"Blue," "Silver," and "Green" have the same rank and perform the same job in the same work center on the same base in a foreign location. As co-workers go, these three junior enlisted technicians are pretty good friends, but Blue and Silver enjoy a very special friendship that goes back many years. Blue and Silver went to junior high school together; Silver was the best man at Blue’s wedding; and now that they are assigned together, they are nearly inseparable. As Green likes to say, Blue and Silver are twins—each seems to know intuitively what the other is thinking and feeling. They work together; they play together; they’ll probably retire to the same place; and Green wouldn’t be surprised if they end up dying on the same day.

It is now time for Blue, Silver, and Green to test for staff sergeant. Silver is chosen to take the promotion exams early in the cycle, Green and Blue must wait for a later date. Green, Silver, and Blue each must take two exams. One will deal with their general knowledge of the Air Force and the profession of arms, and the other will test their knowledge of their technical specialty. The former is called the Promotion Fitness Examination (PFE), and the latter is the Skills Knowledge Test (SKT). Special study materials are published for each of these exams, and truly conscientious study requires many hours burning the midnight oil. A single point can make the difference between promotion and being passed over.

On the appointed day, Silver takes his exams and then promptly rushes home to highlight those passages in his PFE and SKT study materials that correspond to the test questions he can remember. Those study materials thus become very valuable commodities to persons who have not yet taken the tests. That is why it is illegal to create them. The next night, Silver offers the highlighted SKT materials to his old friend Blue.

"I don’t want to screw up my chances for promotion," says Silver, "so I’ll only let you have the highlighted SKT materials, but they’re better than nothing."

"Forget it," says Blue, "if I can’t make staff sergeant fair and square, I don’t want to make it all. How hard can it be, anyway?"

"Don’t be so stupid," Silver replies. "Green already took the highlighted PFE pages, and I know he’s going to use them. You want to end up working for Staff Sergeant Green?"