We Were Soldiers Once

It is trite to say that war has changed. It has not changed since long before the elite footsloggers of the Spartans clashed with the might of the Persian army at Thermopylae, has not changed since the weapon of choice was a stone ax. The weapons might change. The intensity changes. The scale changes. The work of the soldier, the objectives of war, do not change, no matter how the politicians and newsmen might dress war up. Now though, people tell me that things have truly changed. Humans no longer make war. Not directly. We have our machines to do it for us. We have machines to do most things for us. There are so few humans left that without the dolls and other forms of machine aides we would have very little chance to even survive, nevermind flourish and make a come back as a species.

As I stand here in my command post for the private military contractor Griffin and Kyruger watching some of my troops being attended to I cannot help but think that those people are wrong. General H.G. Moore remarked in his memoirs that “There is no glory in war—only good men dying terrible deaths.” I agree. I buried many of my brothers before leaving the military, before the series of events that lead me to apply for a command position with G&K. Now I find myself in a position where my soldiers resemble girls. A few shaped like adult women amongst them, but mostly lively, happy, teenage girls. To some extent this twists my heart, an old instinct to protect them perhaps, even if it is usually them protecting me.

They are on some level untouched by our conflicts, no matter how intense. Even death holds no fear for them. I lost my trusted adjutant just the other day, her body shattered after we were surprised in an ambush without her dummy linked extra bodies to protect her main unit. She was back by my side a few short hours after our return, like nothing ever happened. Because I retrieved her head, she didn’t even lose any memories or have to revert to a backup, which she expressed gratitude for. I saw her shattered, cradled her while returning fire, sparks leaping from her exposed core… so human, until one looks beneath their armored carapaces. I stand looking beneath those carapaces now. Like myself and my adjutant, one of my squads was ambushed today. Lively, happy girls… laying broken like discarded toys. No blood fills this odd version of a sick bay, and the girls are chatting happily, as if not noticing what would be a grievous, life changing, or mortal wound on a human.

Childish laughter stirs me from my thoughts, a few of the younger looking girls who are off duty playing in the hall, stopping to salute before carrying on their way as they see me through the door. To enjoy play. To savor sweet foods like many of them do. To be embarrassed, to have pride. To know loss. The text books tell us these things are simulated, to better let dolls fit in with and support humanity… but where does the simulation truly end? Is the programming of the concept of play, and the code that says “play” is “fun” enough to allow them to actually have fun? And if it is not as many at IOP would no doubt tell me, why would they continue to play with each other, when there are no human children to play with and act as companions for? Hobbies. Dreams. Does one doll act like another in her line? To a baseline perhaps, but the mind maps we use are not standard. They are dedicated to the unit. If my adjutant were lost to me, it would be “her” mind returning to me, albeit with some mild amnesia from her brief “death”. Another model from her line would not know me. Would not know her friends, or her experiences. Even if she was told about them, or shown them, she would not be my adjutant. Only if we moved that other unit’s mind to a spare model, and loaded my adjutant’s mind map, would that unit be my adjutant. Are we what we are born with? Or are we our experiences? If we are our experiences, than I am sending sapient life to their deaths, however temporary, once again. That is the burden of command of course.

Some tactical commanders I’ve consulted with distance themselves from their dolls. Others simply consider them tools. Pleasant perhaps compared to a dinergate or some other less refined mechanical creation but a machine all the same. Still others are perhaps overly fond of their troops, spoiling them somewhat, and in some cases developing a reluctance to do what needs to be done. I am perhaps unique in that I treat them like I treated my men when I was still a soldier. They and their lives are precious to me, but I must not hesitate to spend those lives, but my sacred duty is to ensure I waste not one drop of blood that need not be wasted… or oil in this case.

“Commander?”

My logistics officer has a concerned look on her face. Another young girl, this one allegedly human, though I have my suspicions that she’s actually a former bank teller doll for how she acts about the unit balance book.

“Yes?”

“We have the final intelligence report from HQ. If we want the Sangvis unit that ambushed you the other day and attacked the patrol unit today, Higher says we’re more than welcome to them. Ms. Helian specified to “terminate with extreme prejudice”.”

