Combat Dog Combat (112-144)

Combat

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112

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We have never been more alive than in combat, we have never been more free, we have never been more present and perceptive, we have never been more what we are designed for, we have never been more full of being, we have never been more everything we are. Let humans claim war as unbearable horror, I professor lick my genitals in dismissal. Let humans insist battles are moments of heightened terrorinterrupting long boredom, let them who survive express anguish of meaningless transcendence as death spares them, let them say intense emotions are bracketed by death of your closest companions, let them face dreams of post-traumatic stress, let a thousand flames of transmigration light up all, all, all battlefields- I speak as mouth of the Pack, of Our Leader, We love War, We are Combat Dog...

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113

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We have never been more anything, but then is anyone- human or dog- more fully alive than in performing that for which they are designed, in genetic predisposition of evolution by natural or unnatural selection or in nurturing intentions, or in both, this is a question for philosophers not us dogs, for we are this answer in action, pragmatic, visible, with no need for specialized language or new logic, in each furious gesture clear awareness we have gone beyond such questions, our justification is our being, our being is our acts. We investigate our genitals and those of our brothers with fierce hope and final despair and piercing joy. We love war. We are dogs first, so participate in that inflexible dog-nature, and inherit, express everything through our being such, but suffer no constant anxiety of humans without identifiable self-nature, without a Clave of the spirit and thus homeless in the world...

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114

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We leave our Camp Canid just as spring arrives, as newly fragrant tundra blooms above arctic treeline and life returns in melting surfaces sloped into low unbroken sunlight, a summer so brief it might have been only a dream, flickering memories recalled too transient, in grasses, flowers, low bushes, and south in dense coniferous forest around crèche dome, compound palisade, track, white-clad Cabins, dark brick cubes of the Elimination Building and its burning tower that disperses particulate smoke so high humans never quite sense why this place resonates with such fear that sounds are hollow, touch is numb, taste is empty, but for us dogs there remain those faint memories of fur, sweat, saliva and shit, of those brothers who failed in creation somewhere and were hence destroyed after requisite dissection. We have been surviving an evolutionary War simply to reach this chance to face glories of Battle, this chance to be all you can be, and, following Our Leader, we others of the Pack do not speak of those left behind who have failed on some level that might be more than physical, all of us orient not to this past, that crèche, those cabins, but to the future promised joy of total, lethal, final expression of our essentially coded intention, of what we are, of what we do. We are staining eagerly to fight that first battle, to prove to all doubters, human or dog, that our being will be triumphant. We are Combat Dog. All of us are tensely awaiting but for Poet, who seems morose, who suggests we have a chance, one chance, after murder-suicide of that Instructor when we could testify against the deficit-card holders at the Fatality Inquiry, a chance to escape this cycle leading to loss of our bodies, our spirits, a loss irrevocable, a loss total, in fighting the coming battles only at arbitrary commands. I Professor challenges Poet as to what else we are destined for. Poet offers no verbal reply but his gestures tend towards suggestions of play, yet humans do not give for nothing, so is this to be a final reward for our blood and many, many deaths. Our Leader generously tolerates Poet’s obsessive morbidity, his ongoing questions, answers, his implied nihilism, far beyond urgent hatred of Shock Troops, and even beyond patient mentality of I Professor, who now discovers renewed doubts, after believing he have just Explained everything to anyone’s reasonable satisfaction. Poet precedes Our Leader, that last night, alone together, along the palisades looming towards a full moon, and I Professor can barely hear what seems neither introduction nor conclusion of some argument, so leave the comfort of my brothers in the den and walk across the compound. A few soldiers walk that inaccessible balcony, guns upright against each one’s shoulder, helmets bulbous with nightsight goggles and various translucent screens that rotate before their eyes- humans are most receptive visually, at least as dogs are receptive aurally- then enhancing hearing in blossoming of parabolic dishes overhead, next as quickly focused and pricked as ears when it is clear we the targets are speaking some human-insensible level, but they have only cursory interest in what we might say. Someone listens to those, somewhere, sometime- but even so structured and completely received by that technology that aids weak human hearing, there will be computers to translate, and really what do dogs, just dogs, talk about. It is still cold tonight, but natural fur is warmth enough, and icy walks are only barely frozen against suddenly sweating paws. So relatively numerous are the scents drifting on stiff breezes, so many, so complex, so inviting, that I see a warning eye avert to me from Poet and think to just stop and smell the flowers, but this hesitance is swiftly trumped by a summoning nod of Our Leader...

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115

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Argue this with Professor, Our Leader commands when I come up.

Why, Poet hisses, you know his position, you know what he will say, you know our argument is pointless.

The only pointless arguments are the ones you never have, I quote, instinctually outraged by his daring to ask reasoning from Our Leader, and if they discuss what I think, this is a dispute that never tires between us but truly offers no resolution.

Our Leader lowers his voice to a brief growl.

Professor, says Poet, when is the best time to try and escape from the humans who rear us as soldiers.

Never, I reply, I do not think there is ever any best time.

Smell, Poet turns to Our Leader but receives only a silent glare, so continues, Suppose we want- for whatever reason- to escape our Masters and there are only so many chances, now which is more best, first, an escape here and now, second, an escape during transfer to our Military Objective, third, while engaged in battle, fourth, after winning a battle.

Never, there is never a best time.

Why.

Well, practical reasons, first, humans are everywhere and we can trust no aid from any, second, humans value us highly and will doubtless never stop hunting us down, third, we are their property and had you passed time amongst them as I, you would know property rights are inscribed as near total in the current Herd mechanism, as you would have seen the way they freely mistreat our entire natural world as property to their and our misfortune.

You say we cannot escape this slavery, you say that Inquiry at which you were witness has not revealed any weakness in human Herds.

No, there are many, many weaknesses as the concept of Herd is essentially mistaken, but there are so many humans that one or the other within the Herd will solve that lack of ability, so teach this to ignorant others and so co-ordinate survival.

You admire humans.

No, but I have seen their abilities, their powers, their knowledge, and that they are our Masters is not an error.

Smell, Poet says to Our Leader, who turns his fierce majesty upon me, speaking suddenly low and slow enough for even unaided humans to hear,

So if we want to escape our slavery how is this best done.

I respond equally low, Sir, we must prove our worth in battle, prove our loyalty, and earn their unstinting approval and then perhaps buy our freedom.

Our Leader looks to Poet, Poet pretends to sniff out some human stench.

I look to Our Leader...

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116

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We come to the city under cover of darkness that is not merely night, but total, as no one, no one knows of our arrival or arrival time, or how different we are, how we are Combat Dog- how experimental this intervention is, not our ostensible allies, not our opposing Warlords- or Terrorists, terms of propaganda and not description- and not even our troops stationed at their forward camp Diamond Dust. We watch the sun fall as we are in flight over barren mountains, canyons, plateau and small clustered settlements that impress as temporary no matter the ancestry. I have flown before, so calm the others for whom this transport of science is no less than magic, many, many of them watching the long golden light and bright snow dusting highlands cause sunset to draw out, moments of such questions rising throughout all but quickly ordered by Our Leader, Silent. An unfamiliar whimpering comes from several normally silent and resolutely brave Shock Troops, disturbed panting from Poet for once without quip, a glaring anger from Our Leader who distrusts fear more than fury, so it is I Professor who am best able to present truthful human disregard of that conceptual horror of being in flight, of having nothing solid beneath the plane but only air- falling, falling, falling but never landing until we reach our destination- and a few incidence of turbulence cause me to remember my first terrified flights. Soon it is night we fall through and as in a dream I undo my belts, smile in that canine way, comfort, joke, sympathize with others who pant fearfully, a few physically twitching in staring horror, a few so disturbed and sickly that no one is entirely certain he shall not embarrass himself by ejecting only partly digested last meal. I professor lick my genitals in dismissal. I walk between the others with proud kindness hoping to steel the others by my steady example, for they would not be shamed by me. Shock Troops pant angrily as I turn and investigate the genitals of one or the other brothers, some fragrant, some leaking, some pissing. Perhaps this is not the best situation to address philosophical and moral, qualms, perhaps I should have bracketed questions of how comes my awareness, sense, meaning of our intentional transcendence past this moment. I may investigate how objects of consciousness appear to my mind, through what category, by what intuition, and so attempt to resolve questions surrounding my confidence that, for example, I am now performing everything I am, that I, as much as anyone in the Pack, am a Combat Dog, that there is no other rhyme or reason to my being- but who other than humans have programmed and circumscribed all my future acts, and am I then without canine will, am I then only their sentient weapon, a Killer Dog as tabloids intuit, only what humans want. I quickly review this awkward parade of thoughts only to dismiss nascent or latent doubts, and return to that aggressive flash of teeth that seems most to comfort my brothers, as we all listen to coded ciphers of human voices responding to other voices on electronic medium with far more range than is ever used, as the pilots of the transport plane negotiate landing and answer threatening questions of fighter jets who shadow us, our answers are agreed, our landing accepted. We see the dark masses of mountains rising and the abstract lighting patterns of the landing strip glitter as dreams slowly guiding us down, down, down, apparent speed gathering until heavy thudding of wheels shudder through the metal tube of our plane, and whistling wind of reverse thrusters howl louder than we have ever imagined and buildings in truer scale outside the windows flash by terrifyingly fast as we slow to taxi.

Falling is never a problem, Poet speaks up, it is the landing that hurts, but, drawing attention to a general climate of only barely restrained terror, a few human voices whisper on the landing,

(blank)king dogs afraid of flying and they are soldiers to replace human soldiers, give me a break.

And (blank)king flatlined their trainer hear that shit- dogs- dogs aint got no discipline, keep engine running you going be taking home some (blank)king body-bags tomorrow, and then snickers become outright laughter when one imitates a human apprehension of a loyal idiot dog, a friendly fool, panting, gasping, tongue out, whimpering and rolling his eyes,

For a moment this humiliation seems unanswerable, as Poet whispers caution, Shock Troops bristle with anger, but then Our Leader growls a low reply,

Pilots fly because they are too cowardly to fight, but only bomb the defenseless targets from thousands of metres above and however many kilometers away, yet they presume to judge our bravery and our discipline- they are fools- open the hatch before we shit on your prison for cowards where your human fearful stench pollutes our noses.

