World War: Campaign for Surprise
Copyright© 2018 by Lazlo Zalezac
A young cadet led the way down the hallway. General Hang followed him flanked by two even younger cadets. There was an older cadet following them. It might have appeared as if he was being guarded, but the truth was a bit different. The cadet leading the way had been instructed to guide them to the conference room. The one following was tasked with security. The cadet to the left was to be his driver while the cadet to his right was his host.
One of the questions that anyone observing Jade Warriors had was concerned with their training. They were clearly superior in terms of fighting skills and that each knew multiple languages, but that was about all that was known about their education. General Hang felt that he should take advantage of the opportunity to talk with a cadet about his education.
He asked the cadet to his right, “What is it like being a cadet at the Jade Academy?”
“I wouldn’t know how to answer that. I have nothing to compare it to.”
“What do you study?”
“Did you attend a military academy?”
“Yes, I did,” General Hang answered.
“What did you study?”
“War,” he replied. Trying to keep the conversation going, he added, “I would guess that our studies were similar.”
“I think not,” the cadet said in a matter of fact voice.
The cadet was well aware that military academies around the world tended to go for breadth rather than depth. The Jade Academy demanded breadth and depth in its fields of study. It was the difference between studying war spelled in all lower case letters versus war spelled in all upper case letters.
The cadet’s answer surprised General Hang. It was not only the reply, but the tone of the reply. It sounded to him as if the cadet was dismissing the education of the Chen military academy. He was tempted to point out the prestige of the school, but decided to probe the source of the cadet’s attitude. After all, a cadet was expected to have pride in his school.
“How long did you study at the academy?”
“Ah. I have studied war for nine years, and I still have three more years of study ahead of me.”
General Hang felt a little embarrassed at being put in his place by a fourteen year old. Then he thought about the number of boarding schools with a military flair around the world that were essentially for kids who were trouble makers. With a few notable exceptions, they tended to produce young men who were disciplined, but in a stiff, proud, and almost condescending way.
He glanced at the cadets with him. They moved with a curious smoothness rather than a stiff, formal military bearing. There was a calm exterior that masked a taut awareness of everything around them. They wore armor rather than uniforms. He knew of only a very few military schools, even such as the one he attended, that had cadets walking around fully armed. These cadets carried their weapons with practiced ease, and not as if it were some special act being put forth on his behalf.
Rather than argue, he said, “You might have a point.”
The cadet leading the way stopped in front of a door. He opened it, stepped inside, and looked around. The General recognized the manner in which the cadet moved. The student had approached the door as if the room behind it was not secure and quite possibly held by an enemy. The other three students had appeared to increase in alertness as well.
The cadet said, “This is the conference room.”
“Thank you,” General Hang said.
He entered the room and looked around at it. Having become used to luxurious conference rooms with décor appropriate for the highest of government officials, this was one of the plainest conference rooms he’d seen in years. That’s not to say that it was shabby. The furniture, what there was of it, was very very simple and understated, but very solid. There were no pictures on the wall of national leaders nor were there flags in the corners. It was just a conference room with a large table and chairs.
He was startled when the other door to the conference room opened. He recognized the man who entered through it. The man had aged quite a bit from the last time he had seen him. General Wynn walked across the room and held out his hand.
The two men shook hands while General Wynn said, “It’s nice to see you again, General Hang. If I recall correctly, you were a Captain at the time.”
“Good Morning, General Wynn. You recall correctly,” General Hang had replied. He was rather surprised that General Wynn had recognized him. Although he had been the general’s ‘guide’ when the man had visited Chen after the end of the Vam war, it was still amazing that he had remembered him after such a long time. He added, “If I recall correctly, the last time we met, you were working on a book about elves.”
“I’m surprised you remember that.”
“Actually, I have read all of your books. I find them quite a refreshing change from what I normally read all day.”
He had known that General Wynn had a role in establishing the Jade Academy where the Jade Warriors had received their training. He had wanted to learn more about the man behind the curtain. He had read them when Jade Force first started getting noticed in the intelligence community in the hope that it would tell him more about how General Wynn thought. The books had left him confused about General Wynn. He had a hard time matching the kind of mind that created such a detailed fantasy world with the kind of man who could create something like Jade Force. He still wasn’t sure if there was a connection between Jade Force and the elves described in the stories.
