Dateless Discord Dominance in Digital Dreamdorf Domain
Scott S. Haraburda
Should this tale, by arousing the imagination, assist to prevent in the future even one such case of disregard of principles, it will not have been written in vain.
– Ernest D. Swinton, The Defence of Duffer's Drift
It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.
– J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
I triumphantly defended the Broghil Pass, protecting Afghanistan from Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistani, perfected without friendly casualties. Captain Realness Morpheus, my company commander, summoned me to his tactical operations center (TOC), no doubt to honor me for my blossoming tactical prowess and fearless leadership. After waiting several hours for his arrival, I felt him tap my shoulder from behind, commanding me to arise. Perhaps, he was going to pin a Silver Star medal on my chest. Maybe even a more distinguished medal. Or better yet, he was going to slap captain bars onto my uniform. Then, everything faded away, just like the swift obliteration of Pompeii when Mount Vesuvius spewed tons of molten ash and blazing pumice over the ancient Roman city.
“Arise, Lieutenant Backsight Forethought. Time to pack your duffle on the mic-vee.” Opening my eyes and scanning my location, I soon realized that the Afghanistani mission was nothing more than a dream, rather a series of dreams. The hardened face of Sergeant Mulish Pundit, my platoon sergeant, stared at me. As I sat up, wearing nothing but my skivvies, I noticed she wore something other than the Army Combat Uniform (ACU). She tossed me a set, similar to hers, to don. “Honestly, L.T. I don’t understand your down-range sleeping habits. What’s more, you’ll never catch me without my full battle rattle, awake or asleep. Besides, the old man needs to see us in ten mikes.” I wanted to warn her not to become distressed over it, but thought better of it.
Instead of ACUs, we wore the three-layered Combat Uniform System. The inner layer contained a microclimate heating-cooling system to maintain our body temperature, the middle layer a power-computer combination system, with the outer layer protection from small caliber rounds and scrap metal debris. The computerized middle section connected to our headgear and transmitted visual displays of relevant information, such as GPS mapping and global computer network searches, and supported wireless satellite communications.
A recent engineering innovation was the human computer interface (HCI) system stuffed inside our headgear. Via wireless proximity connectors linked to implanted nanobots in our brains, this HCI connected our minds to a collective network. Together with eliminating clumsy auxiliary equipment, such as keyboards and cables, this system replaced artificial intelligence with natural human intelligence, allowing humans instead of programming codes to control computers. Instead of feeling like a revolutionary superhero, I had the penetrating notion that a mad scientist toiling away in some secret laboratory somewhere was transforming me into a cyborg warrior, nothing but a dehumanized drone assimilated into ‘the Collective.’ Reckoning that resistance was futile, I soon comprehended that I was no longer in Kansas, or Afghanistan, or …
Now important, though, was my new mission and urgency to chat with Morpheus in his TOC. Hence, I quickly dressed and tossed my duffle into the back of my mic-vee, otherwise known as a mechanized infantry combat vehicle. These vehicles hadn’t changed much during the past several decades. They were still armored fighting vehicles designed to transport Soldiers on the battlefield. My infantry teams each controlled one, a vehicle capable of hauling its team leader, the gunner, the driver, and six passengers. With three squads, I controlled seven of them, one of which was my command vehicle. My platoon sergeant always rode in one of the other six, rotating from one to another each time we travelled.
A few hundred meters south from my platoon bivouac site and on the eastern riverbank under the Guarapiranga Avenue Bridge, the company headquarters encamped. We were on the south side of São Paulo. Before swinging by the TOC, my mind filled with thoughts of my many dreams. They each felt real. All of them. Come to think of it, there were dozens … no hundreds of them. In each, I led a platoon defending a drift, or some large mound or hill, in a combat zone.
Spanning several centuries, I remembered combat operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam, and Korea. I fought the Germans during both World Wars, and even the Boers in the South African War during the latter part of the nineteenth century. Moreover, I possessed vivid recollections of general lessons I learned in each dream, reliving each dream until I successfully completed my mission. It was as though I was a sentient being with artificial intelligence engaged in Monte Carlo computer simulations to develop optimal military principles for different historical or future scenarios. But, this wasn’t possible. I was able to perceive my environment with human senses of hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch. As I even experienced human emotions of amazement, anger, fear, happiness, love, and sadness, I dismissed this nightmarish possibility. Lest emotions could be programmed or I was irrationally loony.
