The Innocent Warriors
by Will See
Copyright © 1993-1999 Will See
All Rights Reserved
Video game whiz kids are covertly harnessed by the CIA to pilot remote controled military hardware in real world battles, with a sinister twist.
Chapter 1 – Breakfast
Bill, Susan, Kip and Laura Chambers lived in a spacious two store townhouse near the center of ??HOMETOWN. A city hall architect in a middle class area of town, Bill Chambers had provided his family a comfortable home. When not dealing with her teenage children, Susan Chambers spent time teaching kindergarten and helping out in the community.
“Morning Kip. Sleep well?”, asked Bill Chambers, peeking from behind USAToday whose front cover highlighted yet another political scandal and various wars in other parts of the world that the US may or may not be involved in.
“Uhh, (yawn), yup.”, replied Kip Chambers, 12.
“Oh yes? What were you doing that kept you up so late?”
“Our eCommander team has won the quarter-finals and we’re through to the semi-finals. We get to play against the Red2Death team. Those guys are awesome, and I think we’re going to get creamed.”
“The only cream we’re going to discuss is how much you want on your waffles. Honey!, Half & Half, here now! Kip, I think that great news and I am proud of you, but your homework comes first. We already spoke about that.”, said Bill Chambers in a tone of authority.
“I know, but this is really important. There are thousands of teams out there, and we’re nearly the best. If we get through to the finals and win, we get $5000 and visit the ??GAMEMAKER headquaters in Silicon Valley!
“And how many of you are on the team?”
“Four”, replied Kip expectantly, his eyes making direct contact with his father’s.
“That’s one thousand two hundred and fifty dollars each. About six months sallary in a burger joint, which is where you will be working if you floop school.”
“I know, but I can use the money to buy some things for school – and a subwoofer for the DreamStation. Tony has one and when we hit an enemy tank, his bedroom windows rattle!”
“Forget it Kip, or I’ll rattle you. Now, eat those hot waffles Mom has made.”
“Honey, you can play during the holidays. It’s only 3 weeks or so away. Bill, I think it terrible that they organize this type of thing during term time.”, suggested Susan Chambers, opening the fridge door.
“Well, Sue, they don’t organize anything, the teams can play any time, and they announce the finals as soon as two teams reach the semi-finals. Isn’t that right Kip?”, asked Bill.
“Can I play after I do my homework? Maybe 1 or 2 hours each evening instead of TV? And on Saturdays when we’re not playing sports at the park.”
“Susan, what do you think?”, asked Bill.
“Sounds fine with me.”
“Thank you?!”, hinted Bill Chambers.
“Thank you!”, replied Kip impatiently as he began to scoff his waffles.
“Make sure Tony and your other friends can play at that time too without it causing problems at their homes.”, said Susan, who was finally sitting at the table. She refilled Bill and Kip’s glasses with orange juice. Bill continued to read the paper between mouthfuls of cereal.
“I think it will be ok, Tony is in England and he plays in the morning, and the other guys said they don’t watch much TV, so get a lot of gaming time. One is in California. I’m the youngest, and bestest!”, Kip said confidently between sips of orange juice.
“Of course you are! Honey, I’m going in to teach today at St. Vincents, and I can drop you off at school if you want on the way.”
“Oh that’s ok, I would rather take the bus so I can tell my friends about us getting to the finals.”
“Ohhh kayyyy, said Susan quietly in a drawn out fashion. She had never liked the idea of Kip having to cross a busy road to get to the bus stop. ??HOMETOWN had grown signficantly over the last few years thanks to the booming economy. Ten years ago, the traffic was so light, you could safely cross a local road without even bothering to look before you cross.
A few minutes later, after finishing his breakfast and performing the morning bathroom ritual, Kip grabbed his backpack, kissed or hugged his parents as appropriate and left through the heavy front door. He enthusiastically ran to catch the yellow school bus a few blocks away.
“In my days, if you played videogames and talked about computers, you were called a geek, wore thick glasses and sat at the front of the class and were given hell by your peers. I am happy for Kip that today, it is hip to be into all this stuff, but I just hope he can remain focused on his career too.”, said Bill Chambers.
“I think all the interesting things going on in the world today mean there’s less time for bullying. The Internet has helped create a spirity of community. Anyway, when is your father coming around? I know the children can’t wait.”, asked Susan.
