Tuesday, December 05, 2006

I Love the Smell of Paint in the Late Afternoon/Early Evening

By this point in my life, I should really know better I suppose, but this past Sunday I spent the greater part of the day traipsing about the woods; consequently, I spent the greater part of Monday battling the allergies which resulted from said traipsing. And why was I out in the woods, you may ask? Why, for paintball, why else?

You see, on Sunday morning all of the guys in my class were invited to join Shack-Fu (a recent addition to the Singles) and some of his friends who regularly meet up to pelt each other with high speed pellets filled with paint. PigPen, a veteran paintballer, jumped at the chance, and The Anti-Cap'n, after deciding that it would be okay to just tape the Cowboys game and watch it when he got home, decided to go as well. Peanut was game, but had other plans, so he begged off this time. Which left only yours truly.

Now, I'm sure this will come as a shock to one and all, but I've never played paintball before; hard to believe, I know, what with how rugged and outdoorsy I am. Nevertheless, while I have had a couple of opportunities to play over the years, I never have taken advantage of them. I was vacillating over this offer as well, trying to weigh my desire to hang out with the gang against the fact that I really don't posses the gear, skills, or mentality that make for primo paintballing, when Shack-Fu offered me the option of sporting a bright orange vest and merely being an observer. How could I refuse?

There wound up being enough people show up to have two four-person teams, with Shack-Fu and myself as observers. Or, more accurately, I was an observer, while Shack-Fu was judge, coordinator, critic, and pot-stirrer; he set up the scenarios, ruled on whether a player was in or not, shouted out advice, and occasionally changed up the rules to get more action going. I, for the most part, just followed him around and tried not to get hit by the crossfire.

The first scenario the teams ran through was a basic capture-the-flag run, where each team started from a home base, raced to get the flag from the middle of what they call Sherwood Forest, and then tried to tag the opposing team’s base without getting shot. If you were shot, you could respawn (or return, for those of my audience not familiar with video game terminology*) after 15 minutes. Team Bravo (PigPen's team) got the flag pretty quickly, but had difficulty making it to Team Alpha (The A.C.'s team)'s base since one of the Alphans was hidden well enough to pick them off when they charged the flag without getting shot himself. PigPen was this close to tagging it when he got nailed in the head. It was around this time that Shack-Fu decided to speed up the respawn process, since both teams were reduced to one player each. My favorite moment of this game was when a respawned PigPen made a diving roll to the fence-line to stop the Alphans from advancing, once again demonstrating the origin of his nickname. In the end, it was Team Bravo who emerged victorious.

A brief aside to say how surprised I was at how well the normally hyperactive PigPen was able to remain still while lying in wait; 99% of the time the boy is bouncing off the walls and being distracted by shiny objects, but put him behind a video game controller or the sights of a gun, and he goes from ADD to OCD.

The second scenario was more of a last-man-standing run, with the same two teams stalking each other with no purpose other than to pick each other off one by one, with no respawns. This scenario lasted a lot longer than I expected because Team Bravo basically just sat in wait for Team Alpha, who took their sweet time moving through the woods hunting for their targets. Again, Shack-Fu decided to mix things up a bit, giving each team leader a walkie-talkie through which Shack-Fu would funnel intelligence on the opposing team's movements. The Alphans used this to zero in on the Bravos, and Shack-Fu and I positioned ourselves to be able to watch the slaughter. And slaughter it was, as the Alphans found themselves being picked off pretty quickly by well-hidden snipers. After Ghost, the Alphan point man, got hit, PigPen scrambled for cover, his patented roll causing more problems than it solved this time as the cover of his gun's hopper came open, spilling ammo on the ground. Another Alphan called for a paint check, and Shack-Fu paused play while he ran over to see if it was a valid hit or not; he determined it was just splatter, and let game play resume. Two seconds later, the same Alphan called for a paint check again, and this time was not so lucky. Soon, the Bravos were victorious, without having lost any of their team.

The final scenario was a covert ops run, with a five person team of D.E.A. agents trying to rescue a hapless hostage from the clutches of three Columbian drug cartel members.