Once the other platoon leaders had arrived, Morpheus provided basic information about our mission, which concerned noncombatant evacuation operations (NEO) in the heart of São Paulo, the largest city in the Americas. We were to locate, safeguard, and rescue Americans, together with friendly third-country nationals, from imminent danger. As this was a hostile environment, we intended to conduct forcible entry operations, establish temporary defensive perimeters, conduct armed escort convoys, and withdraw under fire. Once he completed his brief, Morpheus activated the Hologram TeleConference (HTC) system so that we could watch a real-time three-dimensional video of our task force commander, Lieutenant Colonel Hubristic Kingfish, as she provided us the customary combat mission brief.
“Gentlemen, Ladies, we have a serious problem in Brazil. As you may have heard from recent news reports, this country has been plagued with a shrinking economy, growing unemployment, rising inflation, and swelling criminal activities. With poor morale and rampant desertions, its peace officers and conscripted Soldiers are unable to protect the people in São Paulo, a large megacity with a population in excess of thirty million. From the safety of his capital of Brasilia last night, Brazil’s president has asked our Commander-in-Chief to evacuate our citizens from this city. That’s why you’re here, to protect our people. Any questions?”
Hearing none, she continued. For the next several mikes, Kingfish described several problems facing us. First, the extensive water crisis in the city, with less than half its people having access to clean potable water, gave immense power to any individual or group controlling it. Next, with about 300 in our company, the people of São Paulo outnumbered us by more than 100,000 to one, so we had to avoid any unnecessary conflicts if possible. Further, the huge rich-poor gap meant that most of these people were impoverished and might do anything, not to mention suicidal attacks, to pilfer what we possessed. Also alienating its people were their lack of personal security, limited access to education and health services, lack of faith in politics, and inconsistent practices by its justice system and police. Finally, the corrupt local government officials, military, law enforcement, and businesses had fueled violence from its organized crime and paramilitary organizations. It was this violence that forced us to conduct NEO in the city.
Kingfish finished her brief with, “Your company commander has full details of this mission, codenamed Operation Roadrunner. Follow his instructions completely. Remember, failure is not an option.” In unison, we declared, “Roger that, ma’am!” The HTC ended as her image faded away, reminding me again of Pompeii and its thousands of residents fading from existence two millennia ago – not a good thing to ponder before a combat mission.
Morpheus provided the detailed concept of operations for Roadrunner. Third platoon would lead the effort to secure the avenue of approach from the riverbank into our downtown objectives, and would later provide secured escorts of evacuees. Our attached combat engineer platoon would follow them, clear any restrictive obstacles along the avenue, and support withdrawal efforts. The company headquarters with its support platoon would establish a jump TOC in the city hall near the end of the avenue. First platoon would follow them and continue further north to several state government offices, identified as Objective Regret Table Mountain. Second platoon, which was mine, would travel as the rear element and continue further northeast to the Altino Arantes building, identified as Objective Duffer’s Drift. We would cordon and search our two objectives, safeguard any evacuees found, and transfer them to third platoon at Release Point (RP) Kraal, located near the jump TOC. After we would finish escorting the evacuees to the riverbank, the end state of our mission, a small Brazilian naval ship would transport them to the task force’s beachhead near Praia Grande, the location of Kingfish’s Command Post (CP), for final evacuation from Brazil.
In our intelligence update afterwards, we heard that dangersome belligerent forces were in the area, several astute goons from the Comando Vermelho drug cartel and savage thugs from paramilitary street gangs of the Primeiro Comando da Capital. They were last seen in the vicinity of the Mirante do Vale building, which was less than a click north of our two objectives. This building was identified as Fire Point (FP) Incidentambia. Once I finished learning everything about my mission, I returned to my platoon and briefed them on what we needed to accomplish. With lessons learned from hundreds of Dreamdorf battles, I was going to be successful. I had to be. No one else in the company, or even the entire dang-blasted army, had my tactical prowess. Using numerous lessons learned, I knew how to win combat battles in any situation. I was ready, and ensured my superb out-of-this world plans would be one hundred and ten percent perfect.