“About 8pm. He’ll be pretty tired from the driving, but he always comes to life when the children are around.”
Chapter 2 – Grandpa
“Hey Kip, you want to show your old Dad how to play this old eCommander thing? You know Grandad used to be in the air force, and he’d love to see it too.”
Kip’s father joined Grandpa Chambers in the lounge, while Kip rushed up the stairs to get his DreamStation console from his bedroom.
“You know Pops, I remember when I was young, and you were always telling me how things were so different in your time. The depression, the wars, less choice in the shops, less TV, less sex and all those things. Well, today, it’s happening all over again, and I guess I feel like you did! Having to keep up with reality on daily basis. Kip’s always on the Internet, always doing something. No more hanging out in the garden with his buddies to pass the time…”
Kip rushed into the room hands full of gear and wires, sock-sliding across the polished floor nearly falling over backwards. “Woa, Hi Granpops!, wait until you see this!”
“Hi Kip, come give your Grandpa a big hug!”, said Chambers senior with an expectant grin on his face.
“In a minute, I’ll gotta connect this up so I can show you eCommander, it’s so cool!”
“See what I mean?”, whispered Bill over to his father. “Everything is happening in real time, people are always in a hurry. I envy you in your retirement letting the world pass you by, rather than be swept up in it all. For Susan and I, it’s so hard to just stop, relax and stand back and enjoy the view.”
“Yup. Told you. But you know, it keeps one alive. You need something to keep going. If it wasn’t for Kip (and you of course)–what would I live for?”
“That’s nice Pops…”
“Gramps, Dad, it’s ready.” said Kip, wide eyed sitting in front of the console with a controller firmly grasped in his hands.
Kip had hooked the DreamStation to the 37″ TV in the center of the family home theater system. He switched on the main amplifier/receiver. That familiar soft but assertive thud boomed through the room as the audio circuits came alive. “OK, wait a minute while it loads. Granpa, with eCommander, we get to choose our troops, weapons, everything.”
“Yes, but what’s the aim?, and who is ‘we’?”
“We have to take over various territories and build our empire!”
“Pops, this is not like the other video game machine Kip had, this one is connected to the Internet. It has a built in modem. He gets to play with his friends across the country against another team. It’s really great because like real sports, it encourages team work. Susan and I didn’t like the other games Kip played because they were unecesserily violent, and he played on his own, or against just one other player.”
“You mean like Quack and Doom?”
“You mean Quake Gramps! Ducks Quack!”, said Kip, giggling.
“Yes, those games had great graphics, but little group strategy.”, said Bill.
The loading music started loudly, surprising everyone, except Kip.
“Hey Kip, turn that down!” Kip reached over to the volume on the receiver and turned it to the left.
Realistically rendered images of tanks racing across a battlefield appeared on the TV. Explosions blasted sand into the air as bombs fell and missed their targets. Once in a while, the whine of an aircraft or helicopter could be heard as one flew over and launched its air to ground missile. Seconds later, a tank would explode, showering the area in falling debris. The noise causing the cones in the loudspeakers to rumble.
“It’s so real.”, said Grandpa.
“This is just the startup FMV sequence, but the game’s just as realistic Gramps! The DreamStation has a 128 bit processor, with 10 million polygon per second graphics and a 4 speed DVD drive. Makes the original Playstation and the Nintendo 64 look really bad.”
“Yeh, and I remember you saying that those were the ultimate. They were the best!” said Bill. “Now they are upstairs in the attic, or did we take it to Goodwill? Oh my lord,when will it end.”
“When it’s photorealistic Dad. When it is as real as this room.”, said Kip.
“Next Christmas?”, uttered Bill, half sarcastically.
“Ok, I need to logon so my game status can be initialized. It has to download my settings and score and stuff from the central eCommander server.” A logon screen appeared. Animated metalic looking graphics surrounded the logon area giving it a toughguy-American military feel. Kip used the joypad on the controller to select the logon field. An on screen keyboard slid up onto the screen, and he entered his eCommander nick name, ‘Kammander’. Bill leaned closer in his chair. The cursor moved to the Password area, and Kip entered his password. Dots replaced the characters on the screen to stop people from seeing what Kip was typing, however, Bill could see the characters being entered as Kip moved the cursor around on the virtual keyboard to select the various letters and numbers making up his secret password.
