This story is a piece of fan-fiction about the game Supreme Commander by Gas Powered Games (the spiritual successor to my favourite RTS game of all time, Total Annihilation), which I originally posted on their community forums in 2008. It was originally titled “Tales of the United Earth Federation”, but since I never wrote a sequel, it’s now just a , um, “tale”…
A Tale of The UEF
B-4Z-176-Delta-B, or “Baz”, to his friends, was born to the world of Griffin IV in the year 3845. And from the very start, he was the coolest kid on the block, with all the top-of-the-range toys and gizmos you could ever wish for. He was, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the best washing-machine CPU’s that money could buy. Part of Go-Kleen’s triple ‘A’ range of appliances, with an all new quantum-accelerated personality matrix, and enough hardware accessories to keep your underpants skid-free for weeks.
He’d graduated from the production-line with flying colours; and now stood proudly on the gleaming white V-Mart shop-floor with all the other household appliances awaiting purchase. Little did he know that some even greater purpose already awaited him. I say “he”, but AI chips are really gender non-specific, yet when he spoke to his neighboring kitchen appliance (a Dish-Wash 9800GTX-Turbo), it was with a distinctly masculine tone.
“Did you see that idiot behind the counter today? He was demonstrating my 20-second super rinse cycle to some customers, and almost broke my detergent replicator!”
“I know” replied the dish washer tersely, “I don’t know why they don’t just use service droids to show customers around. They wouldn’t be nearly as careless.”
Suddenly, a dozen soldiers dressed in full combat gear attempted to burst through the front door, but failed because it was an automatic door which quickly moved out of the way. The men were led by an officer of no particular significance; besides the fact that he looked a little embarrassed about failing to kick open the door in a dramatic fashion. He attempted to regain his composure, and strided over to the checkout terminals. He spoke inaudibly to the cashier at the terminal, and then grabbed their PA system microphone. The cashier looked aghast, but seemed to think better of complaining about it.
“Attention shoppers!” the officer’s voice boomed over the tannoy speakers, “this building is being seized for use by order of the United Earth Federation.” The officer seemed hesitant to continue but did anyway, “do not panic, or offer resistance to this occupation. We ask you to leave the premises calmly. Return to your homes, and tune in to your personal security announcement systems for further information… We suspect that Seraphim forces are approaching orbit –“ the officer was drowned out by screams of panic at his last words, those that he was clearly most reluctant to say. He continued shouting evacuation instructions into the microphone, but nobody was listening; they were too busy running for the exit instead.
Over the next few days, Baz and his friends sat neglected in the V-Mart whilst UEF personnel barricaded and reinforced the building, and very little else happened until a clearly high-ranking official arrived on-site. His would-be smart uniform looked travel-worn and disheveled.
“It’s getting real ugly,” said the official to a soldier who he presumed was in charge, “Seraphim bombers are laying waste to the northern hemisphere. We’re being forced to resort to drastic measures, and I’ve got word from HQ about sourcing some assets from places like this.” The soldier to whom he was speaking looked around incredulously. The electricity supply had long since been cut, and many overturned shelves and their contents littered the darkened store.
“What on Griffin do we have here that could help fight against the Seraphim?” he said eventually. The official passed him a small, leather portfolio.
“This directive states a binding contract between AppSynch and the UEF. AppSynch manufacture many of the processing computers in regular household appliances like these.” he gestured to the contents of the store, “AppSynch are confident that they can reprogram them easily as effective and advanced AI systems for an experimental line of combat machines, making them deadly in the field. Sourcing existing chips from these appliances has been deemed cheaper and quicker than manufacturing new ones, so we’re here to take the lot.” As he spoke, the official walked right over to Baz and bent down, peering into his drum interior.
“Well.” The soldier didn’t even bother to mask his laughter. “Sounds crazy to me, but by all means, go ahead.”
“Good.” Replied the official, and pressed Baz’s power button.
One month later.
“Where am I?” thought Baz. Or at least, Baz is what he thought his name was. Or was it Boz? Then, as his memory banks POSTed, even more questions came to mind. “What? Who’s been messing with my BIOS?” he thought angrily. “I wasn’t even due for a firmware update! And why is my spin cycle set to… alright, what the hell is going on?” Then, a blinding light flashed before his optical sensors, and he heard a voice belonging to an aged man.
“Was the combat subroutine successfully implemented? Oh yes.” it asked.
“Yes, only a 1% margin of error in the code’s patch.” said a second voice belonging to a woman, who sounded eastern European.
“Wonderful, wonderful, oh yes.” The man continued, “And were there any errors, my child?”
“The memory format was not completely successful. But it matters not, this batch have no conflicting parameters in their personality matrices anyway.”
“I see” concluded the man. He seemed to be thinking for a moment, but then he said, “Well, ready this batch for deployment immediately. I am eager to see the results, oh yes.”
“If the field tests are successful, we will upload the new schematic to the UEF commander who is being sent to reinforce the on-planet stronghold.”
The solid white light directly in front of Baz was replaced by a rotating red warning light and the sound of klaxons. His confusion was paramount when function calls in his programming were initialized by auxiliary processors not directly under his control. A heads-up-display began printing debug information to its screen:
DOCKING STATION CONNECTION ESTABLISHED
GENERATOR ONLINE 100%
WEAPONS ONLINE 100%
NANOSERVO SYSTEMS ONLINE 100%
ALL SYSTEMS NOMINAL
COMBAT FACILITIES INITIATED BY <<CLASSIFIED>>
ERROR: TARGETTING SYSTEM NOT CALIBRATED
TARGETING SYSTEM CALIBRATION INITIATED BY <<CLASSIFIED>>
WARNING: WEAPONS ENGAGED!