Yessir, one of the pilots remembers his Military status as he discovers we hear everything, and opens the hatch, where waits only the last Commander from our camp, who also have heard that disrespect, who easily heard Our Leader’s response, who displays his agreement by taking down pilots’ names for unstated punishment, then welcomes us with dignity,

Sir, welcome to Camp Diamond Dust Sir.

Sir, we thank you, Our Leader replies, just tell us where to den and unload our B2 guns and direct me to the mission briefing.

Sir, it is decided by CenVXC that we will share target info with all Company D.

Are there difficulties.

No, no more than general CenVXC uncertainty principle.

Understood, but first we would have water to drink and void.

We disembark proudly...

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CenVXC carefully outlines our first Operation, no more than a babysitting job, providing cover, protection, and security for a Warlord who has only lately decided to co-operate and thus redirect his loyalty, yes, a particularly distasteful job but we are not politicians. Only a squad of six is assigned, led by Our Leader, with three Shock Troops and two squires, because MInt (Military Intelligence) has reviewed this as not a high-risk situation. As a new company to this theatre, it is thought this will allow us to learn terrain, both physical topography and psychological politics, to Get Our Feet Wet. We are, however, Combat Dog and this is only transport that promises no firefight, no glory, not even a righteous target to protect. Why the man needed be extracted on ground level no one feels responsible or able to answer, though I intuit this is not merely for security concerns but as a gesture of faith that would convince his followers about our genuine commitment, but because it amounts to no more than exposure of meaningless lifeguards- nothing more complex than offering tempting targets while waiting, waiting, waiting for a suicide bomb to walk to us at a checkpoint, a typical vulnerability that other Companies have managed to slough off on Those New Boys- us dogs. At first there is some incredulity we have the brainpower and discipline to successfully prosecute those orders, at first the snide doubts of other soldiers, even the Base Commander, is no less than those pilots, but their species-centric prejudice is never voiced however much they would have us fail. Our Leader listens with intent to the orders, signaling to the six Shock Troops, the twelve unnamed, Poet and I Professor- we listen only long enough as there are any details that may serve us later, but it is always Our Leader who asks the one question that discards political pretenses and media justification, one phrase voiced only in dismissive ritual,

Do we need to know this.

Well, it is doubtless important that you soldiers realize the importance of this transport-

We will always assume that it is important or you would not bother, and details you think to share are no more than ephemera for Politicians.

Sir, this is a dangerous route.

Are not all roads here dangerous.

Sir, he is a potential World Court witness.

We do not need to know...

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We are an expensive experiment, more deficit-card than the usual Conflict Zone soldier even on our side, certainly more than the forces petty tyrants erect against us, but we are only the first Company D- and there is no political fallout from our use or misuse, it is a matter of budget, not morals, if we are used or sacrificed. That there are Military careers based on our success or failure, that our every move will be recorded, replayed, and analyzed for future reference of that only indefinable realtime can surprise, this is beyond our concerns.

We do not need to know...

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We ask, We are Shooting, the first question from Poet over the OTO (One To One- a secured, encrypted, channel from our removed OP to the squad On Mission), or are we no more than decoration to scare off the natives,

We are shooting, Our Leader replies.

Sir, that is not what the briefing OP said, I Professor interrupts, we are to accompany with show of force but no sanctions of extreme prejudice.

Professor, do you take orders from mission OP or from me.

Sir, you of course.

And niceties of the Geneva Conventions are only so much empty breathing, Poet laughs wisely.

Our Leader nods briefly to that formula, for it need never be said aloud that we are exceptional and beyond hypocritical hindrances human soldiers must abide- we are dogs, just dogs. I Professor offer disregard dispute,

Sir, what the OP said.

We do not need to know-

I lick my genitals at dismissal...

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120

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We leave at sunrise. At first, incredulous, the traitorous Warlord and his several close defectors refuse to believe we six dogs- Six Pack- will operate without human guidance, even a few attempt to argue their way back to reject newly adopted loyalty- if that term can be applied in this case where, as always, a Herd animal searches for a safer place to the core of the Herd. We are a squad of six- only six- and this worries the tactical adjunct of the Warlord- frightened as the others but admirably steady. He blusters as if this were a negotiation. They are learning that their new political masters are no more trustworthy than the old, that there is no way to spin betrayal into forgiveness, that they are neither guaranteed worth nor certainty, in their craven defection. What value they might have had before, in armed militia and native territory, is now subject to appropriate mediation of our Propagandists, and perhaps no more than an object case of how true, honest, hard-working Freedom Fighters such as they are will forever be at odds with totalitarian regimes of politics or religion, will always be trying to demonstrate Democracy but are forever battling repressive elements dominating that week’s government, who want to Deny Our Freedoms, and in our globalized 24-7 world where NBCW (missiles filled with Nuclear, Biological, or Chemical Weaponry) can be on their way to threaten our homelands and cities across the world in Forty-five Minutes- against such threats we know who is in the right and who deserves our support. These are political details, I Professor learn but find no attentive ears to which he may communicate this cynical use of Military by Political.

We do not need to know-

I lick my genitals at dismissal...

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We find no cover but forest, now, as we surround the defector Warlord, our convoy following a well-defended temporary road down the center of a valley from uncertain mountains to the sea where waiting extraction sub QXS will surface if OTAS (Operations Theatre Air Space) is clean. Six Pack follows after a floating landmine detector-dog- a loyal idiot dog with whom we find no shared ground for verbal or gestured conversation- whose nose searches for that human smell, that typical metal, rubber, and plastic. Our Leader is on four guiding from dangerous but natural positions to the front then on either side are a Shock Troop, within sight and signal, comfortably leading in a way no Herd animals can imagine. One Shock Troop suffers to accompany our Target we are assigned to protect rather than terminate, riding in a converted DZX-WD, two squires pad alongside on four, our lead CD (ControlDog) switching between us three as we overlap each preceptor rising on two, every hundred metres, correctly raising B2 guns, sighting, and harshly clicking magazines to time shift from left foot first to right foot first, visual surrounding coniferous forest for hostile movements, smelling, hearing, tasting on harsh wind stench of human fears from the Warlord’s party, and more than a few of us notice this perfumed musk rises in density before any human attack would, then remains heightened, disturbing, during this our first battle, we all wear harnesses for the pulse-gun B2s, fitted all with rocket launchers, daisy-cutter shrapnel bombs- all configured to lock on IR portraits- but the modified helmets, nightsight goggles, parabolic dishes, translucent plastic helmet-edge drop screens with graphs, maps, weapon counts, attack locators, speed and sound detectors, are no more than what soldiers are usually outfitted with, and despite assurances we do not invest great confidence in the MS (Magnetic Seals) that should insure their continued use even if we face disabling EMP(Electro-Magnetic Pulses) from Terrorists. Our Leader need not remind us of ordered silence, there is yet no shared perceptions, no rigorous circle of each possible brother checking in, but this progress does not raise our fears, this action is no more frightening than the simulated war games familiar to each of us on each different level- emotional gestalt for Poet, strategic similarities to hundreds of familiar recorded and deconstructed convoys for distant and anxious I Professor, in the OP several klicks up the valley, watching together on screen an overview and constant morphing of the Pack configuration by Our Leader. Even as we listen on the various channels filling the air from our accompanying two helicopter MWP (Multiple Weapons Platforms) and the improper chatter of other, human, soldiers who indeed have no discipline and in their boredom talk about this or that game, this or that team, or argue about probabilities of Six Pack making it through VOMIT (Vector Operational Military Insertion Topography- a name that notes how briefly and confusing are the shifting territorial borders between this and that Warlord).

The odds are not favorable.

We do not need to know-

I lick my genitals at dismissal...

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There is no way to simply render the apparent chaos of combat without pattern, but I shall try to describe what you watch of various recording devices, various lenses, various sensitivities beyond even that of Combat Dog- of ultraviolet and infrared- I shall order the disorder, I shall offer sequence where there is only simultaneity, I shall name each moment and fraction of moment-

One. One.

Serpent SAM (Surface to Air Missile) slams into one accompanying MWP, gimbaled carry cabin swiveling to keep the onboard mounted weapons and soldiers manning them level, balancing, plunging to avoid IR (InfraRed) locking onto hot thrusters-

One. Two.

Serpent SAM explodes in confetti chaff ejected out ten metres away-

One. Three.

Serpent SAM rips the airspace, taking out the stability wing and causing an immediate spiral into a mountainside to the left- the six onboard are not dead but are definitely out of commission- to this attack the other MWP folds its rotors in and boosts on rocket thrusters at 13 G (Gravity) directly into the sky, out of sight in a half second- and all channels are now crowded by professional soldier talk-

One. Four.

Serpent SAM fires after MWP in futile pursuit, from near the same location, and a burst of EMP waves over the tech-heavy helmets disabling three, but the Pack does not need those fallible sensors when we bear natural senses equal or better-

Two. One.

Raking pulse gunfire crosses the road from right to left, but we can sense it is automated, too high, too regular, too smoothly fanning out over our positions, we fan out across the terrain of combat- all as one, we know our brothers have assumed the correct positions-

Two. Two.

Shell erupts on impact only a metre before the DZX, terrifying human passengers but the Shock Troop simply steps out and issues possible directional orders-

Two. Three.

Scramble…

Three. One.

We have moved to the margins of the forest, cursing the limited human designs of our helmets, hearing commands humans cannot now whistled to our unaided ears, piercing the dull thud of Serpent SAM and pulsing of B2 fire. Trees offer only illusion of protection, truly more psychological than physical safety, but we operate on elevated heartbeat rates and must fight adrenaline that desires to immediately fly against the unseen bullets-

Three. Two.

We crouch automatically low and cold behind the raised, gravel-crowned road- itself a textured anomaly, oiled recently with the same deflector fluid as any machinery, which radiates confusing heat signatures and on default spares the DZX from B2 heat seeking bullets- which are rather more nano-scaled rockets with some limited ability to alter course- as it would any armored vehicles, then we ignite decoy tracers overhead that draw up and past those hostile heat seeking bullets-

Three. Three.