Careful not to let Kip see, Bill Chambers made a note of the password in the Palm X organizer he had carefully pulled from his shirt pocket.
After a short delay while the system logged onto the Internet and downloaded the settings, “WELCOME TO eCOMMANDER” appeared in large metalic green letters. High-tech blue wireframe 3D images of various battlecraft appeared around the edges for dramatic effect. “Hi Kip!”, came a voice over the loudspeakers. “What’s up?”. “Pretty good dude, I’m showing my Grandpa and Dad how eCommander works. I guess it’s just you and I on the team right now, Stu and Lee don’t seem to be online?” “Yup”, replied Kip’s net buddy and team mate Tony who was thousands of miles away.
A menu screen appeared, offering a variety of options, Select Armanents, Build Army, Continue Game, Start New Game etc. Kip selected Continue Game and immediately a large animated map appeared showing a birds eye view of the battlefield. Kip’s fingers darted around the controller as he drew boxes around groups of troops and armaments and issued them commands via a series of menus. The enemy could be seen advancing from the top left of the screen. Every so often, an orange explosion would appear in the center of the action, and a block of skull and crossbone icons would appear to indicate casualties. “Uh oh, we’re in trouble. We need to bring in the Apache’s. Tony, prepare to pilot an Apache for me!” Kip uttered while pulling up a NATO Battle Command menu screen. He selected Air Force > Ground Attack and was immediately thrust into the gunner’s chair in an Apache attack helicopter.
“Incredible!”, whispered Kip’s Grandpa, with one hand on his chin, and the other on his walking stick to keep him balanced as he leaned forward in his chair.
This time, the view was first person, with a highly realistic view out of cockpit onto the battlefield ahead and below. The image vibrated as shells from anti-aircraft fire exploded not far below, shaking the craft. “Activate radar view now!”, screamed Kip into the console’s microphone. The voice recognition system immediately responded, “Radar Activated, Enemy tanks at 250 degrees north.” “OK, arm ??AIRTOGROUND missile and lock onto enemy target.” “Target locked, Sir!”, responded the battle computer. “Tony, swing me around to 250 degrees.” Another explosion rocked the craft, the boom echoing through the room. “Quickly!” Prefering finger over voice control, Kip pressed a button to launch an air-to-ground missile. Woosh! “Take us out of here Tony!” The image switched to a view from the missile itself. The ground rushed towards the camera at breakneck spead, Tony used the HUD to locate the enemy tank and carefully manipulated the miniature joystick on the controller to guide the missile towards it’s target. One he was sure he had the tank in his sights, he pressed another button to lock the missile onto the target, and then let out a sigh and dropped the controller onto the floor. The eCommander software automatically displayed an external view of the battlefield as the missile travelled its last 1/2 mile, changed course and thrust itself into the unsuspecting 7 tons of steel and hapless humans. A large yellow white explosion filled the screen lighting up the darkened room.
“Yeh, we got it!”, came Tony’s voice over the speakers. “What do you mean ‘we’ got it? I got it!” said Kip. “Hey, it was a team efforts guys”, said Bill. “Uh, hello Mr. Chambers!”, came Tony’s voice again.”Hello Tony, good piloting, Sir!”
No sooner had they had time to relax, Kip was back at the map display, and he and Tony proceeded to take out more tanks, while evading anti-aircraft fire. Bill and his father watched with the same enthusiasm and edge of your seat nerves as they would while watching the last few minutes of a closely matched football game.
“So you can control all the forces?” asked Kip’s Grandfather.
“Yeeehp, and you can play any character, a helicopter or fighter pilot, ground troop, tank commander. Anything. The more people who you play with, the easier it is because you don’t have to keep switching roles.” expained Kip.
“I thought that today these so called smart missiles locked on to the targets automatically. Why did you have to fly the missile yourself Kip?” I dunno Gramps, that’s the way the game works. It’s more skillful I guess. The Smart missiles can be knocked off course by enemy electronic countermeasures.
Bill Chambers had now adopted the same position as his father, one had on his chin. His eyes, however, were glancing sideways, as if he was engaged in deep thought.
