In most movies whenever there’s a military anything going on, the camera usually pans around a war room, all the top brass wearing concerned or thoughtful expressions. Suddenly, data starts pouring in on futuristic blue screens (of course they’re blue cause they’re the good guys)and they start making snap judgments in the middle of combat that the boots on the ground are able to adapt to at the drop of a hat. This, in true human-movie fashion, involves a lot of explosions and people running around dramatically.
However, there’s a reason why that’s in movies and not in real life; at the end of the day, the amount of information coming into a situation room and going out of a situation room is far too much to build a coherent, constantly adapting plan to. You can have cameras pointed at everything, AI splicing the data in real time, machine learning running billions of scenarios per second – but if all that data slams into you at once while you’re in a firefight, it’s completely ignored by the monkey brain.
Monkey brain is busy throwing spicy rocks. Come back later.
This is why autonomy is key: You give your soldiers a goal, and you let them figure out how to best do it; they are the only ones who can adjust to situations on the ground, so let them do it – even if it leads to a murder cult.
…we’ll get to that.
The top brass of Joint Task Force “Old Yeller” had given their kill teams objectives, and unless the people closer to the problem – the ones monitoring individual biometrics, situational conditions, real-time mapping of the combat theater – said anything, then the administration would turn it’s attention to other things.
Such as politely, but firmly, refusing aid.
“[Ssssssssso, exactly how many deaths are you at right now?]” Captain Fierce-gale asked, for the 5th time, as he attempted to not fidget in his chair.
“I assure you, Captain, that we are still operating efficiently.” Admiral Hawkings replied, plastering a professionally polite neutral smile on his face. “And once we are not, we will ask for your help – but I ask you to let my people do their jobs.”
Captain Fierce-gale frowned slightly, motioning to someone off-screen. “[I’m not insinuating they can’t! Just, we have plenty of ways to assist and observe, and I think it would be a good idea to co-operate in a joint task force-]”
“And I appreciate, and duly note, the suggestion and your concern.” Admiral Hawkings responded, sighing internally. “However, we have the lead in this operation and so far have a handle on things. As data comes in, we will keep you updated-”
“[With all due respect, then please provide us with a personnel report, Admiral.]” Captain Fierce-gale stated, again, as he pulled up something to look at on his terminal. “[We are just as interested in gathering data as you are, and you are the lead – we’ll respect that.]”
Admiral Hawkings closed his eyes for a few seconds, letting himself have this brief respite as the circular conversation made another revolution. Once you achieved a certain level of promotion, you no longer bothered yourself completely with your actual job, and instead straddled the line between warrior and politician. Hawkings was chosen not only because he was a capable fleet admiral, but because he had the standing of a senator and the patience of a saint – but even he had his limits. As he opened his eyes and looked through the holographic screen to the Captain of his flagship, Kirk, he let his mask slip. There was a man who was making sure orbital trajectory maintained course, that our drones were sweeping the skies, that all hands were at their stations and things were working – and Hawkings was just-
“[Sir, I don’t mean to be a snag in your hair-]”
“Then please, Captain, respect my authority and let my men do their work.”
The two men stared at each other for a few moments, before Captain Fierce-gale remembered himself. “[Of course. My Apologies, sir.]”
“No harm, no foul.” Admiral Hawkings said, his professional half-smile returning. “Now, if you’ll excuse me-”
Admiral Hawkings didn’t pay attention to whatever half-authentic signoff the Dorarizin gave him; he was on mute before the call was terminated. “Please please please just tell me something that I can use to occupy my mind with.”
“Well. If you’re a ‘jr’ or have a number behind your name, your mother definitely moaned your name during sex.” Captain Kirk said, doing his best to hide a growing smile by turning away in his chair. “Will that do, sir?”
“John I’ll throw you out the airlock with me, I’m serious.” Admiral Hawkings said, half-chuckling through the empty threat. He leaned over the shared digitized table, pointing an accusatory finger at his colleague and friend. “Now, for real. Give me a situation update, captain.”
Captain Kirk turned his chair to face his superior officer, professionalism taking over. “Sir. Both fridges are accounted for; Kings of Eternity have deposited theirs, marked “Kenmore”, back on the landing craft and our people are cracking it now. The data from Kenmore will be uploaded in the next hour, and starting to parse it might take double that – but that can happen in transit. The remains of the host ship are totally under our control; we have an effective beachhead there if necessary. Kings of Eternity also established contact with one of our missing host crew, named “Drongo”, and has secured the medbay.”
Admiral Hawkings took a sip of his cooled coffee, nodding slightly.
“Bloody Tears has been in combat almost since their landing; every single one of their suits has damage, but we’re only reading one KIA and two lightly wounded. No terminus decrees have been used as of yet; we’ve detected no spike in radiation and no suit has sent us their suicide code. As of… roughly 5 minutes ago, Bloody Tears finally met up with the rest of the missing host crew, who have armed themselves-”
“Well that’s certainly something.” Hawkings mused, placing his cup down on the table with an audible tak. “What do we know about the crew?”
“Official reports are what they are. Our analysts have pointed out that every single one of them is holding a weapon with practiced ease, and they seem to know how to use them; that’s not counting the small unit tactics or the EM warfare that one or two of them are up to – here, named “Licorice”.” Captain Kirk sent a static image of a Jornissian messing with a rat’s nest of terminals and wiring that he was carting around in a duffel bag. “Is diffusing IFF readings to our network, which is why we’re able to know what we know now… and that’s a very unique skill to have.”