Pundit bellowed, “You lily-livered scum bags, saddle up! We depart for Disney’s Space Mountain in five mikes!” Fearing her more than Pennywise, the dancing clown from deadlights, my Soldiers embraced the suck and saddled up without delay.
Waiting for our departure time, we conducted pre-combat checks and topped off our mic-vees. As we did this, I thought about my mission and how we were going to accomplish it, from security and communications responsibilities to search and rescue efforts. Unlike dealing with mountaintops, rivers, and roads in rural warfare, I had to handle skyscrapers, bridges, Metrô tunnels, and utilities in a megacity. This included its problems of open landfills, polluted water, and unreliable energy grids. Although completely engrossed in my thoughts, I couldn’t help but notice the shanties lining the riverbank, each ventilated with scattered bullet holes in its haphazard construction of cardboard boxes, sheets of plastic, and corrugated metal. Littered throughout this rancid garbage dump masquerading as a shanty town, thousands of impoverished guttersnipes wandered aimlessly without any coherent purpose. I wondered what these bums thought of our warm clothes, powerful vehicles, savory food, and clean water.
The time for my serial in the convoy to depart the start point couldn’t have come soon enough. But, once it had, our immediate focus switched to convoy security. Each of our mic-vee autocannons were loaded and ready to engage potential targets each vehicle commander would identify using binocular engaged goggles along the route. Accompanying me in my vehicle was my ad hoc support team – a combat medic, a Brazilian government facilitator, and an embedded reporter from some obscure Miami news station. Also organic to my platoon and accompanying Pundit was one of those new ‘MacGyver’ teams with three experts capable of improvising communications, energy, and water supply within the urban infrastructure. My platoon sergeant wanted to employ this team personally. Seeing no benefits to my flawlessly planned mission and with no death-wish desire to provoke Pundit, alias Pennywise, I granted her this request.
While we drove through the pothole-filled six-lane roads over rusting bridges and past decaying buildings, the scenery quickly changed from garbage dump design through industrial waste motif to building ruins pattern – definitely not hometown USA. I thought about Los Angeles appearing like this if our government would ever abandon it to the locals. After we had reached RP Kraal, I felt relieved that none of the millions of natives made any movement to attack us. Perhaps they believed we were gods who could rain tremendous torment upon them if they had attacked.
On the northeast side of the newly-formed jump TOC, my platoon established a temporary defensive position. Once we conducted a quick headcount to ensure we still had everyone, we began dismounted movement towards Objective Duffer’s Drift. Each squad forged ahead using double columns for mutual support with interlocking sectors of fires as needed, amidst their mic-vees driving between their columns with supporting firepower.
I launched two of our hummingbird drones to provide us visibility of the terrain with continuous aerial observation of our route,. My digital telephone operator (DTO), Corporal Egghead Anorak, controlled these drones and transmitted the video images into our nanobot-implanted brains. Thanks to modern cyborg technologies, we had excellent visual intelligence with superb eyes on target. As we searched for threats along the way, we hoofed it a short distance north on São Bento Street a couple of blocks, turning east down Antonio Prado Plaza to our final destination. The few natives we encountered quickly scurried away when they spotted us. As luck would have it, the gods smiled on us again when we arrived without any incident – nothing but a leisure jaunt down Park Avenue, Brazil style.
From a network search of Altino Arantes Building transmitted to my cyborg brain, I unearthed some valuable facts. Each of the nearly 40 floors in this building could be accessed from one of about a dozen elevators or its central staircase. By good luck, the staircase possessed a large opening for inside drone reconnaissance. Since the main entrance hall was a large open room with defendable access points, I located our platoon CP there. And, because of the water crisis, I assumed none of the building’s water reservoirs contained potable water and relied upon just the water we brought with us. I also learned that this building housed the state bank’s headquarters. No wonder this was one of our objectives. We had to bloody secure someone’s riches.
From the outside, we observed broken windows and no signs of electricity. But before we busted into the building, I sought current intelligence inside it. Anorak recovered both drones and reconfigured them with both explosive detection sensors and through-concrete detection scanners. Once they were reconfigured, he launched them to scan each floor. Using intelligence synchronization to our common operating picture, these scans linked to the situational map of each floor, augmenting the building’s geospatial maps with real-time information of weapons, munitions, or people. Our teams used this to aid their search efforts.