“Bill, don’t forget to go to Safeway tomorrow to get what we need for the holiday weekend. We need barbecue things, wine, toiletries etc. The list is on the fridge door.”
“Ok honey. Will do.”
“Thanks. I am going to bed. You men don’t stay up too late now or you won’t have any energy for the weekend.”, suggested Susan, knowing full well her remark would be ignored.
The male Chambers spent a late Friday evening watching Kip and Tony do battle.
Chapter 3 – Thoughts
!! THIS CHAPTER IS INCOMPLETE !!
Chambers glanced back to his newspaper, focusing only on the war in ??WARPLACE. He was not surprised to see that the alies where making progress, with repeated bombing of key infrastructure targets. What caught his eye however was the headline “7 ??ENEMY tanks destroyed by Apache helicopters.” Yesterday, he recalled, a similar headline reported that 3 tanks and 2 other vehicles had been destroyed. Kip had just last night enthusiastically reported that during his ‘??WARGAME tournament his team had also reported success against the fictional enemy, with several tanks and other ground based vehicles destroyed.
“Kip, looks like you’re doing as well as the real commanders!, we’re kicking some serious bootie in ??WARPLACE.”
“Yep, says right here, and it was on CNN last night. I think we’ll win this one as easy as we won in the Gulf and in Serbia. Although I had my doubts, because the terrain is so much more rugged here, and all our technology may not be good enough. Anyway, it’s school time, so you better go get ready and get the bus.”
Skip finished up his waffles and slurped the last of his orange juice. “Kip, don’t do that ok? It’s rude. Poor the drink into your mouth, don’t suck it.”
“Yes, Dad” said Kip, in a drawn out way.
“Honey, wrap up, it’s pretty windy outside.” said Susan Jones, as she poored her husband another coffee.
“You know, it’s funny, each time our forces out in ??WARPLACE do well, Kip does well at eCommander too. I didn’t want to say anything because it seemed too silly, and I figured it was a co-incidence.”
“Perhaps Kip isn’t doing too good and is making his scores up by copying what he sees on TV when we watch the news.”
“That’s true. I’ll talk to him later. I don’t want this video game stuff to take over his education, particular if he feels he’s slipping.”
Chapter 4 – Saturday Afternoon
Bill Chambers awoke after what seemed like a very unpleasant night’s sleep. His head felt queezey. He didn’t drink anything last night and worried he may have a cold. He couldn’t help noticing that the air was cooler. Susan must have opened the windows already, yet it was still dark. “Honey?” Chambers whispered, still lying with his eyes half closed. “Sue?” He reached over to the bedside table for the light switch. His hand fell right to the ground, touching cold concrete. “Jesus!” He jumped upright in the bed both hands either side for support.
“Good morning Mr. Chambers! My name is Wilson Matheson from a certain division of the Pentagon that you won’t have heard about.”
At the second suprise, Chambers jumped up again out of the small bed.
“Oh god, okay, so you have captured me. I guess I was getting to close to the truth huh? Now what? You kidnap my family and tell me to shut up or else right? Or I get killed in a misterious car crash on the way home?”
“Sit down Mr. Chambers, and shut up. This isn’t the movies, and we’re not going to kill you. You are free to go whenever you want, but first of all, please hear what I have to say.”
“Where is my wife? Where is Kip? How did I get here?”.
“They are going about their normal lives and have no idea you are here and won’t be worried. You’ll be home in time to see them at the end of the day. We captured you during your trip to the store. Remember the gentleman who came up to you in the parking lot and asked for directions? He had other motives, and under the influence of a well perfumed hankerchief, we gently whisked you away. You have only been asleep for a couple of hours. I diverse…”, Matheson continued…
“Mr. Chambers, in 1999, during the war in Kosovo, you may recall reading of erant bombs and missiles that hit innocent civilians. Remember CNN footage of bloody children and mothers who had been wounded by cluster and smart bombs? Of course, you didn’t get to see the body parts of those who were standing a little close to the impact point. We nearly ended up killing more civilians than the Serbs did in the first place. And in the Gulf war with Iraq, we killed more allied soldiers through friendly fire than were killed by the enemy. These are just two of many incidents that result from inncacurate information or targetting bought about by human error and too much reliance on so called ‘smart’ weaponry.”
