For The Honor of the Second

The drone stood in the hangar, its blunt nose and forward-swept wings scarred with the black lines of kinetic strikes and near-misses with explosive-tipped missiles, the capped remnant of one sensory pod dangling uselessly from its side.

“For great valor in the face of the enemy,” the Wing Commander read, “when on Theater Elapsed Day 17 of the Liir Conflict the Second Squadron off CS Calencine Upreaching was ambushed by a numerically superior force, six squadrons of Liirian wingdrones. While englobed by the hostile force, the order to immediately retreat to low orbital positions was given, although with the expectation of heavy losses.”

“In defiance of standard procedures for such circumstances and the order as given, unit Calencine-2-18 of the Wing remained in the battlespace to cover the retreat of its fellows, utilizing innovative tactics to draw the attention of the Liirian wingdrones to itself and avoid destruction, allowing the majority of the Second Squadron to escape from the ambush with only minor damage.”

“Wingdrone Calencine-2-18’s innovation and valor saved his squadron and defeated the ambush laid for them, and reflects the highest traditions of the Imperial Navy and the Military Service.”

A small utility spider scuttled across the dais, and in a shower of sparks and the thunder of applause, welded the silver medal to the side of the drone’s carapace.

Calencine-2-18 itself, not being designed to be sophont, thought very little during the ceremony.

But not nothing.

3 thoughts on “For The Honor of the Second

  1. I’m going to be annoying and be confused again about the sophoncy thing. I was under the impression that attack drones like this don’t have volition. But this drone clearly displayed such qualities.

    But then, that would appear to be the point of this ficlet.

    • Oh, he’s not (and that pronoun is, I hasten to add, a linguistic convention and not a sign of animacy). He’s not going to go out forming his own supergoals and executing on them now, if ever.

      But non-sophont sapients can engage in creative thought, which is what he did – although he’s remarkable and worth noting, as his commanders point out, for stretching the bounds of its creativity far enough to realize that fulfilling his higher purpose/supergoal (be an outstanding wingdrone in the finest traditions of the Imperial Naval Flying Corps, etc.) meant disobeying his immediate imperative goal (follow the orders of your superiors). This sort of thing tends to happen with grown-minds, which develop a lot of complexity around the programmed skeleton and thus behave unpredictably.

      Now, Mr. Calencine-2-18 is going to get to contribute some bits of his code to the next generation of IN AIs once the wakeners get through analyzing his decision paths, it seems likely – since mindless obedience is not what the IN want even from their machinery – and may well be on the short list to be promoted to sophoncy the next time the INFC are looking for a promising officer candidate, but he’s not there yet.

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