Brain Canvas

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Campus Paintball War

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It was a Tuesday afternoon when they sealed the borders of the campus. Confusion spread around the place as students and faculty found they could not leave.  Shortly after the police and paramilitary trucks rolled into place to block access, the president of the university administration was heard on all the loudspeakers on campus, calling for all students to go to their dorms and all faculty to their offices; if they live off-campus, then they should stay in their classrooms, he clarified. Twenty minutes later, as the sound of helicopters whisked the air with a steady chopping beat, uniformed teams of administration lackeys strode into the gathering rooms of the old campus.  They carried with them large black bags and cases.  They all wore hard plastic face masks and body armor, giving them the appearance of riot police.  Each team carried a portable radio, which they turned on loudly while they called for the increasingly nervous population to sit down and shut up.  The voice of the president quacked to life: “You are now a part of a vital experiment, in which you must participate at pain of legal action or bodily harm against your person.  These people in black are referees.  You must obey them and you may not harm them.  They are carrying your equipment for the experiment.  The campus has been cordoned off into two base halves, and you are now on a team by virtue of which building you happen to be in right now.  The referees will give you armor with pressure sensation and GPS tracking, and everyone will receive a paintball gun.  West campus is the Red Team, East campus is the Blue Team.  After everyone is issued equipment, the doors will open.  Your team must capture the other team’s beacon and bring it safely back to your citadel, a location which the referees will reveal when they produce each team’s flag.  When you are shot, depending on where you are hit, you will either have to receive in-simulation medical care or you will be out of the simulation and your gun will stop working.  If  you are out of the simulation due to your wounds, there will be a nightly airlift to take the disabled to a holding facility where you will stay until the simulation ends.  The campus will only be unsealed when one team has captured the other’s beacon and returned it to their own citadel, and I personally verify that they have won.  Each side of the campus has one dining hall currently in their possession, which is stocked with enough food to support the needs of half the campus population for seven days.  Enjoy the paintball war.” His voice did not rise or fall, nor were there any hesitations or errant utterances, while he delivered this most unexpected address. It took a full two or three minutes of slack-jawed disbelief to dispel at the loud insistence of the referees before anyone stood up to receive their issue of equipment.  Their menacing stance made it clear that this was not a joke.  Faculty and students who sat defiantly were roughly dragged up to receive their armor and gun.  Not everyone received the same equipment – some people only received small sidearms, others more standard paintball guns, and a few people were given long-range paintball sniper rifles.  Everyone also received a paint grenade and a tear gas canister.  About one out of thirty were given an electronic patch which signified them as medical personnel.  Two referee teams, each one in a large and complex building in the heart of each side of campus, produced from their bags a colored flag with an electronic base which glowed the same color as the flag.  The flagpoles were attached to these electronic bases, and as the referees in the now-citadels demonstrated, when the flag was removed from the base, it stopped glowing. After about an hour, when all of the referees had signaled to the president that everyone was equipped, they stepped out and dispersed across campus. For a few minutes, nothing but the sound of helicopters suggested any movement.  People were still stunned and unsure of what to do next.  No one said “go;” no one began to organize.  Those near windows simply gazed out on the landscape, devoid of students laughing and walking to class.  The only visible human forms were the referees, who now stood like black wood cutouts at various corners and doorways. Soon, the smartest people on campus – spread sporadically between dorms, classrooms, and faculty offices – realized that if this was not a joke, they had to start thinking about what to do.  They began to think about how to win. On the Red Team, a group of fifty students in the atrium of the biology building directed the two medical personnel in their group to retreat to a large windowless room and arrange to receive the anticipated wounded.  Four squads of three people with standard guns went to establish a network of communications with other Red buildings and to discern the location of the citadel.  Those in the Red citadel, on the top floor of the graduate apartments, worked out a small chain of command among themselves and sent their snipers to cover strategic points from the uppermost windows.  Meanwhile, the Blue team component in the engineering lab began to experiment with turning five separate paintball guns into a rapid-fire multi-barrel cannon.  Those who had smartphones found that the Internet was disconnected, but they could set up a network for their own devices.  In this way, a few designated “information officers” began to populate a communications network with the phone numbers of their fellow Blues.  The Blues were also the first to fortify their dining hall; meanwhile, the Reds whipped up a contingent of ten squadrons and carefully occupied all the rooms in the student union. The first casualty came two hours into the game, when two Red scouts searching for unoccupied buildings in central territory encountered sniper fire from a Blue crouched on the rooftop of the math building.  The first one took it straight in the facemask, his eyesight splashed blue against the plastic vision guard.  His gun immediately stopped working, and when he tried to retreat, his armor responded by tazering him into the fetal position on the sidewalk.  Seconds later, as his comrade tried to duck around the corner, she felt a strike on her right arm as a blue splotch materialized instantly on the red armor over her bicep.  She quickly discerned from which direction the shot came and slipped behind the corner, but when she tried to raise her gun, the armor on her arm delivered a dull buzzing shock which prevented her from lifting it.  She also found herself unable to use her fingers, so pulling the trigger became impossible.  A single gruff curse muted itself inside her facemask. Hours later, as night was falling over an increasing number of strewn bodies, the teams had roughly solidified their command and control structures, but not without some significant conflicts.  Both sides experienced some tribalism and vocal warlordism as individuals who were comfortably able to make themselves leader of the troops they were grouped with by chance had difficulty working out commands with their peers in different buildings.  The occupiers of the Red citadel defiantly chose among themselves the senior leadership of their team due to poor communication early in the simulation.  