Monday, December 18, 2006

A Very Paintball Xmas Pt.1: "I Should Be Making Cookies. With Sprinkles"

After our venture into the world of paintball a couple of weeks ago, PigPen, The Anti-Cap'n, and I were invited to a Christmas party at Shack-Fu's house yesterday for the paintball crew, a party which was to be followed by an afternoon of war games. The Anti-Cap'n had to work, but PigPen and I were able to make it. Now, I'm pretty sure my commitment to actually participating in a paintball game after the last time was of a "possibly maybe at some point in the future I might, conceivably, briefly entertain the notion of considering perhaps doing so" nature; however, in Shack-Fu Land, that apparently translates into "Oh, yeah, I'm totally in, man, totally! Wooooo! Wolverines!" and he therefore spent all day telling people that I had promised to engage in battle. And, once Shack-Fu is able to block out the shiny objects and focus enough to get his mind set on something, it's difficult to dissuade him, as evidenced by his hard sell to Squiggly at church, first brow-beating her into skipping her plans for the day - baking cookies and playing the violin - and instead attending the party. After she agreed to that, he was just a hop, skip and a nag from getting her to participate as well.

Shack-Fu had gotten some random paintball supplies to give away in a drawing, and I was lucky enough to win something called a “butt plate,” which really isn’t nearly as dirty as it sounds. And, as talk turned to the upcoming carnage, Shack-Fu kept making not-so-veiled threats about gunning for me in the games, prompting me to oh-so-innocently ask loudly “Gee, Shack-Fu, just because I told the whole world how you got your butt kicked by a girl is no reason to hold a grudge.” Not surprisingly, this lead to loud catcalls from all of the paintball crew who had up until that point missed out on the story of Fluffy repealing Shack-Fu’s man-card.

I wonder if that had anything to do with how he set up the first mission . . .

Once the party was over (and after a far too lengthy quest for some camo pants which would fit me and my cursed, ever-expanding waist) we headed out to the paintball field. Squiggly rode out with me, and spent most of the drive trying to fight off Shack-Fu's Jedi mind tricks by reciting what was to be her mantra for the rest of the day: "I should be making cookies. I should be making cookies. I should be making cookies. With sprinkles." But, alas, the brainwashing was too powerful, and Squiggly and I were thrust into Shack-Fu's world.

I had expected for us to ease into things with a game of Capture the Flag or Elimination like before, but Shack-Fu decided to jump right into a full-fledged role playing scenario from the get-go. This time it was a rescue mission, with The Sarge playing a wounded ship's captain in possession of vital intelligence but stranded in enemy territory. One team would be the Navy SEALs, sent in to extract her; the other team would be the enemy troops, tasked with trying to either capture her first or eliminate all of the SEALs. Much to my surprise, when it came to splitting up the teams, Shack-Fu divvied us up 5-3, with the SEALs being five seasoned players, and the enemy troops being an experienced player (PigPen) and two novices (Squiggly and me).

Now, I’m sure in Shack-Fu's head, this arrangement made perfect sense. As he envisioned it, the SEALs objective was to rescue The Sarge, and they would therefore focus on getting her back and not on eliminating us, so that any direct conflict should have been dictated by us. Or at least that's how he explained it to us. However, what he apparently didn't take into consideration was just how ill-equipped we (and by we, I mean I) were to start off on a mission which required racing up and down steep hills in unfamiliar terrain; trying to harry targets at a long distance across a pond with little to no experience firing a gun of any sort; and moving silently through insidious brambles without being picked off by The Sniper in his gilly suit. It also didn't help matters that our team's game started off like this: Shack-Fu, once again in the role of facilitator, comes running up, motions for us to speed after him up the steep hill, points out The Sarge across the pond, asks to borrow PigPen's gun, and then, without warning, opens fire on the other team. This results in my first piece of paintball action as oneof the SEALs returns fire and pelts me right in the temple. Despite the solid hit, the ball didn't break, and neither did the next two or three which also made contact while I was still trying to process what was going on ("Wait, is someone throwing tiny rocks at me?"), so I wasn't out - - just out of it.

Maybe bringing up the Fluffy story earlier hadn’t been the best idea . . .

From my end of things, that whole first campaign was a total mess, due to miscommunication and misunderstandings between Shack-Fu and PigPen* regarding the scenario rules and objectives. This disconnect between the two of them lead to almost every decision team leader PigPen made being second-guessed by Shack-Fu in a “Don’t you think it would be better if you did this instead?” sort of way, which lead to me feeling vaguely uncomfortable in a “Why are mommy and daddy fighting?” sort of way.** Honestly, the only moment in the first game where I felt even marginally useful was when I managed to spot The Sniper cresting a hill and was able to call out a warning and fire a few shots in his general direction. After we finally got our rules of engagement cleared up, PigPen led us up into the brush to set up an ambush, at which time I fulfilled my "trounce through the underbrush like a rampaging elephant" prophecy, much to my roomie's chagrin. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that our ambush was not even remotely successful; PigPen made his way down the hill to get a better shot, but was nailed. My attempts to avenge him were rewarded with a paintball to the facemask. Squiggly, visions of making cookies dancing in her head, was eliminated soon after.

All in all, not an encouraging start to my paintball career.

We took a brief break to refill weapons and for those of us (i.e., me) with the endurance of an asthmatic newborn to regain our (that is, my) wind. While waiting, conversation turned to various topics, including how cool it would be to have a “paintball knife,” (which put me in mind of playing T.A.G. with the Parkerites and Book Monkeys. It was during this lull that The Ghost, after a matter of hours, was able to do what it had taken me well over a year to do: give Squiggly a nickname.

Wave to Cookies, everyone.

Shack-Fu had planned to run through the rescue scenario again, switching The Ghost to the enemy troops and me to the SEALs, but the encroachment of outsiders into the staging area necessitated a restructuring into a Capture the Flag game. The only problem was that the flag had been used as The Sarge's "flare" during the previous game, and had been dropped somewhere along The SEALs' path. So while The Ghost went to retrieve it, Shack-Fu split the rest of us into two teams for a quick game of Elimination, which was a much better experience for me.



A bit.

*Squiggly and I were just along for the ride
**I’ll leave it up to you to decide which was which