“Yeh yeh, I know where you’re going…”, whispered Chambers, who was a more worldly man than Matheson believed.
“Just listen please, William. In today’s world, we have a growing population, in particular here in the West, that has thankfully and not-so thankfully never experienced real war. Although they may well have been sensitized to TV and movie violence, and our youth get to blast each other to pieces in videogames, when it comes to real-world blood and guts, today’s culture isn’t ready for it. Just one or two body bags from a war and it’s political death for the politicians – and that is bad for national security. And much worse Mr. Chambers, the United States military is having a real hard time recruting right now, OK? After all, what would you do if given the choice, start your own business at 19 and become a millionair or go spill your guts for some war in a country you had never heard of for reasons your worldly sceptical mind can’t really justify? This is a new era. Things are different, and there is nothing we can do to reverse the situation without reverting our government to the dictotorial type regime we oppose in the first place. Truth has won Mr. Chambers.”
“You are using kids to fight a war!”, shouted Chambers, pointing directly into Matheson’s eyes as if impervious to what he had just heard. “You turned my son into a killer. How many people has he killed without knowing it? How can you justify this? I cannot believe the President would allow such an atrocity! And why do you have to use kids!”, screemed Chambers, still standing and pointing, sweat now rolling down his face.
“Oh I think the President would allow it if it reduced the body count and helped his political standing! Come on Mr. Chambers, you know how it works! Don’t play judge and jury with me. And as for your second question, I think you know the answer to that one too. Kids have much faster reactions. Have you ever visited a video game arcade and watched the incredible speed with which they pickup the moves and then noticed how like a speeded up movie, their hands dart between the different control sticks and buttons as they make instant decisions and respond with near lightening speed? It doesn’t matter whether it’s a war simulation or one of those fighting games, you know, the ones with the different characters, Tekken, Mortal Combat, Soul Calibre and all that stuff, they respond like flies. Could you do that? Ever played a game against Kip or another kid? You would not stand a chance! Well, no matter how well we train our ‘youthful’ pilots, they are no match for a 13 year old.
“I can’t believe you’re telling me this. Is your kid part of this?,” asked Chambers.
“Who do you think tested it.”, replied the man, looking towards Chambers.
“And he didn’t even know?”
“Why should he? That would do more harm.”
“Yes, of course it would, his conscience would kick in–you bastards!”. Chambers was growing highly agitated.
“And why can’t you use computers for God’s sake?”
“No computer, no matter how powerful can visually analyze a real-time battle situation with the same accuracy as the human brain. Kids can identify enemy targets and take them out with remarkable precision. As you have already assertained, your son was not flying an Apache helicopter or driving a tank, he was controlling a robot equivalent. Nobody gets killed, at least not on our side, and we reduce the number of civilian casualties on the ememy side. Remember, we’re at war with the government of ??WARPLACE and their idealology, not their people.”
“My son is killing people, and I don’t care if they are the devil himself! Let him make that decision when he is mature enough to do so!”
“Mr. Chambers, it is like this, you co-operate, or you have a car accident, ok? And unlike in the movies, there will be no heroic rescue. We have to win this war Mr. Chambers. Please understand that the security of the West is under serious threat right now, as are some of our fundamental natural resources, such as water. This war is about control of the resources that will fuel the economies of this new century. You see, we have to occupy ??WARPLACE to prevent old school Soviet and Chinese backed factions from taking this territory. If you go to the media and reveal what we are doing what do you think will happen? The enemy will stop? It will be total chaos and we may have to resort to conventional battlefield tactics which could end up costing us may more lives. Do you want to be responsible for that, sir?”
“How many other kids are involved?”
“This is an experiment. Just Kip and his team, no others. Beleive me, this is the first use of this technology in a real-world battle environment.”
“With kids you mean?”
“Yes, with kids. You know Mr. Chambers, for an architect, you’re very obstinate and a lot more of a problem than we imagined.”
“I get to deal with people like you all the time in getting planning permission. Have you ever worked with city hall?”, quipped Chambers.
“Why did you choose my Kip and his team?”
“We were monitoring eCommander and simply picked the best team. Easy really.”
“How did you know how well they were doing?”
“Who built the Internet Mr. Chambers?”