Admiral Hawkings let out a low whistle. “I’ll say. You think we know our hosts are more than what they seem?”
“Probably.” Kirk said, shrugging lightly. “To be honest, sir, you know how it is – what they don’t tell us would fill a library; probably a backroom deal of some sort at some point. Still, we’re writing up a report as Bloody Tears adds to their fighting force. Current directive, now that there are wounded and dead, is to reconvene at the host ship’s medbay for triage and evac.”
“Good. We had three teams, I thought.”
Captain Kirk nodded, scrolling on his tablet. “Yes sir. Final team is Spite, who is also facing combat. Multiple wounded – four, as the data refreshes – but no deaths, so they’re pressing ahead. They are located at this smaller cluster of asteroids – here-” as he spoke, Captain Kirk shared the relevant information to his Admiral, a section of the combat theater map highlighted in yellow. “-where our final Fridge, “LG” is, along with our VIP Nathaniel Callaway.”
“So far so good. Do we have concerns about escorting the VIP out?” Admiral Hawkings said, looking over the map with curiosity.
Captain Kirk sighed. “That’s… the thing. Apparently the asteroids are too dense for real-time updates, so there’s a lot of pinging and lag-”
“Wait.” Admiral Hawkings interrupted. “How the hell do we not have real-time updates? Aren’t the rest of the teams sending us information in real time through the same asteroids?”
“I. Yes sir.” Captain Kirk responded. “Our thoughts were some lingering EM interference at this point.”
Hawkings furrowed his brow. “I don’t ride the lightning, but I think I know bullshit when I hear it. We have total EM dominance; they can’t play tetris without us seeing it and scrambling their devices. How the hell is there lag, with the VIP team?”
Captain Kirk wordlessly tapped a few indicators on his tablet, and the screen and face of Specialist Pierce was shared among the leadership team.
“Specialist Pierce.” Kirk said, and the man sat up a bit more straight.
“Please explain why we don’t have real-time data for Team Spite.” Captain Kirk ordered, and Specialist Pierce inhaled deeply.
“Aye, Captain. As per standing orders, we are not to interfere during an active firefight with data requests that are non-mission critical. Both I, and Kill Team Spite has shut off their real-time biometric and suit data, includ-”
“I’m sorry, what?” Captain Kirk said, the volume of his outburst rippling through the bridge, silencing a dozen other soft conversations in one fell swoop. “Specialist Pierce, it sounds like you have let the team that is escorting our VIP go in blind.”
“No, sir. I advised against it, but-”
“Why did you not immediately alert your commanding officer, Specialist Pierce?” Captain Kirk professionally growled, as Admiral Hawkings looked on with a stone-faced expression.
‘At best, reprimand.’ Admiral Hawkings thought. ‘At worst, court marshal.’
Specialist Pierce cleared his throat, nervousness thick in his voice. “Sir. I believe that we are experiencing a … Vu-ja-de.”
“Son, you are going to give us a real time update, and then you are going to be relieved of your duty.” Captain Kirk ordered. “Now what the hell are you talking about?”
“A, uh, situation that has never happened before. Vu-ja-de. I… let me override their locks to provide you with the information you requested, sir, though I do not know if our broadcast would be intercepted.”
Captain Kirk did his best not to roar, but he was damn near close. “If you don’t give me that information in the next 5 seconds, Specialist, I will ma-”
Kirk never finished that sentence. Broadcast to his and the Admiral’s screen were multiple overlapping camera angles. Kill Team Spite was marching down the hallway in almost lockstep, killing anything before them that moved. This… was to be expected, and commended; the R&D boys back home would have a field day with this real-life combat data. However, it wasn’t the gore on the screen or the violence being inflicted upon fellow sapients that cut Captain Kirk’s rage short.
It was all the chanting.
“WE FEAR NOT.” The Kill Team Bellowed, firing blindly into a side room.
“[excuse me please-]” a quiet voice – the AI patterned it as a “Jornissian” – insisted, and was ignored.
“OUR MORTALITY.” Two dead, and the VIP scrambling over the kill team to loot the bodies.
“[-please stop-]” the same voice asked, to anyone who would listen.
“WE SERVE TO THE BEST OF OUR ABILITY.” A door opened, and before the Karnakian could react it was impacted with a 40mm grenade from point blank range, stoving in it’s skull.
“WE GIVE OUR LIVES TO OUR MASTER.”
“They do what.” Admiral Hawkings asked, deadpan, as his table was crowded around with curious underlings.
“WE VOW TO SLAY HIS ENEMIES.” Kill Team Spite roared in their suits, their microphones resonating with the pure emotion, the rage behind the chant, before it started all over again.
“Sir. I… Spite is fulfilling their duty… and I believe they’re AWOL.” Specialist Pierce said, tapping his console. “Lt. Daniel, the pilot, has also vacated his post. From the last images I was able to capture, he was running around with what looked like a gas mask and a Luger. We didn’t even issue him one.”
Specialist Pierce wasn’t answered in the awkward silence that stretched out as Kill Team Spite repeated their chant, massacring another half-dozen non-combatants. All eyes were fixed on the team’s feed with rapt attention, as the highly trained, highly skilled and well equipped best-of-the-best human soldiers absolutely lost their shit.
“Fuck.” Admiral Hawkings stated, and everyone agreed.