Movement that Baz was unfamiliar with brought two arm-like appendages up through 90 degrees at the elbow, pointing directly in front of him. “Since when did I have arms?” he thought. Now that the light was no longer obscuring his surroundings, he could see that he was in some sort of dark hangar, and that the voices had been coming from an overhead balcony. He could not see either side of him, but suspected that he was with many others in a similar situation, since he heard dozens of servomotors lifting their respective arms besides his own. Then, at the opposite side of the hangar, holographic targets were being projected onto the far wall.
Somehow, Baz knew what was expected of him. He instinctively took control of his arms, pointed them at the target, and fired the guns that were mounted on each of them. He wasn’t even aware that the guns had been loaded with blank cartridges, but his targeting systems were gathering data and compensating for misalignment all the same.
The only sound was the tinkling sound of the empty brass cartridges bouncing on the floor. Then the restraining clamps holding him against the wall were released and he stumbled forwards a bit, not accustomed to the sensation of walking; he could feel several pre-programmed algorithms clashing in order to keep him balanced. He turned and looked around. Along the wall were fifteen docking-stations, including the one he had just stepped out of. He glanced up at the overhanging wall above the stations and saw the mighty UEF logo, flanked either side by red and green banners. Above each and every docking station was written “AppSynch: Experimental Mech Marine AI”, followed by a number for each unit. Baz was number 8. He turned to look at number 7 and saw for the first time what a Mech Marine, what he, looked like. Number 7 was looking back at him, and although it was impossible for a robot to have any sort of facial expression, seemed surprised that Baz had stepped forward out of his dock.
“Err, hello?” said Baz.
“Baz, is that you?” said the Dish-Wash GTX’s voice from number 7.
Some time later, Baz felt as though he was getting the hang of this Mech Marine business. He understood now that his real purpose was to kick some alien ass, and not wash cotton at 30 degrees. In fact, what the hell was cotton, anyway? Maybe it was a type of bullet that wasn’t very good at killing Seraphim stuff, because all Baz knew was that cotton sounded like it was for pansies. He was strapped securely by a harness to the drop pod, along with five others. He wasn’t even remotely taken aback when the pod bay doors opened on the underside of the UEF dropship. There was a whoosh as the remaining pressurized air escaped, and he was exposed directly to the vast, icy emptiness of space. As the ship soundlessly rotated with infinite slowness, dust and stars sparkled as they drifted across his view. Eventually, the hazy edge of planet Griffin IV’s atmosphere crept into sight, brilliantly lit with the bloom of the system’s sun. All that Baz thought of was his mission. That he had to meet up with the UEF commander in his prodigious Armoured Command Unit on the planet below, and assist him with a glorious defeat over the Seraphim scum. With a jolt, the magclamps released the drop pod. The sudden release of the pod caused it to spin slightly faster than the dropship itself, and the planet was twisted out of view until Baz was looking back at the very ship he had departed from. Two more pods were jettisoned in succession; and then with a second bump, their engines silently ignited and the three pods began their long streaking decent towards the planet. The dropship ever shrinking into the distance as they approached the planet, the heat shield extended, and a roar of red and orange sparks torrented past Baz like a waterfall of lava, who thought of red dye turning things pink for only the slightest of split seconds before getting a grip on himself. The pod was now falling through the deep blue sky, filled with fluffy clouds. The heatsheild retracted, replaced instead by wings with which to glide. The last leg of the journey, they were getting quite close to the ground now. They were going to pass right over the Seraphim base, and anti-air defenses were already taking aim. White-hot plasma pierced the air, and violent flak-like explosions rocked the pod as it raced down to the surface. Baz looked at the nearest pod, only to see it take a direct hit from a plasma bolt, breaking it cleanly in half and turning it into a burning inferno. Like a meteorite, it arced away towards the ground, leaving a fiery trail and black smoke behind it.
He had made planet fall, and arrived at the UEF base named “Fort Clarke”. The base was enormous, but ever shrinking under wave after wave of Seraphim attacks. They were to depart for the front lines immediately under orders of General Fletcher. Baz boarded a C14 Star Lifter Tech 2 transport along with his fellow Marines. He knew they’d have to set down on the front-line; there was too much anti-air fire to be hanging around for long. The transport raced above units battling savagely, wrecked buildings being reclaimed or repaired by engineers. The Marines shot at anything that was even dubiously un-UEF. You couldn’t take any chances with units that might have been captured by underhanded Seraphim engineers. At the same time, the transport weaved left and right, dodging incoming fire, and in between columns of thick black smoke rising out of deep craters.
“At last!” thought Baz, “It’s time!”
The transport turned through 90 degrees, its engines in full reverse. The g-forces of stopping so abruptly wrenched at Baz in his magclamp. It swooped down and dropped the Marines right on the front line. Within the blink of an eye, it was retreating, leaving the Marines with no option but to fight. Before it was even out of sight, the transport was gunned down by some Seraphim interceptors passing overhead. It crashed down to the ground with a deafening explosion.
“This is it” said Baz, spurring on his comrades, “CHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGE!” He ran forwards in formation with his fellow Marines, cresting a ridge and taking aim at a Seraphim Thaam, a Tech 1 medium tank. Just as he prepared to fire, he was annihilated by a single shot from a Tech 1 point defence, his debris blasted across the landscape into charred oblivion.