“Extreme eh? Bit flowery for Helian. Well, we can’t disappoint her. Where’s…”

“…deployment bay, echelons one through four are standing by for orders.”

“Your initiative?”

“Hers. Like always commander. Between the two of you I don’t have a chance to do much outside of my assigned duties.”

“Very well. Flash HQ that we’re deploying, and prep the CIC, bring the sentries to alert status two, just in case they’re trying to lure us out and give us a kick in the seat of the pants.”

“Aye aye.”

She rushes out the door, flouncing along, all girl. Unlike the T-dolls who ran with a more martial conviction when work was on the menu, leaving me to make my way to the deployment bay.

Her familiar command voice rings out through the hangar as I step through the door.

“Platoon! Attention! Present, arms!”

The snap of forty booted heels coming together with a parade ground snap was a pleasurable thing. A sign of precision and discipline absent from most G&K units, but my adjutant and I.. we’re a bit old school in how we handle things, and the girls like it. It tells them when they need to get their game faces on. I return the salute with my own parade ground snap and survey them for a moment. What a motley crew I’ve assembled. All manner of outfits ranging from military uniforms to maid costumes. Two of them even had animal ears! Blood of the Marne, my ancestors must be laughing at the situation this generation of soldier had found himself in. I take another half breath, meeting the team leaders eyes, before turning to face my adjutant and first echelon leader, Springfield.

“As you were. Springfield, status?”

“Standing by for orders commander.”

“Well, I’ll keep it short since I’m sure you’ve been briefed by Springfield already. We have a personal score to settle with this Sangvis ringleader. I’m not saying you need to bring me her head on a silver platter… I’ll settle for a steel platter. To your vehicles. Platoon! Fall out!”

A few dolls wave or nod to me as they fall out, briefly catching my eye, expressions ranging from cheerful to cocky, to the stoic seriousness of second echelon’s command doll, no doubt running the tactical plan over in her head.

“You seem pensive.”

Springfield had not run off with the rest, dusting her skirt a bit as she shoulders the rifle she took her designation from.

“A bit. I didn’t like losing you the other day, and you know how I hate being outplayed by the enemy.”

“Well I’m already back, and we’ll soon show that foul creature the error of her ways.”

“With an AP .30-06 round to the brain housing unit?”

“You know me so well… darling.”

“Hmph. I should hope so. I’ll have coffee ready for you on your return.”

“I’ll try not to be late, I’d hate to not be able to cook dinner with you on time.”

“Go before you turn my face red and I have to take a minute to compose myself before walking into the CIC.”

“Ehhh but you’re cute when you’re blushing!”

She turns on a heel and runs off, looking back to wave one last time before running up the ramp into the first vehicle in the column the ring on her left hand catching in the light. Simulated. Right. The same people who said that, and officially labeled the dolls as tools developed the OATH system too. Perhaps war has changed on some level, or perhaps I have. What has not changed is that there is still work to be done for soldiers, be they human or machine.

You cannot choose your battlefield,

God does that for you;

But you can plant a standard

Where a standard never flew.

  • The Colors, Stephen Crane

“I can’t promise you that I will bring you all home alive. But this I swear, before you and before Almighty God, that when we go into battle, I will be the first to set foot on the field, and I will be the last to step off, and I will leave no one behind. Dead or alive, we will all come home together. So help me, God.” – Lt Gen Hal Moore, USA (Ret)

———–

I was encouraged to push this out by a friend, so trying some tangentially MG related content. I am still alive as it happens and I should have a fun little owl harpy story for you all soon. I’m still working on my big surprise project with an IRL friend, so look forward to it. Things have slowed down because I got a writing job elsewhere as well. I can’t say what or where, but I am working for a video game company doing some scripts. Once I can say more I will. In the mean time, please look forward to the big surprise project.

The other big project that isn’t a surprise is with the same friend I’m working on the surprise project with, I’m developing an RPG book called “Beneath the Gilded Lily”. No real details at this time, besides it being a Three Musketeers themed swashbuckler, and we will be providing a free module for players to download with Monster Girl rules.

-Two Heavens, 14/09/18

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