“I’m pleased to hear that.”
“Will you be writing another one?”
“Yes. I’m working on a story right now,” General Wynn said.
He had been producing a book every few years still taken aback by the unexpected popularity of the series. Even though he had not intended to publish it, the initial book has served its purpose. He had found talented people who could think outside of the box. The book sales meant very little to him in comparison to that.
“I’m looking forward to reading it when it get published.”
“Would you like to take a seat?”
The two men sat down across the table from each other. The cadet who was to serve as his host asked, “Would either of you care for some refreshments?”
“Do you have tea?”
“We purchased 250 grams of Vintage Narcissus Wuyi Oolong Tea for your visit,” the cadet answered.
General Hang raised an eyebrow. This was one of the finest teas available in Chen. He had to wonder if they had really bought it for his visit. If so, it was a very great honor.
He said, “I’m honored. That would be excellent.”
Turning to General Wynn, the cadet asked, “And for you, Sir?”
“I’ll have coffee, black with no sugar.”
The cadet left the room.
General Wynn turned to the other cadet and said, “Would you please attend to General Hang’s driver and aide?”
The cadet turned and left the room. General Hang hadn’t noticed when the cadet who had guided them had left. The one who was serving as a guard stood beside the closed door through which they had entered the room. It took General Hang a moment to realize that the cadet had a foot placed in front of the door where any movement of the door would alert him.
General Wynn said, “It is not every day that Chen’s most important general comes to visit a training academy.”
General Hang touched the star on his collar and said, “There’s only one star there. I’m clearly not the most important general in Chen.”
“I understand differently. I’ve heard that your modesty is only exceeded by your brilliance. That star does not reflect your importance in Chen and we both know it.”
General Hang was the man who Premiere Song sent for when he wanted to understand military and political events in other parts of the world. In a way, the general had as great an effect on Chen foreign policy as the rest of the Premiere’s advisers combined.
“You embarrass me with such praise.”
General Wynn said, “I wonder if Premiere Song would mind if we borrowed your services for a year.”
“I don’t understand what you mean.”
“I was hoping that I could talk you into being an instructor for a year.”
General Hang was speechless. Of anything that he expected to hear during his visit, that was the last.
“I take it you are aware that Chen is at war with the Jade Empire,” General Hang said.
“This is Jade Academy. We train young men and women to be Jade Warriors. We are not Jade Force or Jade Empire. As such, we are neutral ground,” General Wynn said.
“I was not aware that the boundaries between Jade Academy and Jade Force were quite that sharp.”
“There is a formal contract between the Jade Academy and the Jade Empire. That contract would not prevent you from teaching here.”
“I thought outsiders weren’t allowed on the grounds of Jade Academy.”
“That’s quite correct. Only cadets, instructors, and staff are allowed on the grounds. Our instructors do not leave for the tenure of their contracts except in very special circumstances. Our staff live within the walls of the academy and do not travel outside.”
“So you would allow me on the grounds?”
“No. I fear that you would have an office in this complex and our students would come here,” General Wynn said.
“Your students study outside the complex?”
“Only when the course of study demands it. In your case, having you as an instructor would definitely demand it. You can’t let one of the world’s best intelligence analysts inside your facility and have any hope of keeping anything secret.”
“Once again you flatter me.”
“Perhaps you may have forgotten that I was once in the same business as you are now,” General Wynn said. “I think I am a good judge of talent.”
“Stories of you and General Nguyen are legend. I have not forgotten your past.”
General Hang wanted to ask about General Nguyen and his campaign against West Vam after the pullout of Amra. Like many people in the intelligence world, he believed that General Wynn and General Nguyen had planned it out a full year in advance. Too much money had disappeared when the East Vam government fled, and there was too much money available for the establishment of the Jade Academy. In the intelligence community, coincidence and causality were often treated as if they were synonyms.
“I will extend a formal invitation to you at the conclusion of your visit here.”
“So returning to the original subject, it is not often that an individual of your stature comes to visit a simple military academy. Is there some special need that has brought you here?”
“Would you believe me if I were to say that I just wanted to drop in and chat?”
General Wynn laughed. He said, “No. I believe that Premiere Song requested that you visit us.”
“You seem quite well informed. I suppose that you wouldn’t tell me how you came to know that?”
