The Stan-Man Plan

The last couple of days the creative juices have been obnoxiously viscous. I got some good restructuring done on my front-burner project, but the little ideas that lead to little stories seem to be stuck. Rather than stare at my screen yesterday, after I was fried on my main story I decided to relax and just do a bit of reading. I pulled up for inspection my NaNoWriMo piece from the year before last. I remembered having fun writing it.

I also had fun reading it. It’s silly, and more than a little far-fetched, but it was good light entertainment. There is a tiny country somewhere in asia, probably wedged between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, that has been overlooked and forgotten for centuries. (If I were to work on the story some more, I would put a statue in the square of the capital. It would be Ghengis Kahn, gesturing to the side. “Let’s go around” the plaque would read.) Because they were bypassed by everyone, they are an insular and perplexing people.

Overlooked, that is, until a drunken general at a cocktail party declares that the US needs “a man in every stan!” The general promptly forgets, but his aide does not. Crumley doed not like his boss at all. He sends Robert McFadden, the only person in the US who speaks Ztrtkijistani. McFarland is, of course, completely unqualified to be a field agent. He begins to drink a lot, and under the influence he sends cryptic messages back to HQ.

Once the Americans are interested, of course the Russians become interested as well, and eventually the Chinese join the fray. Here are three short excerpts:


“They’re hiding something,” Crumley told the general.

The general nodded. “You bet your sweet ass they are.”

“Petersen says they’ve broken McFadden’s code. We have to assume that they know we know everything he knows.”

The general nodded. “All right then, we can’t let on that we know they know we know everything he knows.” He pounded his desk, sloshing his martini dangerously. “God DAMN I love my job some days.” He pulled out a Cuban cigar to celebrate, and to annoy Crumley. After spending several seconds lighting it with great care and blowing the smoke in Crumley’ direction he said, “We have to expand the code Petersen figured out in a way that he’ll understand, so they read one thing while he gets our true meaning. And they can’t know it’s happening.”

“Perhaps we should get a radio to him.”

“Yes, yes, but first we have to tell him it’s coming. What have we told him so far?”

“Er, nothing.”

“What do you mean, nothing?”

Crumley was defensive. “We have never sent him anything. By the time we knew what was happening, they had broken our code.”

The general set his cigar down carefully and leaned forward, his dark eyes glinting under his bushy eyebrows. “We will not leave our man out to dry.”

“Of course not, sir.”

“Draft some extraction plans, if it’s not too late. Military force is an option.”

* * *

“They’re hiding something,” Sergei told the general.

The general nodded. “You bet your sweet ass they are.”

“Petrov says he’s broken their code. We have to assume The Americans know the Ztrtkijis know everything the spy knows.”

The general nodded. “All right then, we can’t let on that we know the Americans know the Ztrtkijis know everything the spy knows.” He pounded his desk, sloshing his vodka dangerously. “God DAMN I love my job some days.” He pulled out a Cuban cigar to celebrate, and to annoy Sergei. After spending several seconds lighting it with great care and blowing the smoke in Sergei’s direction he said, “We need to get closer to the action, but we can’t let anyone know it’s us.”

“We need to get some specialists in there.”

“Yes, yes, but first we have to tell our ground people we’re coming. Who do we have in there?”

“Er, no one.”

“What do you mean, no one?”

Sergei was defensive. “We’ve never seen the need before. By the time we knew what was happening, it was too late.”

The general set his cigar down carefully and leaned forward, his dark eyes glinting under his bushy eyebrows. “We will not leave that country to the Americans.”

“Of course not, sir.”

“Draft some contingency plans, if it’s not too late. Military force is an option.”

* * *

“They’re hiding something,” Chan told the general.

The general nodded. “You bet your sweet ass they are.”

“Xing says he’s broken their code. We have to assume the Russians have as well, but we do not think the Russians know the Americans know the Russians know the Americans know that the Ztrtkijis know what the spy is reporting.”

The general nodded. “All right then, we can’t let on that we are interested in finding out just what it is they know.” He pounded his desk, sloshing his vodka dangerously. “God DAMN I love my job some days.” He pulled out a pack of Marlboros to celebrate, and to annoy Chan. After spending several seconds lighting one with great care and blowing the smoke in Chan’s direction he said, “We need to get closer to the action, but we can’t let anyone know it’s us.”

“The American fell silent the moment we became interested. We need to get some specialists in there.”

“Yes, yes, but first we have to tell our ground people we’re coming. Who do we have there?”

“Er, no one.”

“What do you mean, no one? We have the largest human intelligence organization in the world. You could hit the country with a stone from our borders.”

Sergei was defensive. “We’ve never seen the need before. By the time we got wind that the Russians were moving, it was too late.”

The general set his Marlboro down carefully and leaned forward, his dark eyes glinting under his bushy eyebrows. “This is an opportunity to outflank our rivals. We will not leave that country to the Americans or the Russians.”

“Of course not, sir.”

“Draft some contingency plans, if it’s not too late. Military force is an option.”

Obviously, this is the perfect sort of story when quantity matters over quality, as cut-and-paste becomes an attractive option. The story gets pretty convoluted, partly by design and partly because no idea is a bad idea in November. Just for giggles, if any of you are interested in reading the whole thing, I decided to toss it up on the Hut’s servers. (You probably want to right-click and download the file, rather than read it in your browser, but it works eaither way.) It’s a pdf, as that was the best way to preserve some of the formatting that Jer’s Novel Writer does that other word processors aren’t so good at.

If you do decide to give it a go, there are a couple of things you should keep in mind. Mainly, this is a very rough draft. There are parts that I quite like, and other parts that go nowhere. I dislike the Spy Party rather a lot. It must have been getting close to the end of the month. There are continuity issues (someone moves into his hotel room before he moves out, for instance), but if you just roll with those, none of them were deal breakers for me on this reading.

Anywhoo, it’s your call. There are lots of more worthwhile things you could read instead, but since when did life have to be worthwhile?

10 thoughts on “The Stan-Man Plan

  1. Where are the slavs??? Good god man how could you have missed the opportunity to include Serbs, Hungarians and other folks? That alone would have padded up another 5K.

    Not ready to commit to reading the whole shebang…still working on the latest serial for Pikers. Aser pointed out I am probably up to middle of spring now (starts in Nov and I have 24 episodes written).

    Drop me a line and let me know how world’s treating you!

  2. Hmm… Chan, Sergei… maybe they really are the same person! What a plot twist that would be!

    I did make one change before posting the whole thing; there were a few characters I’d never bothered naming. Here and there were people named BBB and things like that. Some of those names might still be in there.

    Believe me, it won’t bother me in the least if no one bothers to read the thing.

  3. As for slavs, the Russians will have to do. One thing about Czechs and Serbs, they’re willing to let inconsequential things stay inconsequential.

  4. Not sure why? Because it’s military satire, the general(s) an archetype, and Peter Sellers is playing Crumley/Sergei/Chan.

  5. La, Aser, I was out yesterday with my camera. I was in the perfect place, with the perfect collection of patrons. I didn’t take the picture. There is a strong Mind Your Own Business ethic here, and it extends to taking pictures of people while they gather in a Pub. Had I been in the US, or Ireland, or almost anywhere else, taking a photo in a bar wouldn’t even be noticed. Not here.

    I did get some pics from the garden outside, where I was the only patron. I can’t explain that one; it was a beautiful day.

    I check my email more often than I check this page, but I get alerted within minutes when a comment is added here. You can too! Jump on the RSS feed.

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