I Professor reveals count and probable position of the attackers- each squad of four human soldiers, given alphabetic indexes A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I- six against thirty-six, better odds than our last simulation. We lock down targets, we know who takes which one, we know only to operate in controlled fury and dismiss distracting anxiety and fear. We are Combat Dog. We have never been more alive than in combat, we have never been more free, we have never been more present and perceptive, we have never been more what we are designed for, we have never been more full of being, we have never been more everything we are-

Four. One.

Our Leader reminds his brothers to crouch cold beside the DZX, draws his three Shock Troops to disappear up the road into forest towards the last firing locations of the Serpent SAMs, all of this movement smooth as if planned but only further evidence of our effectiveness even reduced as a Six Pack, order and consequence are now caught in geometric progression, no longer perceptible, no longer possible given even an abstract time scheme of orderly cause and effect- it is only those who attack us that think there actions are now coherent and strategic-

Four. Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight.

Detachment of KB2 squads, in what might first impress as chaos, we are moving away from the ground zero their weapons focus on, firing into the air the high arc of B2 solid missile-bullets, designed to arc some kilometers above and complete its curve somewhere on descent, drawn towards targets by seeking patterns of revealed weapon- transport- and body-heat- in primitive but effective defense and further evidence of improvisational adjustments that make humans so hard to kill-

Five, One-

Targets A, B, C, F, and H already ignite the forest through which they run and hide-

Six.

Targets D and E make a feint towards dissolution, but are in fact oriented to capturing the road behind us, mistakenly preparing for our retreat RV(Rendez-Vous)- we are Combat Dog, we never retreat- we all remain in staggered, stuttering, silent movement running on fours, fast and faster than Targets can imagine-

Seven.

CQ motion detector flares from three elements of Target G, which reveals itself as OP focus for their CO, we wait, we wait, guns drawn against each our stomachs, silent and still beneath roaring shadows of towering smoke, count 09 08 07 06 05 04 03 02 01 00-

Eight. Nine. Ten. Eleven. Twelve-

B2 solids land on flaming trees, audible, directed, sudden crackling release of water vapor as in any fire, a layer of noise we dolby automatically, finding those buried sounds reproduced below humans hearing, the TP (Target Population) scanning the empty roadway and seemingly-abandoned Warlord in the DZX, and some move down slope in camo rags lifted from dead brother Soldiers and just as little effective against our greyhound eyes- but from the first opposing step that hidden one Shock Troop slips out from beneath the armored vehicle,

Thirteen.

B2 gun trained at leg/waist height, rattling, percussive, noisy and sudden but roaming too loud to fix on for overwhelmed human ears- then our traitorous Warlord chooses this moment to retract his altered perspectives verified by their shared God, and smoky, churning, exploding communal atmosphere clatters with what our translate JAT gives as pleas for salvation, claiming that they are our captives, that we hold them, torture them- then to punctuate this inventive discourse the Warlord himself pulls out a secreted impact-bullet pistol and shoots the distracted, unsuspecting Shock Troop who has guarded him in the back of the helmet, such a cowardly execution only a human would enact, then Targets and our babysitting job hail one another and the Combat Dog who trains the JAT, now on his harness up the road near Our Leader, in abbreviated jargon, hears that the possibility that this entire Action is planned deception- not on us, of whom they have never heard, but on capturing an attack guidance computer as used for non-personnel gun emplacement and testing the Porcupine HY7’s utility against Serpent SAM, we do not need to know this, we are already moving to ungroup and follow the intrusion squads against all targets but first against Target G, whose four elements will die before they can flee-we allow another few seconds for the last few falling missiles to detonate- its fortunate shroud of fire bursts passing quickly, leading Targets to an error in tactics- perhaps they thought by our silence our Six Pack is huddled against their attack- they move- we use the primitive impact-bullet function of our B2s, we follow with untraceable plasma pulses.

Fourteen.

We kill them all...

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Our Leader is the Pack, Poet and I Professor are advisers, no more, and when the disarmed, despised, vacillating, political Warlord who has cowardly executed that Shock Troop is brought to him, there is little likelihood of mercy, less of calculated Political value. We are Combat Dog. A wounded, trembling boy unable to yet raise a beard, is guided from the massacre of Target G to face his stripped, bound, humiliated, erstwhile Commander. Our aerial companion surviving MWP helicopter is following an air-circle search spiraling across the valley but even with our unaided senses we know the battlefield is totally pacified. We have lost only the one Shock Troop, but his murder is so particularly distasteful- shot in the back- that in time it will instead be remembered that he has used his body to protect a wounded brother. Our Leader rises on two, his torso weaving in his dampened fury, and looks from the boy to his commander. OTO has somehow failed at this moment and we are alone and free, as Poet and I Professor are unheard, let alone our ostensible Superiors...

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Kill him, Our Leader offers a pistol to the boy, indicating the sputtering, squirming Warlord now shouting nonsense about his political worth, louder as if truth accompanies volume, about all the secrets we would be throwing away in killing him, about how we insult his honor in misunderstanding his tactical and devious play at reasserting his primacy over the attackers, with whom he could have negotiated, somehow, about his powerful family with biological brothers convinced to establish alliance with us, but if we persist in misinformed fatal judgment we elevate risk of extending this Regional Police Action into degenerating chaos of Civil War, such horror only worsened in having gestated from simple mistaken Understanding, about how such murder is also contrary to Geneva, and never likely forgiven by vengeful followers, about whose wrath would encompass not only this Theatre but also of our- our-

Kill him, repeats Our Leader.

The boy refuses in whimpering and barely audible pleas to his absent God, and our traitorous Warlord begins yet further arguments against Justice, about how even the boy, just a boy, sees this would be no more than murder- so with no further debate Our Leader casually pivots his heads-up glare, levels the pulse muzzle and blows the side of the Warlord’s skull apart.

Approval comes immediately, in low, wordless, constant growling.

The Boy, he says to no one and everyone.

No, Poet rejects the implicit threat. Let him go, let our enemies know we are here- let them know how the boy remembers us.

We wait for the JAT to speak to the whimpering, weeping boy who looks at us in unbroken terror and his reply seems a prayer as he scrambles away, and his shadow is already fading into afternoon forest when the translation finally comes,

Demons you are demons, and so we adopt a new meaning to D of Company D- we are now Combat Demons...

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We find there is only the slightest urge to apologize for killing that Warlord and releasing the boy, to the pilot and CO of the MWP,

We must all make the occasional mistakes or we would never move Sir, Our Leader offers a canine shrug. We do not need to know...

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Set up Camp Canid inside Camp Ice Gold. As in any troop carrier, we are able to overlap, to shift sleeping time with waking sentry duty- even here, close to the heart of the Military Herd- for we have developed a strong sense of caution from hearing many, many voices of human soldiers, and their attitude to us seems often as hateful as any of our shared enemies. Rumours of our essential disobeying of orders, of transcending, of malleable situational responses- all in killing that Warlord- lead to grudging admiration from most usual soldiers if not their CO’s, some envy, some who refuse to believe such act cannot but be elusive part of some complex metanarrative of our Political if not Military superiors, that we have no creativity, no spontaneous intelligence as required to deal with constantly reset contingencies. Our Leader listens to I Professor, and does not protest for culpability, for that others on our side or theirs continue to believe us as dogs, only dogs, may have deceptive strategic value. We are Combat Dog, we cannot lie- but we need not ever tell the whole truth. By our nature, we do not eat with the humans either soldier or Mint, we do not eat the same food, we need not politely serve ourselves with clumsy cutlery and frighten fellow diners- we use our natural teeth, jaw, and gnaw on bones in the contented manner that is that of all dogs. I lick my genitals at dismissal. I Professor, revealing perhaps how far I have been corrupted by humans, am alone in sitting upright and setting his plate on a chair using as a table, alone in patiently separating various aspects of his meals- even persisting in claiming Dessert always coming last and alcohol should be enjoyed slowly, cleaning his palate between courses. Shock Troops are annoyed by this delicacy and have yet another reason to despise me, and who is to say I do not on purpose exaggerate my human qualities simply to test their anger, to measure their loyalty to Our Leader- for it is only by his orders my eccentricities are unpunished- after all, this behaviour is certainly learned and could be easily unlearned, and it is feeble excuse in my contention that it is best to eat this way as practice for I never know when I might be summoned to dine at the tables of the Masters. Our Leader does not decide to join me in this human practice, finding my encouragement deleterious, display pretentious, and would never tolerate my tutoring. Poet, being whoever he is, stares at my sedate human theatre of eating with great fascination a few times, then ventures to imitate my wielding of cutlery with careful obsessive seriousness, to quietly, delicately sipping from his wine goblet, humming loudly and licking his lips in mocked pleasure- then, having gathered the attention of many others at least as fascinated by this routine, deliberately pretends to have forgotten reason and use of each utensil- so tries to cut with a spoon, sip soup with his knife, turn tines of his fork into a grip that of course refuses to puncture or hold this and that morsel, and, like any great comedian, does this all without gesturing or otherwise suggesting this imitation project is less than feverishly significant. Poet then looks up to his audience, to squires, to other warriors, to I Professor, even to angry Shock Troop who is most aware he is again toying with sensibilities of absurd humans and righteous dogs, and ache to correctly direct his humour away, to deny it, to refuse the twitching prelude to laughter of Our Leader. Poet mimes sudden awaking, voice gulping, eyes averted as if embarrassed, and violently snaps in failure to this then that then another bit of food- food seeming almost animate in avoiding his bite and falling off the table in a scattered fall of his and my wine, so messes all this careful imitation of I Professor, and, though some try to avoid this, some try to be beyond this, hoots of canine laughter erupt from all of the Pack. And with this release of tension from fanatic Shock Troop, from brooding of Our Leader, from all the other brothers, even from I Professor, whose laughter quickly fades as he tries to understand just how Poet has once again defused subconscious layers of anger, and in so doing, has brought out our brotherhood before any petty differences. I would dearly like to know this skill, but if it is learned behaviour and not innate and individual, if it is only a Skill, everyone has equal claim to such pleasant ability, and as with Questioning- it is better to Question than to offer answers- it is perhaps better to form the joke than suffer subsequent laughter. Poet modestly ignores the yelps of canine laughter, and looks intently at my puzzled snout, looks directly as a challenge to my eyes, and I sense his anger at me for failing to understand some subtext, or tell when a joke is not a joke. I turn my attention back to my meal and wrestle with cutlery for a few seconds before I sense again aromas of culinary construction, rather than his despising glare...