“I see, so you routinely just tap into the Internet and monitor whatever you want?”
“Yes, we do. And we always will. Echelon, like a rock!”
“Nothing. Just as you used a baby monitor when Kip was growing up and home alone. It was in his best interests right?”
“Oh, I have had enough.” Chambers grasped his waist and he walked towards the wall and then rested one arm on it, forhead also against the wall.
“And just how did you know I was onto you?”, asked Chambers.
“We bugged your house. We heard you talking to your wife, who you will need to talk to, incidentally.”
“Here is what I would like to request. As you can imagine, we did not expect this experiment to be uncovered so soon. I do need you to co-operate. Please!”
“And in 10 years, thousand of kids will be fighting our wars?”
“No. You don’t get it do you? If we win this one, there may not need to be any more such politically opaque wars. Once we control the last of the world’s remaining untapped water and oil reserves, we’ll be safe for at least 50 years. And then, we hope to have developed solutions less reliant on oil.”
“You have really thought this through huh? I did not expect such direct honesty from the Pentagon.”
“I am trained to effectively brainwash you Mr. Chambers. I need to appeal to your sense of reality. We don’t have much alternative.”
“Why not dialog? Clinton was always trying to engage the Chinese.”
“Dialog needs to be backed up with strength and determination. Dialog only occurs when one party has good reason to talk to the other. Understand? The world works like the animal kingdom, it’s survival of the fittest. In our case, the fittest nation and it’s constitution. If the United States does not remain the dominant power through the control of natural resources, any nation, and I repeat, ANY nation, no matter their ideology will obtain that power. All they do is sell their resources, buy intellect and weapons, kill off their political opposition and begin to invade. I don’t need to reference any history now do I?”
“It’s all about preserving an ideology Mr. Chambers. That is all. And ours is freedom.”
“I’m not buying this. There has to be an alternative.”
“Again Mr. Chambers, I am asking your co-operation. Just until the war is over. I know how much it angers you. If you had never found out, no one would know. So far, it’s only you and Mrs. Chambers. Not even your son knows. Imagine if he finds out? How much would that hurt him?”
“Oh, you have really tied it up haven’t you Matheson!”
“Yes sir, we have.”
“Oh f*ck. Why don’t you just kill me in an unfortunate accident?”
“Because I need you to ensure this remains a secret, and I don’t think your world-beating son would actually continue to play eCommander without his father, would he? It’s easier for you to do so – in any way you can. If we kill you, and then someone else finds out about ‘our’ little secret, it could go on, and eventually, someone else would get suspicous.”
“Like the movies?”
“Uhm, like the movies.”, responded Matheson, with a conceding laugh.
“I guess I have no choice do I?”
“The toilet paper? Safeway? Remember?”
“You’ll take me back? Where am I anyway?”
“Where, is not important.”
“I assume, Wilson, err, Matheson, that’s not your real name is it?”
“You assume correct. My real name is Harry, something. My last name eludes me right now.”
“I bet it does.”
“OK, Bob, can you escort Mr. Chambers back to the Safeway in ??HOMETOWN, ??HOMESTATE, Harry shouted towards a viewing window.” A large well built man entered the room with something in his hand.
“First of all Bill, and I am sorry to do this to you, we need to give you another little tipple for the ride home. We don’t want you to be too aware of your senses on the way back to your car do we?”
The ‘bouncer’ put a hankerchief over Chambers mouth. Conceding his position, Chambers did not try to wriggle away. Within seconds, he was out cold.
Chambers awoke in his car. He remembered everything. He grasped the steering wheel, pushed his arms out straight, locking pushing his body firmly against the back of his 1993 Volvo wagon’s comfortable seat. Taking long deep breaths, Chambers tried to compose himself. He realized he was in a cold sweat, and his heart was beginning to beat very fast as the depth of his situation unraveled in his mind. Not only was he now potentially responsible for the outcome of a war, but he had to keep a secret from his family and allow his son of 12 years to go on killing soldiers and pilots in a distant land.
Walking around the aisles of the supermarket like a zombie, Chambers collected the shopping and drove home in a semi-trance.
“Darling? Did you get the shopping?”, asked Susan.
“Uhm, yes honey. I got the shopping.”
“Nothing! Just your normal trip to Safeway.”