Once scanning completed, I ordered first squad to cordon and secure the outside of the building, followed by second squad conducting combat entries to secure the first floor. In securing the floor, they attached motion sensor triggered stun-guns in the staircase leading from the basement and in each of the elevators. If triggered, these sensors would transmit detection alarms through the platoon’s communication network, which were connected to our cyborg brains. Once they finished securing the first floor, I led third squad and my support team into the building and established my CP, where I managed the remaining search of the building.
My two inside squads leapfrogged between floors using the central staircase as they ascended until they reached the top of the building. Under the observation of Pundit with my MacGyver team in reserves, these squads searched each floor using their two teams to search each with a small reactionary element in the hallway. Before entering rooms, the teams dispatched ant drones inside them and employed their handheld ultrasound and x-ray scanners of the walls. These provided them visual observation of what lay behind closed doors before kicking them in. During their search inside these rooms, they launched housefly drones to assist them as they hunted for people, weapons, explosives, documents, and any other items of importance.
In addition to performing reactionary force duties, the MacGyver team experts escorted all individuals and confiscated items to my CP for processing. Using biometric scans of their faces, Anorak identified no known insurgents, nearly five dozen potential sympathizers, and just eleven evacuees – all adults and no children. Once my DTO identified them, we evicted the sympathizers one at a time from the building after informing them they couldn’t return before our departure the next morning. I was not sure if they understood us through our computerized language translation emitters, capable of understanding and transmitting more than six thousand spoken languages in the world. Although many of the words they spoke resembled Portuguese, it was as though they spoke gangland slang. Just like the Navajo Code talking Marines did to the Japanese during World War II, this made our analyzing human intelligence nearly impossible. Evicting them was not without incident, though. Before being evicted, one of the sympathizers threw a hissy fit, briefly grabbed one of my Soldiers guarding the main entrance and called him a spineless maggot in unbroken English. Watching the incident, I assumed she really didn’t want to depart, which I later learned was not her intent.
We finished our search and rescue efforts late in the evening. Not wanting to subject the evacuees to any unknown risks lurking in the darkness of the streets, I directed we remain in the building until daybreak. Besides, I knew that closely packed buildings, alleys and sewer systems offered cover, concealment, and ready-made attack positions to our enemy. This was too much of a risk for our high-valued non-combatant evacuees – four Yanks, three Canadians, two Brits, and two Germans. It was as though we had rescued fifth-generation descendants from the Battle of the Bulge in honor of its centennial anniversary later in the year. Thinking back to this battle triggered memories of another vivid dream I had about the heroic defense of Krinkelt during which we tried to stop the Wehrmacht’s last major offensive of the war. How strange, I thought.
Instead of fighting battle-tested Germans in snow-covered Belgium, I defended a crumbling skyscraper in stormy Brazil against a hybrid threat of street-savvy drug cartel goons and armed street gangsters. These were thugs who controlled natives through violence, fear, and crime. They also exploited religious and ethnic tensions throughout the city. Problematic to my plans were the subterranean labyrinths of subway and utility pipes that provided them undetected transit throughout my area of operation, and possibly into my building. In essence, I recognized that my enemy had the unquestioned home court advantage.
Just in case, though, I developed a comprehensive fire support plan to protect the building throughout the night. In the three-dimensional space surrounding it and extending one click in all directions, I declared a kill box, allowing engagement of any threatening targets within this box without confirmatory permission. As part of my brilliant plan, I assigned first squad security of the first floor, including access to the building. Second squad had sector of fires for the north and east sides of the building, with third squad responsible for the other two sides. Likewise, these two squads employed their fleet of organic drones for roving surveillance, both inside and outside. And for target acquisition, we employed the drones’ laser painting capabilities, which enhanced the effectiveness of their firepower. Using the latest artificial intelligence coding, these drones interfaced with the squad’s handheld decision-making computer programs, thereby reducing human errors.