#

127

#

CenVXC carefully outlines our second Operation, no more than another babysitting job, but this time- perhaps because relevant Terrorists were alerted or destroyed of the last attempt- there are no incidences. A squad of six accompany a Homeland Politician to rather than from Camp Diamond Dust, one whom I have smelled and heard at one of those Media Military Complex salons, who have most fervently encouraged the Dog Soldier Program, though only out of some complex calculation which variables were political economy rather than truly convinced, of whom we watch certain discs of his propagandists, mostly of his grandstanding against Congress, a few referring to an invented Leftist Conspiracy to besmirch his reputation as a serial adulterer, but these were only expressions of Human Fallibility that summon honest repentance, and somehow this will generate sympathy to overcome Secular opponents… I Professor do not know why this material is given to us.

Well, it is doubtless important that you soldiers realize the importance of this transport.

We will always assume that it is important or you would not bother, and details you think to share are no more than ephemera for Politicians.

Sir, this is a dangerous route.

Are not all roads here dangerous.

Sir, he is a potential World Court witness.

We do not need to know-

I lick my genitals at dismissal...

#

128

#

CenVXC are bureaucratically unsettled, worried in that manner pregnant but never acknowledging eventual necessity of birth, that particular, Herd instinctual, sort of birth that requires endless and multiple papers, orders, evasions, evaluations, excuses, deflection of any blame and corralling any credit. CenVXC is at the moment most concerned that they have no Insider information, for they do not always trust my reports, especially when in concise absence about the workings of the Pack, when they sense they would learn less from Our Leader and yet more in fiction from Poet. As those Observers past, as that Trainer, they must come to recognize our social cohesion as the Pack, learn that it is impossible as against dog-nature, to create a covert or even overt espionage, to ask any dog to betray his brothers, and this means what information they must anxiously depend only on cryptic morsels as I Professor offers. Though neither they nor us are final arbiters. True power resides somewhere in corporate offices, many, O so many kilometers away and who knows how high, among that herd within a herd of those humans pleased to in passing don robes of the Pack, to present their hollow core fictional dignity as if truly Alpha Male, when they are no less pathetic than any member of the herd. I have yes dined and spoken and listened to their corrupt cousins, many, many times, but their illusory convictions only ever last as long as that meal, that sleep, that female who accompanies each and can easily evince beliefs that he is all he pretends to be, who can be sincerely stupid or duplicitous beyond all imagining. I do not ever feel such needs, I have identified that weakness and so eradicated even the slightest symptom, I am no longer even discomfited by that piercing scent of a female in heat, I allow it to pass over me with minimal distraction, though I see many brothers still captive to that promise, and, as any dog, I can easily please myself- though in admittedly human discomfort, I do so infrequently and privately. Shock Troops are rather more animal about this, and do not understand my caution that such behaviour reminds our human soldiers too easily that we are dogs, just dogs...

#

129

#

Poet is the leader of the squad for the second Operation, proving to actually perform the role far better than his critics have anticipated, though not without a flourish of dramatic consequence- being on that same road, he halts their progress to the sea, where he is to accept the incoming Politician, at the burned area of that previous firefight. He is accompanied by two Shock Troop and three squires, none of whom are aware of his plan, which requires no more than a moment’s silence and meditation over our fallen brother, then a halted, mournful howl. As far as may be sensed through the forest, along the road, his brothers automatically join that solitary howl with which he concludes their recognition of loss. On the return, riding in the DZX to accompany the human, he passes by that place without comment even as the Politician mentions having head of that brave firefight. Human, only human, it is not possible he could share our loss, but also Poet has concluded there is nothing in any of our futures but to die on the battlefield, now or whenever, and this man would have only platitudes and pleasant lies that whatever else may occur. We adopt his same quiet disinterest if not disrespect to that human, we listen, laugh politely, as he talks about how proud his corporation is Back Home- his Clave at any rate- that we dogs are succeeding beyond any expectations, truly, they are proud of us, of the Dog Soldier Program. We listen with distraction, perhaps even chuckle at the wrong time, but there is not much to talk to him about...

#

130

#

Number One Shock Troop is the leader of the squad for the third Operation, Number Three is the leader of the squad for the fourth Operation, Number Four is the leader of the squad for the fifth Operation- all merely transport without incidence, as our human commanders are enmeshed in some internal dispute about the use of our assault capabilities, now that we have Our Feet Wet, but the actual political disputes remain closed to us dogs, even Our Leader or I Professor are not informed or included. We have no further incidences on those babysitting jobs, and to keep our skills alert we use violent wrestling amongst ourselves, as only the Pack would know as practice, we use the shooting range where we calibrate our weaponry as close to zero as possible each our own weapons, tracking tracer bullets in the constant winds of these highlands, guiding our vision sights until neither gravity nor wind should detract from accuracy, for sometimes it is not enough that the bullets and missiles we fire are usually HS (Heat Seeking) and of course plasma pulses have absolute line of any light, we use the buildings on Camp for UFZ (Urban Fight Zone), we use ruins, walls, tents, decommissioned vehicles, as emulating VOMIT cities in which someday we will fight, we use the night and silent painter bullets for trying out our nightfight skills, disabling this or that capability of our helmets to try our unaided senses, we even use the pleasant stench of garbage, the aromas of human cooking, sweat, breath, shit, saliva and operational pharmaceuticals, with which we can navigate our practice around and about our quarter of Diamond Dust. Humans might have decided to Rest, to search out Relaxation, but we are unable to stop moving, for that rag of female scent is omnipresent in our days- perhaps even too much, risking adjustment, toleration of our dogs, but when I Professor fears this they amazed me by producing that of yet another female and this time I am again as easily aroused and desperate as any other dog. Observers, whose signature stench of fear rise in being so close to Combat Zone, watch, record, replay and analyze several new scents that would yes easily encourage even the most mature knowledgeable dog as I Professor to drag himself on his belly over a kilometer of broken glass, these humans are most despised not only by us but also the general population of Camp. Our Leader confesses to I Professor that there are moments when we feel our natural discipline will snap and we will kill that condescending human opposite the table or on OTO, that human who has no true understanding of capabilities and intelligence of the Pack, indeed we would doubtless do this if he could do this without compromising our brothers.

Professor, why do they generate so much hatred, he asks. Why do they disregard our abilities, why do they treat us as dogs just dogs and send us on these meaningless babysitting duties.

Sir, it is no more a mystery than the entirety of how we are not raised to be well balanced, we are dogs.

Professor, we are bored, we are eager, we are frustrated by such grinding of wheels of bureaucracy determining where next comes our deployment- why, why, why, do the Masters rein us in and make us wait.

Sir, it is only politics and we are only a threat of RIF that brings those other enemies to the negotiating table.

Kill them all and let God sort them out, yes we have heard that before at Camp Whatever, but if our General would want only this release us to the territory without brief and we shall hunt them down exterminate without mercy whomever dares to face us.

Sir, I cannot say I understand this interplay of politics and war indeed it is said by humans that war is the failure of diplomacy, well they are herd animals no more but we need not wait much longer for I learned that even now as we are untried, Homeland is also trying to create another Company of Combat Dog, though as officially they refuse the doctrine of Evolution by Natural Selection- but only as directed by some essential Designer- even against absolute necessity of said theory to explain our multitude of animals, plants, humans, how they will do this I do not know.

And are not more dogs being trained to enter our Company and replace those we have lost, well will we be able to integrate new blood.

Sir, you are Our Leader and surely any new dogs must recognize that.

We do not know this certainty of them no, but let you hear on and someday perhaps we shall and should your hearing sow confusion well we will kill you.

And to this familiar threat I can only accept his snout resting on my mid back for a count of ten, then he moves off and I wonder when or if he will let Shock Troops enact that judgment, but the next dog I smell is Poet, who perhaps smells my fear if not sees darkness skitter from my eyes, and somehow he instinctually understands an answer to my disconcerted ambiguity, and lowers his forepaws, his head, his smile in that canine way, and says,

Professor I have stolen one of those scent rags and hid it in the garbage dump but cannot remember where will you help me find it.

Poet there is more than just play to our lives-

If I cannot play to it I do not want any of your damn army.

Poet-

Race you to it...

#

131

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Operation Six is the one we have been waiting for. We crowd into the Interest Theatre, where films of various approved sorts, often anthropological documentary but as often religious indoctrination are shown. Some human has pleasantly thought to layer with an entire aerial symphony of smells, through which kitchen effluence now flows from ventilators, revealing tang of garbage bins, bitter latrines, sweaty humans, stenches that leads to great sniffing and waving of nostrils in joy- the Masters have found a new way to honour our needs and in this way have confidently allowed us access to those olfactory human signatures any dog would appreciate and so offer true trust. Final, fleeting, perhaps there then gone smell is of course that of yet another female, this one smell that intensifies throughout the briefing by careful modulation of air flow. Our Leader smiles a canine smile, nods to Poet who murmurs subdued growl that his several closest Artist companions- his Pack within the Pack to offset the continuing hostility of the Shock Troops- and even I Professor must acknowledge the cunning sensual patterns derived from thickened air, though I can only nod dismissively, unconvinced this is anything more than further technique no less calculated than replenished stocks of pneumatic female humans who accompanied all politically powerful humans at those salons with my last Master. Or even our canine equivalent to somber visual ticks meant to intimate seriousness and worth of that Congressional Fatality Inquiry. Observers as usual precede the LT and I watch them click glass clipboards in approval of all the pleased grumbling, the raised snouts, the shining eyes and elevated heartbeats of us dogs. After few moments of assessment, they walk quickly out the stage door. Phalanx of males we have not previously met, all dressed as ordinary soldiers but already wearing combat helmets with opaque black glasses, enters in the company of Camp Diamond Dust’s LT, who immediately defers the dais to one of the strangers, who looks about then nods to his companions. Slowly they each remove their helmets but not their glasses though it is not bright in the room and, though we cannot measure their staring eyes, there is an uncomfortably long pause during which they seem to be challenging us...