Three guesses who the hapless hostage was.

The setup was that one of the cartel members would stay with me as a guard, while the other two would set up an ambush for the agents. My instructions as the hostage were simple: scream loudly for help. Not surprisingly, that fell well within my range of abilities. My only concern was just how much yelling to do, and when; didn't want to wear out my voice before my would-be rescuers got close. But, after what seemed like an eternity (and was probably about three minutes), I started to get bored, and began to imagine how the others would react if my hostage succumbed to Stockholm syndrome and started firing away at the agents myself; but, that way lies madness, not to mention ticked off players, and so I instead began to yell for help. I had originally planned on waiting until I saw or heard one of the agents and then letting out a blood-curdling shriek that would make my mom proud, but with no sign of the Good Guys, and no clue if they were in range or not, I settled for a few normal yells before getting bored again and going for a more high pitched scream; apparently I should have held off on the screeching after all, since PigPen told me afterwards that it caught him off-guard and got him to laughing, which may have aided the agents in rescuing me.

Yes, that's right, PigPen was chosen to be one of the cartel members, a role he took to with fiendish glee: his cartel name was Alejandro, and he very strongly was advocating shooting the hostage. I, in turn, was strongly advocating a million peso award for the head of Alejandro.

Anyway, after what seemed like yet another eternity, I finally heard the sounds of gunfire and so redoubled my cries for help. From the high ground, I could see PigPen running back for cover, yelling out in a heavy accent; I in turn changed my cries from "Help!" to "¡Ayúdeme! ¡Ayúdeme! ¡Mis padres tenemos** mucho dinero!" and the like. At one point, PigPen looked up at me and yelled "¡Silencio!" which, thanks to our TV's odd propensity for switching its display from English to Spanish, is a very common phrase at our place. We exchanged a few more epithets before he got distracted with trying to kill the encroaching agents. One of the rescuers had worked himself into a thicket of briars, which probably seemed like an okay idea until after he got shot and had difficulty extricating himself. The cartel members wound up bumping off all of the agents without losing a single one of their own.

Shack-Fu was pleased with the way that scenario played out, but wanted us to run through it again in a shortened form, with the cartel members all bunched up near me and the agents just basically rushing the hill. This time instead of yelling in Spanish, I belted out the first verse of "Rescue Me"; hey, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Things didn't turn out quite so well for the cartel this time around; I happened to glance over to where Ghost was stationed, and noticed that he was flat on his back. I would have been concerned for his health if I hadn't noticed that he still had the presence of mind to hold his gun up in a "don't shoot me no more" sign. Meanwhile, PigPen was caught in a firefight with The Sarge, the sole female participant, who he had eliminated in the first game with a shot to the face; he wasn't quite as lucky this time around, and The Sarge took him out, before turning to rush the sole surviving cartel member, who was crouched down between a big sign and a piece of metal siding. He was firing in the opposite direction and was just able to notice that The Sarge was almost on top of him. Now, the group has a "mercy killing" rule that if you come up on someone within a certain radius you can demand their surrender; The Sarge did so, but for one reason or another neither I nor my captor heard her. The cartel guy, knowing he wouldn't be able to swing up his gun before she fired, made the "I still can't believe he did that" move of kicking the siding at The Sarge; I swear, I barely heard his cries of pain from her retributory close-range fire over my own laughter.

So, after all, that, would I be willing to actually take part the next time? The answer is a resound "possibly maybe." I'm sure my aim is horrible, I'd probably trounce through the underbrush like a rampaging elephant, and I seriously doubt I have the patience to play the "wait in ambush" game; I'd probably play a whole game or two before the others started telling me "You know, Todd, you make the best hostage . . .” Still, I'd probably be willing to play, as long as I knew I wouldn't have to worry about Shack-Fu gunning for me. I mean, honestly, would you want to be pursued through the woods by this man?

I think not.

*Hi, mom
**Yes, I know it should have been "tienen," but give me a break, I was fearful for my life and not thinking clearly.