Because of the humanitarian nature of the mission, I planned prevention of fratricide, or blue-on-blue unintentional killing of fellow Soldiers or non-combatants. For this effort, I declared the first floor of the building a no-fire area in which all lethal fires were prohibited without my direct approval. To enhance my rules of engagement (ROE), I directed maximum use of non-lethal weapons such as claymore mines filled with rubber balls, pulsed-energy projectiles, sponge grenades, and thunder generators. Further, I required all lethal weapons remain selected on non-combatant safety, the computer enhancement to weapons that required threat identification of targets before launching lethal rounds.
From initial analyses of the battlefield from not observing any thug employing drones, cyber warfare, or other sophisticated weapons, I assumed we didn’t have to worry about their use of modern technology. However, to protect my evacuees, I developed a splendid addition to my impeccable plan to deny these hoodlums the opportunity to inflict damage to the building. I applied deceptive trickery to mislead them on our capabilities and intentions. Employing the three biologically enhanced android robots at my disposal, one from each squad, my DTO programmed them to roam the northern streets, providing the perception that I had more Soldiers within my platoon. In addition to providing additional video surveillance and detection of cyber electromagnetic activities down-range of our site, these were self-aware autonomous robots, each able to adapt to new situations and capable of making their own decisions. Adding to my trickery, I deployed our 100k lumen lighting system between us and FP Incidentambia to indicate our desire to move north. Any enemy with half a brain should have easily deduced that we intended to advance further north through the downtown area, instead of preparing for the opposite, a complete withdrawal from the city. My excellent addition adhered with the honorable philosophies of Sun Tzu that, ‘all warfare is based on deception.’ Perhaps my perfect plan would go down in military history as the classical ‘Backsight Forethought Defense Technique.’
Each hour throughout the night, my squads provided sit-reps of their current situation, which Anorak or I consolidated and transmitted to the company jump TOC. Because I wanted my Soldiers to be well rested for the next day’s activities, I directed a four-hour sleep plan with one-third of my unit awake at all times in rotating two-hour security shifts. Planned for zero-dark-thirty the following morning when the entire platoon would awaken, we would have nearly an hour to prepare for our dismounted withdrawal from the building to RP Kraal. Our march would commence after begin morning nautical twilight (BMNT) time, which was just before dawn with enough visible light outside to minimize unseen threats.
Then it happened. Nearly half way through the night, I was thrusted into the midst of a soup sandwich. I heard shouts throughout the building alerting my Soldiers to close quarter battle. Without any warning, about a dozen armed thugs stormed past the lolly gaggin’ PowerPoint rangers of my first squad. Seeing the imminent danger to my Soldiers, the evacuees, and my mission, I promptly screamed that the building was cleared hot, hoping my Soldiers would realize the freedom to engage the enemy with lethal fires. Hearing multiple warnings from our weapons that these thugs were unarmed non-combatants, I switched my pistol from safety to live-fire. Upon squeezing the trigger, I heard the same warning from mine as well. These thugs were armed and dangerous, but our highly sophisticated weapons recognized them as harmless. This couldn’t be true, I thought. These weapons had passed rigorous live fire testing, and sophisticated American weapons didn’t fail. They soon seized my CP and grabbed the evacuees.
Feeling like a bullet magnet staring down the barrels of no less than five conventional rifles containing dumb bullets pointed at my head, I tried not to become a scaredy-cat basket case. With utmost composure, I bit the proverbial bullet, dropped to my knees and offered my pistol as a symbol of my unit’s surrender. After swiping the pistol from my hand, one of the thugs kicked me to the ground and held me down with the heel of his grubby boot. Another thug used a blade to cut the outer two layers of my Combat Uniform System, leaving me vulnerable with an inoperable microclimate control level and no protective layer. Unable to overcome my doomed penchant for attracting misfortune no matter what I did, my highly enhanced cyborg brain didn’t know how to respond to this disaster.
The chief thug, the one who appeared in control, spotted the embedded Miamian reporter and requested she record his triumphant bloodless capture of Infidel desperados desecrating his country with capitalistic treacheries. As I groveled on the ground with my hands now tied behind my back, I suddenly realized that I was going to be the loathsome laughing stock of modern American military leadership. Making matters worse, a couple of women thugs lifted me off the ground, slammed me onto a chair, and poked me with a cattle prod. This sent thousands of volts of electricity surging throughout my body and made me squeal like a pig. In front of the camera, essentially in front of the whole world, the chief thug thanked me for capturing, in his words, ‘the Infidel gringo spies,’ which he couldn’t achieve without my scandalmonging help.