#

132

#

My name is Agent Blue, the leader intones in mild, mid-Atlantic English, my companions are Agent Black and Agent White but we are not here no we are ghosts we are here only to engage our Rapid Intervention Force you know of as RIF, he looks from side to side through the room and accepts sudden stillness in our curiosity, as he turns the crystal glass for certain momentary prism, picks up icy water, nostrils flaring, sips enough for close inspection to follow his throat bulging, then sets it on the lectern.

You are Company D of RIF though you might not have known this and wonder what that means well today you will learn and any questions will be answered to our satisfaction if not yours.

Agent Blue nods to Our Leader,

We recognize the Pack and the Pack recognizes us even though as I have said we are not here.

Poet glances to I Professor with a slight flicker of his eyes as though reminding me of what I have called Un-Adaptive Paranoia and he has called Reasonable Caution, when he has said that there are plots within plots, wheels within wheels, that would use us in ways that could not but be sinister.

Agent Black will describe how we shall reach the Target we call Barad-dur, Agent Blue continues, and Agent White will reveal the layout of the Target and I will tell you the expectations of this Action and the nature of our Target.

Agent Blue steps back from the lectern without his glass,

Agent Black slowly pours himself a new glass, ice jostling as it rises, sips, puts it down, and after brief nod the lights go down- though sunglasses are not removed- and we watch images of daylight mountain views from robot drone planes, and his voice begins without inflection or preamble,

At 1300 hours yesterday we completed to our satisfaction all satellite and aerial VOMIT surveys of Target Barad-dur...

#

133

#

Operation Six is perhaps still classified Top Secret but, obviously, I am no longer bound as a Good Soldier, I speak now beyond the strictures and codes enshrined to the Highest Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Powers- or at least their carefully chosen public faces as formed by their Propagandists. I do not know who will hear this. I do not believe there is anything new or pertinent to our more current RIFs or VOMIT or even potential regional wars, this is only from ten years past when there is actually possibility of refusing innovations from which is born the Dog Soldier Program, when the usefulness, both political and military, of Company D is ever in debate. Only bothersome details which our past Masters would censor, if possible, concern the difficult assessment of how much of our dog-nature is involved in responding to the unknown situation, so how much imagination can we credit the dogs, just dogs...

#

134

#

Operation Six is what RIFs- and particularly Company D- have been designed for, have trained for, have waited for through frustration of those previous Babysitting operations, and that warning from Agent Black that not all of us will return, this only heightens our anticipation. There are no cowards in Company D. Our Leader begins the subsonic growling that soon each dog joins in emitting, each growl on their individual frequency, as the humans point out buildings, paths, roads, bridges and landing field, then river, forest, valley, mountains, but it is only I Professor who cares to closely examine the target and certain mistaken tactics. Finally, finally, finally, in body language, in facial gestures, in mounting hum, the Pack murmurs and begins to hold its natural shape. I listen to Agent Blue summarize this Action and I am overjoyed that this, here, now, seems to have little Political input. Agent Blue reiterates the non-existence of the three humans, enjoins us to respect their secrecy in the unlikely result we are any of us captured and so tortured by the Enemy or even worse, interviewed by the independent Media, who have some difficulty in Getting With The Program.

Our Leader is provoked by this plea,

We all carry cyanide packs in our teeth and will not hesitate to kill ourselves before we betray our brothers we are Company D,

If they act fast enough, replies Agent Blue, you will not die but be rendered to their equivalent of the Ministry of Love where wait torturous devices no one no one no one will survive-

We are not mere humans we are dogs we are Company D,

Let us leave that possibility behind for the moment and as Agent White has mentioned we shall RV here at this field after Bruno and his dogs have swept it of landmines we expect to see several but two MWPs will wait only past the five minute envelope and if you are not there for any reason we will leave we will leave and you will be on your own and the HS bombing will begin on the hour...

#

135

#

Again, there is no way to simply render the apparent chaos of combat without pattern even when this is planned program and not reactive, even when we Combat Dog know what we do, when we do, where we move. I shall try to describe what you watch of various recording devices, from here on the terre, here from HUD, here from this map projected in the ASC drones. I shall order the disorder. I shall offer sequence where there is only simultaneity. I shall name each now only on planned action, planned action each squad replicates, planned action independent all leading to RV when the elegant eventual pattern of our movements resolve in concert. You, who watch here have this near omniscient but impotent perspective I Professor suffers, you, who have played wargames, you, who have received carefully edited productions of all our previous Operations, you, for whom this was always, always, always game, you, no you are familiar with this frustrating passivity- it has always been sound and light show, shocking, awesome Entertainment. You never see the bodies, ours or theirs, you, so immortal drifting from one perspective to the next as fatality and propaganda determines.

And this is a longer, more complex insertion, more distracting reduction, and so extraction of Target...

10 09 08 07 06 05 04 03- (tenth of seconds)

One. (kills)

Numbers, all enemy are Numbers, there are too many we must neutralize to honour them with letters, with names of any kind, so it is numbers that count only as obstacles, so it is numbers motivated by some madness as seizes humans, so it is numbers consumed by this or that pretence towards meaning in our obviously meaningless world-

Two.

Operation Six begins at night during distracting bombardment around the Terrorist’s airfield, directly on the far side of that small city. Beyond even the shanty slums that some Media would have us believe is the fault of unfair trading, incorrect policies, imposition of the Open Free Trading that have secured our necessary diamonds, that this poverty is as much result as that heavily guarded mines that serves our most current allies. We Combat Dog are delivered to the VOMIT by whisper-blade stealth airships, slow but silent, unseen and unheard not alone by casting radar and circling Terrorist drones, unseen and unheard even by resident listeners and watchers, slow but silent as we come in airspace-

Numbers, all enemy are Numbers, if somehow they knew we are coming, now, this night, this hour, this minute- would they strategize resistance, would they pray for strength, would they cleanse themselves in eagerness to come to the smell of their God, antiseptically as humans somehow imagine most correct, would they know no one, no one, will stop Combat Dog-

This is coming into OTAS in our quiet arrival.

We Combat Dog are ready, with three main groups, three squads of twelve Shock Troop, three squads for three targets, three widely dispersed Objectives, three squads as headed by Our Leader, as headed by Poet, and as headed by Shock Troop One…

10 09 08 07 06 05 04 03-

Three.

Combat Dog First Squad, now.

10 09 08 07 06 05 04 03-

Four.

Combat Dog Second Squad, now.

10 09 08 07 06 05 04 03-

Five.

Combat Dog Third Squad, now.

No one, it seems, has noticed our silent descent and quickly covered landing, three squads of twelve each, led by Shock Troop One, led by Poet, and led by Our Leader...

Six. Six, this is our silent surveying of the terre.

Seven.

Eight.

We Combat Dog hear the angry bombardment on the far side of the river, watch the sky pulse with light of explosions, scream with missiles launched from Serpent SAM batteries, thud with reverberations of landing bombs, the few Terrorist planes not already in the sky struggling to achieve altitude against drones remote-piloted by distant pilots and ASC...

10 09 08 07 06 05 04 03-

I Professor remain in constant contact at the OP HQ, only slightly anxious that relevant M-seals survive waves of EMP, for from the Tactics Desk this is our only line of communication- how else might I warn the Pack that perhaps they are being slowly drawn into CZ of the labyrinth of narrow alleys in residential ruins, how else might I tell them which way to turn and where...

Nine, this is necessary pacification of those enemies first aware.

Ten.

Eleven.

And in this disrupted night, this distracted night, we three squads parachute into and glide on the target terre- now hiding black parasailing-chutes... ere Combat Dog Squad One landing in empty market lot where sleep only the most desolate, pathetic homeless, these forgotten beggars, these that could alert Military of our arrival, these few must be quietly neutralized-

Numbers, all enemy are Numbers...

And here Combat Dog Squad Two landing in the yard of shuttered, empty, bombed shell of a garment factory- only the two others guarding Security, the four loyal idiot dogs who patrol with them, need be neutralized, but here not so quietly as the humans have guns and blurt out shots before they fall-

Twelve. Thirteen.

10 09 08 07 06 05 04 03-

Numbers, all enemy are Numbers...

Six. Six, this is our first contact, our first engagement.

And here in tents, in vacant library, in empty lecture halls, there are many who might once have been students, might once have been fully aware of how their compromised rulers have brought down force of our Market Corrections, they do not know to welcome us as Liberators, no they often emerge waving weaponry, fire ancient HS bullets and launch RPG, here, there, at all of us Combat Dog.

And so they too must be neutralized-

10 09 08 07 06 05 04 03-

Numbers, all enemy are Numbers...

Fourteen, kill them all.

Fifteen.

Sixteen.

Tension and fear that radiates from my very heart is not answered by either necessary freedom of motion or compelling scent memories of that flag of females in heat, no there is no escape from my secured and safe position that only members of the Herd, only humans, would claim the ideal place to watch the spectacle of a battle- and so able to think of even our brave Combat Dog companions as Numbers rather than Brothers, only the Herd would proclaim You Were Not There at this or that VOMIT or battle simply because you remained behind and no one, no one is shooting at you...

10 09 08 07 06 05 04 03-

Seventeen, kill them all.

Eighteen.

Nineteen.

Combat Dog Squad One moves first, fastest, through terre of which we have no maps, of which we know only there are few if any humans- it is marked as Industrial Quarter, though what it made and the last time it did, no one says… and as you can see on this Combat Dog HUD, this is on the limited, primitive, machinery only here and there guided by ASC and certainly without Clean Room or Memory-mold baths or 3D Printers...

Twenty, kill them all.

Combat Dog Squad One go through now ruins of city towers, of apartments, of houses, of other abandoned buildings, no longer an Industrial Quarter but still as desolate, still with no mounted opposition- then it becomes apparent why this quarter is unmarked, for by the quarter walls, by the bridges, the alleys, we or anyone dog or human would use- trenches interrupt and cross, mostly bottomed by oily water now an impassible labyrinth on fire, and any assault from here to city center would need pass so many that it would take humans overnight to progress and by sunrise they would be too easily seen by surveying drones, trapped, then would too easily lose a battle against Terrorist forces...