The Blues, however, exercised some crude democracy and meritocracy, and they were even able to decentralize their command to a greater extent than the Reds.  For the guerrilla war, this proved a key strength. When it was dark, the fallen cried out to their comrades to recover them.  The Reds in the student union covered the campus quad with their guns as their teammates carried the wounded out of the zone of fire, although this produced a handful of casualties as well.  The wounded were led to the medic hall, which had fifty medical personnel at the ready.  Earlier in the day they discovered how their badges worked: while wearing the badge, they touched their armor to the disabled component of their teammates’ armor, and the badge flashed and announced how many hours would pass until the wounded part would function again.  It then stated how frequently the medics had to tend to the wounded like this – once every half hour for the very wounded, once every hour for the more fortunate – for recovery to occur.  Meanwhile, a large room became a morgue where the permanently disabled could lie without moving, to save them from the torture of armor shocks.  Near midnight, a group of helicopters hovered over each side’s morgue to transport the victims to the off-site facility.  This was only done to save the campus’ limited food supply for those who could still participate in the simulation. The cafeteria staff for both dining halls were among the trapped, and they kept on cooking.  The Blues used their communications network to arrange for eating in shifts, something the Reds were unable to do effectively on the first day.  They got the word about mess hall to most of their buildings, but a few Reds did not receive the message in time and headed to the dining hall on their own.  The Blues sent two groups of five squadrons each to pick off some Reds during dinnertime, and luck was on their side when they came across one nearly empty building and another only occupied with a third of the Reds that were there one hour prior.  In all, thirty Reds were disabled and sixty more fell back to different buildings.  More Blues were called in to fortify these new parcels – the first to be occupied in enemy territory. As the days went on and the simulation intensified, the different sides evolved their strategies and their tactics.  The Reds repurposed some campus vehicles by mounting paintball cannons on the roof.  The Blues fashioned personal shields out of trash can tops and stitched-together notebook covers.  Reds crawled through the ancient heating ducts of the campus to infiltrate Blue buildings, which enabled the capture of three Blue properties.  Blues responded by waiting at duct exits and tossing paint grenades when the Reds came near.  The engineering building, still in Blue possession, became a lab for new war methods.  What used to be design projects became aircraft carrying payloads of two tear gas canisters, which cleared the way for Blue invasions, and a few pinhole cameras were installed in buildings which the Blues purposefully allowed the Reds to occupy, only to wipe them out by discerning their number and positions. Psychological warfare emerged: Red and Blue graffiti and slogans was splashed on every outer wall and inside the inner strongholds, and one night the Reds moved the majority of their number to the rooftops to sing out a droning, eerie version of the campus song for an hour while tiny strike forces dispatched Blues in the darkness.  Prisoners of war were captured by disabling their extremities and removing them to buildings near the citadel.  The medics there only healed prisoners enough to prevent total disability, and some prisoners were even tortured for information by being forced to move their disabled extremities and enduring the commensurate shocks.  A few tried to torture totally disabled people in this way before their nightly pickup, but such action was met with a series of clean head shots by the referees. Through espionage and interrogation of prisoners, each side gained key intelligence about their enemies: where and when officers held court, which attacks they were prepared for and which they did not expect, and most important, the location of the citadel.  The Blues knew that the Reds had a highly centralized command structure based entirely out of the top floor of the citadel building, so only a full-on assault directed at capturing their beacon could be effective.  The Reds used the Blues’ decentralized structure to their advantage and formed plans to assassinate officers within a two-hour period on the fourth day of the simulation.  Injected squadrons on a one-way trip disabled a third of the Blue commanders, including the second-in-command and two others on the seven-member high command council.  This was a serious blow, but the decentralization which opened the door to the attacks also allowed the Blue team to survive and regroup. Within hours, the Blues decided on their shot at victory before the Reds could follow up with a full attack.  They began a battle to take the whole student union from the Reds, possession of which was currently divided in half by the atrium or “shock zone” as it was known due to the near-certainty of being shot.  Minutes later, as the Reds sent reinforcements to the union, the Blues reassembled the rest of their teammates into a corridor leading from their stonghold through their most defensible thoroughfare and towards as straight a line as possible to the Red citadel.  The Blues that were not involved in battling for the union, defending the citadel or covering the thoroughfare, began a wild march towards the heart of Red territory.  Such large-scale action had not yet occurred, and the Reds were unprepared.  They mowed down the first few lines of Blues, but squadrons further back advanced along the sides to clear out Red buildings from the bottom up.  Within twenty minutes, they had covered half the distance to the Red citadel from the Blue border of control.  The Blues rolled out their mobile cannons and cleared the roof of the citadel and most of the windows, paving the way for squadron after squadron of Blue shock troops to storm the entrance to the Red citadel. Thirty minutes later, four Blue troops fled the citadel room, its floor now strewn with the disabled bodies of the entire Red leadership and no small number of their own comrades.  The moment they lifted the Red flag from its base, the bottom ceased glowing – and sirens began to wail across the entire campus.  The Reds locked in the battle for the student union lost their footing for a few moments as the Blues were spurred on by radio reports of their imminent victory.  Those that were not overwhelmed by the Blue onslaught rushed to pick off the Blues sprinting with the flag towards their own citadel.  Those four were all shot by the time they reached the Blue line of control, but enough of their comrades were on hand in deeper territory to pick up the standard and continue the race for victory.  Reds advanced towards the Blue citadel, but the road to its front steps were too well-guarded.  When the third squadron of flag-carriers reached the doors of their home base, the Blues all closed in around the door to prevent the Reds from breaking in. Two minutes later, the sirens fell silent as the Blues triumphantly planted the Red flag next to their own blue banner.

Written by Preston

May 5th, 2010 at 12:40 pm

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