“Gringo, me explain to you Barney style and in English so you understand me. You had good goal, but very bad judgment. You choose bad location for your guards, and you trust simpletons. You toss me faithful comrade from building. But before she go, she grab your guard and hack your computers with proximity malware. This allow me remote access to your defense plans, and allow me configure your weapons and equipment without you know. First, me program your collateral damage safety system to recognize me and me comrades as unarmed civilians, even if we armed. We not want you hurt us with your guns. Next, we configure your sensors so they not detect me presence. Last, your guards smoke and joke, as gringo say, while me move from hide place in basement, surround them and dismantle your defenses. And, me also not kill anyone. Me think me talk too much. Too bad for you though.”
Once he finished his oration, he butt-stroked me with his rifle. Squealing like a pig again, I fell off the chair and sensed wet streams of fresh blood roll down my face. As I laid there totally mortified from my shameful actions, I had fleeting glimpses of them dragging my evacuees down into the basement and into the city’s subterranean labyrinths with the reporter in tow. They had left me and my Soldiers to wallow unarmed on the ground, our hands tied behind our backs, and without any means of communication. While my head throbbed with a pounding headache, I pondered my failure and hammered out the following lessons from this Multi-Domain Battle:
- Realize that accomplishing the task is more important than the tools used. The primary defeat mechanism in this failure was my strong reliance upon technology. In typical combat operations, military leaders may spend valuable time and resources writing the best operations orders to implement the best technique available. In their quest to employ the best technological tools for executing their operations, they may fail to accomplish their main objectives, which for me was defense of an objective. Using the latest multifaceted technological tools does not always ensure a successfully completed task. Astute leaders would consider unorthodox maneuvers and ingenious Soldiers in mastering urban terrain.
- Challenge your assumptions. I wrongly assumed that my enemy was also weak and not technologically savvy. Furthermore I failed to recognize that the hissy-fit assault was a cyber-attack. Military leaders may assume that highly sophisticated intelligence, augmented by sporadic personal observations, would be accurate. How would leaders know whether their assumptions were accurate? In combat, leaders constantly would receive battlefield intelligence information to help them make informed decisions. To better understand intelligence data, leaders should challenge whether the assumptions (and facts) were relevant to operations.
- Recognize that a mission begins and ends (and sinks or swims) with people. I placed too much confidence in my drones, robots, and computer programs, leaving little room for my Soldiers. Not once during this operation did I solicit or consider their feedback and recommendations. In combat, people would mean everything! A unit would be nothing without them. They would run the equipment, fire the weapons, and make lifesaving decisions. As for trusting them to accomplish tasks, General Patton offered excellent advice. “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” Also, leaders should remember that missions cannot be accomplished without solid Soldier support.
- Dominate technology—do not let it dominate you. Just inserting the data from the sensors into it, I allowed my decision-making computer programs to make decisions for me. Furthermore, I should’ve considered using conventional weapons, such as blades and dumb bullets, since they wouldn’t have been prone to cyber-attacks. Also, what would have happened if the computer went down? Would we have stopped communicating? Or stopped decisions?
- Remember that resources mean nothing if they are not used. I had a highly trained team of experts, knowledgeable in urban operations and capable of overcoming seemingly impossible obstacles. But, I failed to employ their capabilities by allowing my platoon sergeant to use them as reinforcement Soldiers instead. Having the best-trained, -equipped, and -qualified Soldiers does nothing for our Army if we cannot get them into the fight.
After these lessons had been dinned into my soul zillions of times so that I could never forget them, I lost consciousness, still wondering how Morpheus would respond to my failure. Then, I felt another rap on my shoulder and a spine-chilling clown-like voice saying, “Arise, Lieutenant Backsight Forethought. Time to pack your duffle on the mic-vee.”
In my skivvies again, I was still in stinking old Dreamdorf about to begin my second dream in the battle of São Paulo. Silently, I thought it would be fantastic if Morpheus could hand me a mythical red pill to allow my escape from this Groundhog Day existence into the truth of reality.