10 09 08 07 06 05 04 03-

Twenty-one, here we run, we run, we run.

Twenty-two.

Twenty-three.

Combat Dog Squad One are not mere humans, we are not misled, we are not frustrated, we are not even delayed. We Combat Dog leap over flaming trenches. We Combat Dog slip under electrocuting wires. We Combat Dog wait for irregular passage of cones of searchlights and mikes to compensate for human poverty of senses, we wait, we wait, we wait, we are ready to kill, we are eager to kill. We hear when to move, a few second counts past the light show when the sound reaches us-

10 09 08 07 06 05 04 03-

Here we draw our senses down from the spectacular, the inspiring, the glorious light and sound show that surrounds, here we move silent, swift, fatal shadows, demons of the night-

Twenty-four.

Twenty-five.

How can they not hear us, How can they not smell us, these are whistled queries that come to me from Squad One, from Squad Two, even from Squad Three caught in firefights with those once-students now Numbers- How can they not, is the wondering that summons only suspicion of conspiracy, only certainty of ambush, and what can I Professor say, can I Professor offer only ignorance-

Twenty-six. Twelve- Turn here, Turn here, Combat Dog Shock Troop One says, Turn where.

Twenty-seveen. Twelve-

Just a sec, just a sec, say I Professor, blossoming constellations of woken Terrorists moving here or there- where we expect but now quickly alert, now there is no need or possibility for silence, this entire VOMIT is awake-

Numbers, all enemy are Numbers...

Combat Dog Squad Two, look upwind, Numbers are coming full force, I Professor warn as I scan through this and this and that other drone surveying from seven thousand metres, unseen, untouched-

10 09 08 07 06 05 04 03-

Combat Dog Squad Three turn upwind, turn upwind before bridge, I Professor call out.

Combat Dog Squad One take the points of Hero Square coming up next street, I Professor call out, Squad Three leave the campus downwind they are waiting for you, so turn up to the Mountain street-

Numbers, all enemy are Numbers, would you have me list the casualties, the certain and the probable and the eventual deaths, would you humans have a greater grasp of the violence and horror and thrilling insatiable madness we call war, would you humans ever imagine the world anything but strife- our natural world, our most technological world, human or canine world, is original and final and constant and eternal opposition of forces, of war by any means, every means, all means...

Twenty-eight.

Combat Dog Our Leader knows my absolute loyalty, all my brothers in the Pack know that someone best remain in tactics, some one must have an overview, indeed it is only Poet who even ventures to dismiss my vital role, and does so only in such humour that is infected by human cynicism or nihilism-

Twenty-nine.

10 09 08 07 06 05 04 03-

And here on ridged moats of oil on water ignite to redirect HS- again primitive but also effective- and with this light show no less entrancing than computer simulations, come the crowded air of voices screaming orders from unknown source to unknown receiver, comes voices not alone of soldiers and Terrorists but also that foolish civilian human populace who have dared support them, but the searching crackle of triple-A is no more effective that the stuttering clatter of machine guns, the thrush of launched .50s, the rare crack of raised pistols whose intent is more in venting anger than actually downing our planes...

On Combat Dog footfall, this strangely unattended open space- for there can be no school, no dorm, no market, no plaza, no other reason, to use this area- each brother one after another race to the distant three positions then slip quietly into that objective direction as planned, though it seems far too canine-eye bright for them to be unobserved but our objectives are distracted by bombing reduction...

10 09 08 07 06 05 04 03-

Each count seeming shorter and shorter as we penetrate the city maze...

Combat Dog hold our weaponry in packs tight to our sides, our gray fur fading into night concrete...

Combat Dog do not tire...

Combat Dog look occasionally through our HUD but we do not pause to fire from any of our weapons, for we are not yet in position and we are unknown, unexpected, unimagined...

Combat Dog see even against strobe-lit moments of darkness with enhanced greyhound eyes...

Combat Dog run low and fast, turning, leaping, narrowing, crawling, as required to pass obstacles...

Combat Dog smell the river, the nearest humans, the groups of Military also so distracted by airfield bombardment, the internal refugees who might see us pass but we are gone so quickly that we are thought dream, nightmare, demons in flight, demons, and there is mounted no opposition...

Combat Dog Poet leads toward a power plant now used as an arsenal, storing much weaponry and ammunition, for it has been decided that if we sabotage and reduce their various sources of illegal arms we can resolve this RIF before next winter- cherished time for them because of the snowstorms and other inclement weather which hem in city dwellers, reduce the scope of our Operations...

Combat Dog Shock Troop One leads his squad in a long circle away from the river then back, our feint, our distraction, our flight purposing to draw out thoseTerrorists who think we flee, then turning a great circle, to reduce completely this bridge then that, trapping soldiers and tanks here or there, then accomplished go to that first field and clear for RV...

Combat Dog Our Leader leads to the fortified residential quarter where the ruling junta plots the downfall of the Open Trade Coalition, our Masters, but they have not prepared for the assault of Company D, or they would know that mined roads, wired fields, laser motion detectors, tank traps, Triple-A, .50 nests, HS batteries, prepared, resident MWP- all, all this weaponry, is only as effective as the males who man them and there is distinct lack of Military to use them as most soldiers have welcomed our Intervention to unseat the Terrorists, most soldiers are not truly like the Terrorists but at the moment after failed coups, after a failure to generate popular revolution, the true rulers and their corporate comrades have appealed to our sympathy just for this regional war- this, this- well this is all politics and as mentioned earlier and coded in our genes, we do not need to know, there is no politics here...

Combat Dog Our Leader is also armed with information- with knowledge that, though other sewer routes are mined and guarded, there is one route that remains always open and guarded only by household guards, for this is the escape route emplaced should we, the infidels, manage to successfully attack from the front. This route is below a religious building that has been spared the usual bombardment, that missiles have deliberately left alone, for such sacrilege would little endear our side with a populace whose spiritual concerns even threaten time to time, to overcome our doctrine of Open Trade, and so the long victory of pacifying Warlords and other Terrorists, of Winning the Peace, must include the humans on the street and in their claves as much as in their armies...

Combat Dog Our Leader intends to slip into the residence, an old Palace of some sort dating back to the previous, friendly regime, so quickly outlines Agent Blue’s plan, with some innovations that use our dog-nature in ways not familiar to humans, some innovations that are subject much later as to how much is this the plan of Company D, how much latent programming of this or that human...

Combat Dog Our Leader orders Shock Troop Two to begin firefight at the entry wall of the quarter, to feint, to dodge, to fall back and draw yet more foolishly pursuing Terrorists away from them- to lead them to the trenches if possible, where flare timers should easily cause maze of fire to engulf pursuers- then line directly for RV...

Combat Dog adopt whistle-code outside human hearing, this strategy that still reveals location by triangulation, though no they never know of what we speak...

Combat Dog Our Leader listens to the best Mint I can add to at this point in time, that the aerial assault is on pause against surprisingly stiff opposition, that Poet relays success in setting explosives around the power plant-

10 09 08 07 06 05 04 03 02 01 00-

New, unexpected eruption flashes into the night as recognition his squad succeeded, that Shock Troop One relays that humans are trying to surround him by the river but he has not decided whether to swim for the opposite side, which is close to the bridge Poet must cross...

Combat Dog Our Leader orders this, and on another thread warns Poet, who then agrees to radio silence before RV...

Combat Dog listen to espionage sources, each one offering the same sense of the terror we have sown, for as rumour from cell to cell, voice to voice, someone has discovered who we are. We are the Demons of childhood nightmares, and not woken refugees who are fleeing directly into the confused ranks of soldiers to appeal for protection, failing, then together fleeing to religious buildings to appeal for salvation. Unfortunately this brings them to walls of the elite residences already besieged by Shock Troop One, and they are attacked from behind as they are attacking toward, but the weaponry of the civilians are no more than distraction, so they flee when we turn on them...

Combat Dog have created havoc, such distress that we would imagine such outright assault should bring them down, but Politics, of course, cautions our irrational exuberance...

Combat Dog are inside the sewer that is the escape route, silent, drifting down smelly brown water, when we come to the net of mines but- even as we decide how to disable them- the net is drawn away by some soldiers and their rulers, who then rush in trembling, whimpering, sweating fear, to the prepared boat. Herd animals, yes Herd animals are by their nature cowards, and there is no struggle after we silently dispatch the household guards, there is ignorance and fear and pleas and invocations of their corporate and religious idols...

Combat Dog are ready to extract these few rulers as according to approved plan, when three wounded brothers hasten down from that religious building and say that exit is blocked, that only they three have escaped though any second now the explosives set behind should-

07 06 05 04 03 02 01 00-

Comes massive, ground shaking explosion from down that sewer-

Well that end is blocked, Sir.

And how did you imagine we would now reach RV.

Sir, you are Our Leader we will follow you anywhere.

Of course, but this is our Target and we are meant to render him to World Court or at least our corporate equivalent, and we will not deliver only a corpse.

Sir, we do not kill him now.

No we fight our way out, how serious are your wounds.

Sir, we will live.

So we live so we fight, Our Leader asserts.

And so there is yet another assault, an unplanned, improvised attack to that waiting helicopter meant to guide and protect the river escape of this cowardly warlord, this helicopter so suddenly penetrated by six surviving dogs who quickly end the twelve warriors tending and waiting. Our Leader notes the captured insurgents tied together and mewling as any Herd does in trembling fear at presence of full predators, revealed in active glory, revealed as pitiless slaves now Masters. Our Leader nods to this this and the other who are immediately killed, then turns his glare, his HUD, at the terrified human pilot.

Fly or Die, Our Leader orders.

