" Smiles barked as he donned his sunglasses and toothy grin.
"Yes, sir!" replied the group of ragged soldiers as they arose to stand in a shaky line.
"I need someone to scout out the next area on their own. Too many of you at once could give us away to the enemy. We need one courageous soul to sneak around one hundred yards North and ensure the path is clear," Smiles bellowed as he walked past each soldier slowly and methodically. He smirked a little as he noticed Newb perk up at this announcement.
"Please, sir! I want to go!" Newb announced.
"Are you sure you've got the balls, private?" Smiles replied quietly and menacingly as he got right in the young man's face.
"It would be an honour, sir!" Newb exclaimed.
"Then go do it," Smiles said with impatience gripping his voice.
Newb gave a quick salute before racing off into the wasteland. He barely made it in twenty yards before an enormous explosion rocked the camp and tore poor Newb to pieces before you could say "game over".
"NO!" Leet called as he tried to run towards where Newb's remains would be before Smiles stopped him in his tracks.
"Don't even think about moving, Leet," Smiles said in a rarely sympathetic manner, "It's clear to me now that we have a minefield on our hands and something needs to be done about it."
"Sir, I know what must be done," Leet said dutifully, a patriotic tear forming in his eye.
"And what's that, private?"
"I, and I alone, must sweep for mines. Only then will we truly be safe!"
"Leet, you know there's no way you can do that! You're certainly no expert, not even an intermediate! What makes you think you're the one to do this?"
"Sarge, you have let me! It is my duty to protect Newb's honour!"
"Your duty, private, is to defend our illustrious nation from those who would oppress her. Are you putting one man's honour over that of an entire country?" Smiles replied, hoping Leet would accept his challenge.
"Nothing is more important to me than seeing justice served," implored a soulful Leet, "Whether it be that of one man or one thousand! Justice is justice!"
"Well then," said Smiles proudly, "Do what you think needs to be done." He stepped aside for Leet to cross him with a shovel and an armful of little red flags.
Leet gingerly approached the minefield. He looked at the smoking crater where Newb had been obliterated. Musing over the ground in front of him he noticed a discolouration. Something whispered in his ear: "Two." He gently planted two flags in front of him.
"What the hell do you think you're doing, private?" Smiles called from a safe distance.
"I know what I'm doing. Call it intuition or whatever, but there are mines there!" retorted Leet before returning to his work.
Leet took a few steps to his right. More of the same dark, discoloured soil stood out. This time, he heard a resounding "One." But it would not be that simple. More Ones appeared to the north. It was impossible to accurately tell where the mine was. He followed the path of uncertainty to where he sensed a One on a corner of barren soil. The One led to a Two. More mines identified in Newb's honour. He knew the ground was safe. Whatever this powerful gift he had been blessed with was, it was sure coming in handy right now. Possibilities raced through Leet's head. Perhaps it was the spirit of Newb guiding him to safety. Leet grabbed hold of his senses and shook all silly superstition from his mind. He needed to focus on the task at hand. Where was the next mine? Two more just in front of him. The east side of the battlefield was clear for now. Slowly and methodically, Leet slunk his way to the western corner of the battlefield. It was all second nature to him now. Ones, Twos, simple. Just when it seemed that everything was clear, just to the south he heard an ethereal screech. The word: "Three." A three? Improbable! Impossible! Who would be crazy enough to space three mines so close together? The enemy apparently.
"Nobody move!" Leet called to the rest of the platoon, "There's three armed mines here!" Leet chuckled to himself; three mines left, three flags left.
"Three? How do you know?!" barked Smiles.
"You have to trust me."
Leet examined the ground around him. Not far was a Two and a One, the same in the other direction. The symmetrical series gave Leet the edge he needed to plant each flag. He gave a great cheer before solemnly returning to camp. From then on, Leet was treated with great reverence by everyone who witnessed his great feat that day. His tale was told and retold for generations after. Yet, for the rest of his life, Leet would wonder where his power came from, and if his dear friend Newb was looking down on him with pride.