Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer
“Perhaps it was the spirit of the time and the place that affected me. But I assure you no occurrence of any of my other battlefields impressed me so keenly. I halted on my tour to gaze on the spectacle, and to reflect on its meaning.
This soldier, I realized, must have had friends at home and in his regiment; yet he lay there deserted by all except his dog. . . . I had looked on, unmoved, at battles which decided the future of nations. Tearless, I had given orders which brought death to thousands.
Yet, here I was stirred, profoundly stirred, stirred to tears. And by what? By the grief of one dog. I am certain that at that instant I felt more ready than at any other time to show mercy toward a suppliant foe-man.”
Those words were written by a long-dead He. It tells of the moment that the Napoleon human became a He. We make special bonds with our Hes and Shes. Humans who haven’t can’t understand.
My He held me after the upgrade turned me from dog to neocanine. When they set the wrong nerve alignment for my shoulder mounts, He didn’t reject me and ask for a new neopup – He threw clays for three days without rest so I could reset the neural pathways myself.
All the other neocanines watched TV. My He taught me how to read, and used TV with ‘subtitles’ to help. We watched movies with the other teams, but He and I swapped texts about what we watched. He was never too busy to reply.
He taught me how to evade security systems by having me sneak off base to meet him. The fifth time I did that, I found that my He had his own She who pretended to only be a human. Which was strange at first, but made sense. He laughed when I told him that.
We went to war and had fun and killed lots of things that would have hurt our teams. I liked the sprinting drones best: I had to run and jump and shoot in the air so my aim was steady. Everyone shouted at me about that.
He just smiled and said: “You’re getting better without being taught. They like that.”
War followed us home and we fought real battles across the places where we had trained. It was so easy.
“Too easy,” He said. “Someone’s going to make a mistake.”
Someone did. A human called ‘Rooster’. My He died because a human ‘didn’t care about the bloody dogpound’. That’s what Rooster typed in his emails. My He taught me how to use my infiltration routines to get things like that.
Rooster cared as my jaws closed on his head. The human screamed about it a lot.
After that, they tried to stand me down, but their protocols relied on special words He trained me to ignore. I don’t know if they fetched his She, but I think She came because She knew. She came in and just like that, She and I were a We.
She howled. I howled. All the other neocanines howled. Humans ran away, covering their ears.
My He had tried to let me understand ‘mercy’, but only got as far as ‘choosing not to kill when you really want to’.
She says: “We don’t do mercy.”
This is going to be fun. We’re going to kill a lot.