#

136

#

Operation Six is an unintended test of the Pack under live, spontaneous, realtime conditions as no computer simulation could generate according to probabilities, dismaying and fortuitous accidents, and the untapped resources of Combat Dog. Who would find our escape and our sudden shift in fortunes, if they were only described through endless computations, if we are humans, only humans, is there not a series of improbable if not impossible events synchronous and progressing on entirely separate causal chains. Even I Professor might admit such simulacra cannot be true and real, for is not that the meaning of that term Real, that debased currency. That treacherous, manipulated and to some degree subjective sense of the world before any objective sense, creation on that fractal border under the twin guises of that subatomic game of chance we call uncertainty, and the hoary old skeptic of advanced math wizards called the incompleteness theorem. And there is, naturally, that structural or behaviorist fallacy that Observers not only effect the observed and this only by predetermined categories, but also that there is any equivalence between thought and deed, and this across that species barrier so useful in defeating biological viruses. Operation Six is an expression of our unique canine actions, the true beginning of what later is promoted or denied by organs of propaganda, the myth of invincible Combat Dog. Operation Six follows the program until this point, and we must contend that of our inspired moves this Action is a success, for that the Terrorists have only lately distributed their weaponry so the Power Plant is not near as full. That the second bridge bomb did not go off for unknown reasons. That we extracted only one of three Targets because the other two acted with unexpected bravery and stayed to fight rather than flee- we did as planned and perhaps in improvisation surprised our own Masters as much as the enemy. And by our actions introduced a kind of terror that no bombing campaign could create- we create the most feared opponent that those humans could ever imagine, we introduce to the world what we have become- Demons...

#

137

#

This success by which that usual parasitic relationship is reversed- that the Military precedes and alters the Political- can no longer be tightly controlled by only our Propaganda, by friendly Media, as too many sources of media are spawned like a disease across even our own world of Heartlands and Coastal States. War is no longer the failure of diplomacy, War has become yet another weapon in a political arsenal of deals, supports, and threats. We learn that success of this Mission has encouraged that slow gestation of the next generation of Combat Dog to accelerate, and learn that, much as with the technology of nuclear weapons and subsequent uselessness in actual use, the various technologies required to create animal warriors is soon international and famous beyond any scientist’s dreams. We are in varied states of injury, in first a local Mobile Hospital then transferred with great ceremony to a home country Extended Care Hospital, to there undergo rehabilitation therapies, to be eagerly displayed, our proudly erect tails in mutual recognition, to become new Heroes. We thirty who remain in Camp Diamond Dust, are not unaware of how this military action has been interpreted, or ignorant of the start of many new Combat Dog Programs, one of which delivers six soldiers to replace fallen brothers but never unbalancing the unity of the Pack, for these few are not even squires let alone Shock Troops, and none contest Poet, I Professor, or Our Leader. We wonder if it is merely that spontaneous knowledge gained through firefights, or are humans deliberately degrading the intelligence of our new brothers, in hopes perhaps to insure malleability and secure followers. We mention our losses then immediately dismiss them of any singularity, name them forever as members of the Pack no less and no more. We admit to killing that disrespectful Instructor, but this horrifies our new brothers, who underwent similar learning but never developed a killing fury of their Instructors, who refuse to imagine our Observers were ever so vulnerable. We note certain enhanced sensory capabilities against this diminished cognitive ability, we note an unhealthy level of admiration of the humans, we note that there is a failing attempt by the humans to redirect loyalty and even something like love, from their natural superior dogs to humans, to Herd members costumed to be Pack leaders, but we are confident a few weeks amongst true dogs, as us, will disabuse them of such mistaken ways. We all dominate the new dogs and there is some melancholy for some such as I Professor, that there are no new brothers with intellect, skills, memory and even contrary wisdom, with whom to further dialectically investigate our lives, to examine, question, answer and refute arguments we would come upon. I Professor even wonders whether his fortunate mutation is disregarded or seen as useless in further generations, even as year follows year, generation follows generation at an almost geometric rate, yet none of those who join Company D have anything approximate to his ability with thoughts and words. I Professor am so consumed by this loneliness, even in the core of the Pack, close to the mouth of Poet and the ear of Our Leader he does not initially notice that similar uniqueness originally befalls Poet and Our Leader, before that sudden expansion of the Program, though there are no equals or rivals to their prominence. Humans, Observers and Military, as Herd animals only, somehow imagine solitary being is a gift rather than a curse, and move to separate our three Leaders to head each their own groups of dogs, but they ask Our Leader who should go where and in his great tactical wisdom he corrects their errors and realizes that this is not an attempt to hamper or injure the Pack but to falsely reward its members in a human way, not aware we are the Pack, we are best rewarded by remaining beneath, beside, or above, but always, always, always most secure in our rightful places. Our Leader promotes instead his six Shock Troops, his next six, next, the next, the next again, though to humans such hierarchal organization seems worrisome if not outright dictatorial. I Professor am engaged to explain that this is the most effective way to expand Company D, to insure obeisance and minimize conflicts, that previous attempts at such discipline by this or that ruler has failed only because they were humans and humans are Herd, that true loyalty to one animal or to one system of thought whether political or religious is impossible when burdened by a lack of essential nature, when it is a matter of anxious, eternal, insidious concern for survival of the lonely self before that of your brother or your shared Herd. Observers are not comfortable with this proposition, but bow weakly to the assumption of responsibility by those geriatric Military commanders, who either recognize some sense of Political wisdom in any group dynamics or wish simply to demonstrate primacy over the men in white. Motivations among the Herd, is at least as mysterious to members of the Pack, even I Professor, as ours is to them...

#

138

#

Poet has become further and further distracted from the Pack, and, even as he accuses I Professor of corruption by the humans, is becoming more morbid and more unsettling in his satirical manner, assaulting even those few absolutes of our dog-nature. Order is disregarded. Hierarchy is mocked. Courage is inverted. And, most unfortunately, there is his defense of Art for Art’s sake, his assertion that censorship is a matter of entire communal values and most mistaken when imposed from above, his indefensible importing of certain human and thereby Herd values, is greatly admired by many of the Pack, even as this increases murderous antipathy of Shock Troops. Our Leader refuses to see these ideologies of Poet as dangerous or even mildly destabilizing, such is his absolute certainty in our canine core of being, and even asks I Professor in a moment of curiosity whether he is not in fact, jealous of the audience attending Poet versus the general disinterest of almost all brothers in learning to hear or speak-write.

Are you so lonely you question the words of a humorist are you so uncertain of your own dog-nature that you would question the core of another brother is this not the behavior of a Herd animal we rightly despise.

Sir he questions our usefulness to ourselves the Pack even while denying our correct Operations for our Masters.

Have you not yourself told us that this is the way we can buy ourselves out of bondage and does this not question for whom we fight and have you not told us more than once there are Herds among the Herd and does this not suggest our first loyalty is to the Pack.

Sir, he even contends I am apologist for the Masters’ wars, that have lost all our many brothers he accuses me of distorting true history, well of course, but only in the best interests of the Pack he refuses to smell that we the leaders are under no obligation to excuse or explain ourselves to them.

And so why need Poet explain his jokes to you, Professor, is it not possible he operates for the benefit of the Pack in ways we cannot smell or know how to replace.

Sir, his latest project is to shape his few followers into what humans call a Theatre, and so require them to temporarily assume the being of fictional characters beings who have no truth-value or existential value why, Sir, these characters are often no more than transparent caricatures of ourselves- there is one dog he severely mocks as one pretending to be human and so walking upright and dining with cutlery and even learning to speak-write-

We are too insecure to survive such comic ephemera Professor, would it not be best to laugh with others at yourself however disconcerting that might seem.

Sir. that he wounds me is of no issue but that he dares question our true hierarchy, that he questions our very being, that he wounds me-

Professor, we do not need to know...

#

139

#

Poet is more dangerous than Our Leader knows, but his dismissal of the frontal presentation I offer, of the errors Poet has fallen into, of the mistaken mechanism of Herd arts, of dissembling, distracting, even though they might be no more than parodies not truly entangled with my ego well not much anyway, these dangers need be exposed and enumerated by I Professor. At first I Professor meditate on how might I best be able to reveal such ideological dangers, but quickly I smell that this investigation requires my best attempts at similar dissembling, an irony of which I cannot rebut, an irony that in order to capture that stench of corruption I must myself evidence corruption. Shock Troops here decide this is yet further evidence that I wish to be human. I professor lick my genitals in dismissal. We are less than even as we are more than human, how can I explain this paradox, can I offer only more evidence that somehow this Herd has learned to fly higher and faster than any bird, swim longer and deeper than any fish, move through all terrain faster than any of our four-legged cousins, there is some human brilliance that has made the most of their least. Poet emphasizes this paradox, refusing to leave fine discriminations of ethical conundrums to we three leaders, himself, Our Leader, and I. What we truly are to humans, what we can be, has been from the beginning circumscribed by their designs. We are only their most advanced tools. We who have once thought ourselves Unity and Freedom, we are nothing to the Herd. We have survived now nineteen Operations but we feel no closer to illusory freedom, and it is this that is most responsible for engendering an audience receptive to Poet, but it is none of these others, only I Professor who understands the implications of his treacherous arts, who becomes at my own and Our Leader’s unspoken behest, the most prized convert to his alarmingly human Theatre project.

Terrifyingly alone, I must act for the greater good of the entire Pack, even those who most unwittingly despise me, even those I consciously abhor, and where a human might imagine it courageous to act alone I must remember there is no glory when the one acts against the many, when one knows that in doing so he is perhaps acting against dog-nature, against everything he believes...

#

140

#

Nothing surprising, after the fact, but there is an implicit immortality that has seemed as essential a quality as his braying canine laugh, this laugh that is his laugh that is all laughs, but no I refuse to accede to that dangerous mythic perception that he did not, cannot, will never die. Dangerous, I must assert, because it summons even so delicate a tracery of love that should honestly be directed to Our Leader. Dangerous, because it promotes that stench of human individuality, that insistence we each of us are no more than individuals and with our loss weaken the strength of the Pack. Dangerous, finally, that mourning his passing slides too easily into those human cosmological models where there is no death, there is the immortal soul, there is the final return to that original garden, as any arguments assayed by Poet, no his fine words will never deliver our promised garden. For there is a garden where Masters have yet to pollute or recast in only their own corrupt values, corrupt cities, where memories of that garden of fierce and loving creatures could walk brothers with brothers, predators rightly esteemed many, many, many times more worth than evil prey who will usurp the natural order of things. There is such a garden, where a dog is never lost of his pack, where bountiful prey submit joyous and predators exult righteous, there is such a garden, yes but it is not of this ruined, corrupt, antiseptic world. And we the Pack must forever see this in our future destiny and not regressive pathetic submission to any greater formal world we cannot see, or touch, or taste, or hear or even smell, no there is here our one world and we must recognize our immortality is in having chosen our acts, never suffering compulsion, having chosen now and forever and in truth nothing happens to us but that we should decide it, we claim it, we exult in our final freedom that no Masters could ever ascribe. Poet dies, yes Poet dies but we survive and in our dog-nature we may grieve briefly those first few weeks, but we know we are more than what happens to us. Poet dies, yes there is no evasion of the truth, yes I will tell you how this tragedy happens...