“I would gladly tell you if I were asked.”
“So how did you come to know that?”
General Hang chuckled. In that simple answer, General Wynn had just stated that he understood the whole purpose of the visit and that nothing more explicit would need to be said.
Amused, he asked, “Are you sure that your cadets have anything to learn from me?”
The discussion was interrupted when the cadet returned with a tray. He set it on the table and said, “I hope that it is prepared to your satisfaction. This is the third brew.”
“I’m sure it is perfect,” General Hang said attempting to be polite.
This was a very expensive tea and places that served it took great care to see that it was prepared correctly. He doubted that a cadet here would know how to prepare it.
The cadet placed the cup of coffee in front of General Wynn. He said, “I was informed this was how you like it.”
“I’m sure it’s fine.”
The cadet stepped away from the table. He went over to the wall and stood there.
General Hang took a sip of the tea. It was very good, but brewing it was an art. Unfortunately the cadet wasn’t a master at it. The woman who prepared tea for Premiere Song was an expert. Of course, he’d visited a few very expensive tea houses that hadn’t done as well as the cadet had.
Wanting to compliment the cadet, he said, “I think the quality is about the same as the Ming Vase Tea House.”
“That is where the person who brewed the tea works.”
General Hang looked over at General Wynn and said, “You didn’t have to go to so much trouble.”
“I don’t run things here. The cadets arranged it.”
“They arranged for someone from the Ming Vase Tea House to come here just to brew a cup of tea for me?”
General Wynn looked over at the cadet and said, “Why don’t you explain it to him.”
“When I called to find out how to brew it, I couldn’t follow his instructions. Rather than ruin a tea of that quality, it was just better to call in someone who knows how. They sent one of their apprentices.”
“Did you really bring someone over on your own initiative?”
“It was my problem to solve, so I solved it.”
“I am impressed,” General Hang said.
Today had been a day of many surprises. The idea that a fourteen year old cadet could make that kind of decision was completely foreign to him. Then it dawned on him. The cadet had been assigned the responsibility of serving as host and had been granted the authority to act as necessary to meet that responsibility. When he had been serving as a guide to foreign dignitaries, making that kind of decision was well outside his authority.
He said, “I hope that you didn’t get into trouble with your superiors on my account.”
“I have no superiors.”
Seeing the expression on General Hang’s face, General Wynn said, “Cadet Semes has pledged to Hearth. He has several areas of expertise, one of which is as a host. You don’t supervise an expert, at least not if you want the expert to do the job.”
“Age has nothing to do with it. I can kill a man with my bare hands,” Cadet Semes said.
A chill ran down General Hang’s back. That kind of flat certitude in his abilities from someone so young was terrifying in a way. It wasn’t boasting. It wasn’t an attempt to impress. It was a flat statement of fact. Age has nothing to do it it. I can kill. They advertised their skills on their armor.
General Hang said, “My apologies. There are few men, of any age, who have such a confident understanding of their abilities.”
“No offense was taken.”
“Of course, when I hear of an individual who has such confidence, I am reminded of a rather old expression. The best swordsman does not fear the second best swordsman in the world. He fears the worst swordsman.”
Cadet Semes said, “There is a simple response to that.”
The Cadet guarding the door answered, “When we encounter the worst swordsman in the world, we send the second worst swordsman in the world to fight him.”
It dawned on General Hang that is exactly what a Jade Warrior would do. It wasn’t so much about what any of them could do, it was about doing what was required to win. He should have argued even harder against having Chen vote for the war against Jade Force in the IFN. He had a feeling that two thousand Jade Warriors could eliminate the entire Chen military, including Army, Navy, and Air Force. After all, they had taken out the Second Fleet without much effort.
“It still seems a little over confident to me.”
Cadet Semes said, “One must understand one’s strengths and weaknesses. Not understanding the latter is what kills you.”
“And you understand your weaknesses?”
“That’s why I hired someone to brew your tea,” Cadet Semes said.
General Wynn said, “If I remember correctly, you used to compete in martial arts. We have a cadet undergoing a test for her master rating in unarmed combat. Would you care to watch?”
“I was hoping for such an exhibition,” General Hang said.
“It is not an exhibition. It is a test and, as such, is a serious matter.”
“I stand corrected,” General Hang said.
“Cadet Semes, could you make the arrangements?”