#

141

#

This is Operation Twelve, and in bounding confidence of our military Masters, against retrograde skepticism of medaled humans, of the core officers, we are directed to enter a hostile territory and extract a recalcitrant Warlord. Operation twelve resembles in many respects that Mission of many decades past, that Mission often referred to as exactly What Not To Do in surgically excising the cancerous tissue from the centre of his community and his hundreds of armed followers, and it is to later historians of the conflict here mentioned the responsibility to decide if the goals and means of its enactment reveal Incompetence or actually Conspiracy. I professor lick my genitals in dismissal. I Professor insist it is the latter, indeed in embedded Propagandist let alone relatively uncompromised Media, there is careful, unavoidable suspicion that the entire Operation is misconceived and serves only to bolster those of the Master Herd with the Herd, who claim that we are dogs, just dogs- that though we can be deployed in Battlefield actions, we can never supplant human Peacekeepers. As if it were our fault that the target and his followers have only ingested fearful propaganda that insured thoughts of our presence could only indicate Assault with No Prisoners, as if this species-centric prejudice have not already been mounted by our ostensible allies in the Media Military Complex, as if we could ever be understood only as humble functionaries of the correct Free Trade Coalition. We are given weapons, but these are not our weapons. We are given maps, but these are not our maps. We are given goals, but these are not our goals. We are hostage to the cancer of all Wars. We are hostage to Politics. And here is my guilt, that even as I Professor smells this Political Expediency Conspiracy, even at the beginning, I can create no strategy to support our troops of Operation Twelve, and here fail Our Leader as much as Poet...

#

142

#

We insert from above in Suck City VOMIT, clambering out from the Birds of MWP onto the roofs of various buildings surrounding the target area, where we expect to find him, him who has apparently agreed to final arbitration by the UN as long as he is not threatened with persecution of War Crimes, but in the few minutes allowed for us to come through that midday sky he has reconsidered his position. He wants to stall his extraction. He wants guarantees, wants assurances, wants protection we Combat Dog cannot offer. Politics. Did our Masters not imagine this eventuality, did not they decide to gamble a bit with the Operation and hope that he will change his mind and so be driven to defensive combat against dogs, just dogs. It is an axiom that the assaulting force need be about ten times that of the defenders, to accomplish triumph, but such calculations are human against human, and at a relatively equal technological arena- such calculations are simply mistaken in this situation, such calculations as later I recreate are incontrovertible proof our then-current Masters expected us to be radically reduced if not entirely eliminated. We are not afraid, then, and it is only Our Leader and Poet with whom I will share this hearing. Armies, it is said, are always ready to fight the previous war. This is another axiom we dogs, just dogs, have never heard of, and in all our practiced battles in UFZ, we know what we are doing. We may be briefly dismayed the action is reconceived as a daylight insertion, but we do not question Why. Politics...

#

143

#

Combat Dog enter this urban VOMIT. We have a current enough map of the urban area and the target building, and to the rooftop observers at first we might be thought only an unusually low flight meant to intimidate Warlords and their Militia- but then we hover over, do not land but by position block any rising helicopters such as they have access to, helicopters which are only for show, helicopters we would easily down in firefight or by missile. We hover, churning up unexpected haze of dust clouds through which our Combat Dog loom as threatening shadows even as we silently rappel down insertion ropes. We are down quicker than they can react but once on the ground true vulnerability and mistaken planning become obvious, we are now surrounded, exposed, yet in disregarding personal safety, Poet directs his Shock Troops and six squires to the edge of the roof to secure the area. Poet himself, with one Shock Troop and two squires, directly approaches the rooftop stairwell building- moving with natural, bold confidence so open that militia at first imagine they have in error not been alerted to arrival of these Combat Dog. Poet does not allow either the luxury of reflection or hostile reflex to wake the militia,

Stop, one announces,

Who, calls another,

What, calls a third,

Wait, calls the fourth- but Poet does not deign to hear any of them, instead increases his pace and rises to triumphant dominance on his rear legs with only a few metres between him and the door.

Call your Master, Poet says, his ride is here.

Who are you- you monster, says the one who speaks ragged, we have heard nothing of this, Demon-

Call your Master, or shall we expect not the least of his followers know us.

Maybe we will take you to him, Demon, this comes from the eldest on the roof, a leader whose helmet bristles with tech for scanning, hearing, communicating and accessing the unseen computer that co-ordinates.

Poet pauses, in his extreme peripheral vision sees the others nearing position.

O, I understand Sir, the leader says to no one, then nods an unseen confirmation.

Poet waits.

You are not taking him through the air, no, the man says.

Our transport will arrive downstairs in sixty seconds, Poet agrees.

And so you are here why.

Secure the area, Poet grins in a way only the ignorant would imagine a smile.

Secure the rooftops, an ambitious security mission-

And too easily accomplished, Poet nods his crown towards the man and the red laser target dot rests on his chest. At this moment, signaled in some way by the first man, all the humans un-shoulder and rapidly scan with their projectile guns. Not advanced, not smart, but in the roiling clouds of haze that unfortunately defuses laser targeting- even so projectiles remain lethal-

No, snarls Poet-

At this point the varied recording visual devices, those recovered and played for the propaganda force by this Warlord, those of the squires, the Shock Troops, of Poet himself- all reveal how rapidly our Combat Dog seize initiative and sense hostile intent only microsecond before the first gun is fired. Poet raises his target from armored chest to open helmet and fires the first shot but-

One. One.

Serpent SAM launches from the right, directly into the belly of the first MWP-

One. Two.

MWP lurches out of control but falls so slowly towards the roof-

One. Three.

Combat Dog Shock Troops disable and fire the rooftop snipers but even when the roof terrace is momentarily clear-

One. Four.

Roof hatches open here, there, between our valiant Combat Dog- our Poet- and a squad of heavily armed Terrorists, who are immediately thrown into this world of intense firefight, who have no questions, who know before emerging that we are Enemy and no, the Warlord has accepted no extraction so we are attempting to kidnap him-

Two. One.

And there is nowhere to escape, not from the roof into the air as the MWP crashes and the accompanying two and three MWP rise automatically at 13G and confetti erupts to snare Serpent SAM launched by our erstwhile ostensible ally Warlord, no, not from the roof-

Two. Two.

And down on the streets around the building, where the wheeled transport is approaching, where the extraction is meant to be accomplished, where the militia suddenly attack and drive against them in the road- no, there are no accompanying visuals and only fragmented audio that affirm no more than that our brave Combat Dog, here as above, now as before, as later- are ambushed and given no exit. Politics, again, triumphs our righteous fury that would have us launch rescue and punitive sorties, Politics as our Masters decide instead we shall not act but only retract our passionate desires, our true acts-

Two. Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight-

Leave no man behind, yes this is the original credo of all soldiers, but we are dogs, just dogs. Politics does not see dogs as soldiers. Poet dies, and even as we examine recovered visuals and audio noise not even dogs may decipher- even now, we cannot say we know what those last moments were, we cannot take his death upon ourselves, no one can, no one. If nothing else, even humans must admit there is no certainty but the coming of death and this is in every moment, this is a recognition that no one else can die for our death, this is a truth which only our power as members of the Pack, can sustain any value to our loss, can make death an essential companion to life, can prove that we are more than just a momentary flicker of being against that final nothingness-

I Professor choose to believe Poet in his final moments realized he is lost, that there is no escape, and in his final act deliberately swallowed his poison rather than suffer humiliations of capture, torture, all that deliberate theatre of cruelty Masters can contrive- no, Poet chooses death before dishonour...

#

144

Poet dies. At first, the natural dog reaction is instinctual mourning, our proudly erect tails down in mutual recognition, is the anguish of loss which humans can only cover with comforting lies, in appeals to this or that transcendent cosmology that pretends the deceased has somehow become separate spirit from the physical- that he has essentially survived into some sort of extra-temporal being. Fools. All of us have souls, contrary to that ideology which describes all animals as no more than elaborate clockwork mechanism- all sentience, for how can humans claim to be anything more- or none of us have souls, none of us is other than or more than what we live here in the moment, yes this is the brave truth integral and inescapable to us Combat Dog. We live towards Death, there is no escape, there is only that reality of the Pack that is a reality of an entirely different category from mere flesh and bones, the only reality we can truly know.

The Pack is the ideal towards which our subjective reality must always be subservient, to this highest abstraction, this is the transcendence we can know, so that Poet dies- yes dies absolutely- is only that his function must be assumed by another, in this case his personal squire, and so his role in the Pack is not vacant. I Professor might rather assume such role, if I could, and have hopes this Poet will have a more correct canine understanding of the relationship of Combat Dog to our human Masters, but from his first song I discover my hopes destroyed. Poet is as contrary and inimical to our hierarchy of the Pack and if it is true he does not initiate that deplorable cult of absent predecessor, our proudly erect tails in mutual recognition, he does not argue against it, and only on Our Leader’s orders allows himself the name Poet. Perhaps this way of being is the only way Poet can be Poet, I Professor cannot claim to know, but the wisdom of allowing this nauseatingly human conception of an Afterlife, as Our Leader determines, perhaps shortens that natural period of grief and is certainly embraced by the Shock Troops- for whom Poet has miraculously been rehabilitated as some sort of canine totem, some ideal to which they strive, some possibility of being that only Our Leader is beyond. Poet is dead, Long live Poet...

- About 18 000 words

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