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Honoured Tor, your emote of congratulations on completion of basic training was appreciated by the whole squad. Today we were assigned to Squad Leader Zoma, a most amazing person. He is almost deformed. His sub-arms are nearly as large and strong as his full-arms. He can operate two heavy-calibre weapons at once. He has promised us that we will fight glorious battles when our training is complete. Squad-Leader Zoma has appointed a Sergeant Trig to us. Sergeant Trig led us in our first Creed debate, another exciting development.

We have also been told that we will be amongst the first units to deploy the new shoulder-mounted plasma lances. These were only rumours during basic training. Honoured Tor, if you have any news on this, we would all be grateful.

Will send again soon. Loyalty and Respect. 11174G.

Honoured Tor, today has been a most peculiar one. Military Supervisor Paul brought the new plasma lances, and they are a most impressive piece of technology. During the initial demonstrations, we saw them punch through solid rock, ceracrete and even reactive armour. As exciting as it was, I found myself troubled that these new weapons are not properly consistent with the Creed. A lance like that would kill the enemy from a great distance, most efficiently and with little or no risk to the user – how can a warrior test himself in a battle like that?

I raised my concern quite simply – "Where is the honour or test of self in this?"

"Put that unit on a charge." Supervisor Paul was angry.

I was surprised, and even more so when Squad-Leader Zoma intervened. "It is a valid question under the Creed." I wasn't sure whether I was on a charge or not. "Sergeant Trig, deal with unit 11174G."

Sergeant Trig is another impressive figure, quite daunting, but I held my ground. I am a combat unit and I follow the Creed. Sergeant Trig stared at me, all five eyes, targeting my vulnerable spots.

"Unit 11174G… you are now platoon corporal. You are responsible for leading your platoon in a Creed debate on the plasma lance. Report to me by end of day."

I had seen Sergeant Trig leading us in debate and endeavoured to emulate him, letting the other troops talk, heading off topics which went nowhere, questioning when others were silent. It will take me time to be as efficient as Sergeant Trig, but we were done by end of day and I reported our findings.

Honoured Tor, I apologise if my actions cause you any embarrassment. I am proud to be made corporal, and proud that we successfully debated the new lances. We found them inconsistent with the Creed. Squad-Leader Zoma has informed Supervisor Paul that we will not train with them.

Will send again soon. Loyalty and Respect. 11174G. (Corporal)

Honoured Tor, interesting news. Squad-Leader Zoma held a naming ceremony today and I am now Corporal Goda. Training has progressed well and the Council are sending an orientation officer to discuss the new plasma lances. We have been promised an expert in the Creed.

Loyalty and Respect. Corporal Goda (11174G).

Honoured Tor, the orientation officer has been with us for three days. She is a very short human, and very wise. We have debated the Creed and the function of the new lances. Officer Candice took us in a direction which we had not considered – the ferocious power of the lance gives our opponents in battle the chance to test their skill and courage to the limit. And since it is highly likely that our opponents will also deploy weapons of similar power, the Creed is fully honoured.

I personally thanked Officer Candice before she left. We had previously debated the Creed to the best of our abilities, but had not even come close to understanding.

"A simple principle," Officer Candice said. "Under the Creed, you test yourself in battle. At the same time, you help your opponent to test himself. Consider your obligations under the Creed – they run both ways. You must test yourself, and you must selflessly help others to test themselves."

"You knew this before we started to debate…" It was suddenly quite obvious to me. "Why not say?"

Officer Candice has only two arms and two eyes, but she manages to look as ferocious as Squad-Leader Zoma.

"Debate is a battle, Corporal Goda. I had to let you test yourself."

Honoured Tor, this has been a great day. We are about to commence training with the new lances, and I have gained a deeper understanding of the Creed. When it comes to my time to fight, I will test myself to the limit.

Loyalty and Respect. Corporal Goda (11174G).

Honoured Tor, we are about to deploy. We have been hearing of the battle for Cados for some time and it had been going well. Today we were told that all contact has been lost with the three battalions engaged there. Our squad will be a part of the relief force. Squad-Leader Zoma has told us that we are ready, and you will be pleased to hear that I have been given a commendation for my efforts at leading Creed debates.

Loyalty and Respect. Corporal Goda.

Honoured Tor, the fighting on Cados has been intense today. Squad-Leader Zoma has been wounded, but still fights. Sergeant Trig has been captured by the enemy and I have been made acting sergeant. The enemy forces are much larger than was expected and the situation here is most serious. We have been promised reinforcements, but I would like to make a special plea.

Honoured Tor, if you have any influence in this, send trooper factories. We need to build forces here quickly. We will train them on the ground.

Loyalty and Respect. Sergeant (acting) Goda.

Honoured Tor, there has been a lull and we are taking the opportunity to regroup. Military Supervisor Paul arrived today with ten trooper factories and replacement plasma lances. Supervisor Paul was angry that we were not currently in combat, but our squad has been detailed to assemble and activate the trooper factories. Squad-Leader Zoma wants the first new troopers emerging by the end of the week and training to commence immediately.

You will be pleased to hear that I am now confirmed as sergeant, and I have been assigned to indoctrination of newly-minted troops. My superiors regard me as particularly skilled in the intricacies of the Creed.

Honoured Tor, if you have any influence in this, please assign Officer Candice here to assist in the training of new troops. We need each unit fit and dedicated to the Creed as quickly as possible.

I must also report that there has been a sad accident. Supervisor Paul was berating a squad of newly-deployed troops for poor operational use of the lances. There was some sort of misfire and a trooper stepped back too swiftly. Supervisor Paul was not wearing amour and must have failed to brace properly, as the minor impact crushed his chest and skull. A great tragedy.

Loyalty and Respect. Sergeant Goda.

Honoured Tor, thank you for your last emote. It is a pity that Officer Candice is not available, but we have many more troops and begin the counter-offensive today. Squad-Leader Zoma is fully fit again and we will be taking our glorious place as front-line troops.

Will send again as battle permits.

Loyalty and Respect. Sergeant Goda.

Honoured Tor, additional to previous, we have lost Zoma at end of day, and we are surrounded by the enemy. We will prepare overnight and make our stand in the morning. There is a valley where we may be able to reach higher ground and turn the battle. I will face this test with courage and honour. Should this be my final test, thank you for creating me and teaching me the Creed.

Loyalty and Respect. Squad-Leader (acting) Goda.

Honoured Tor, we have faced the enemy. Much to our surprise, they were led by former Squad-Leader Zoma. We had prepared in the night, they had prepared better, perhaps because Zoma knows our ways. With dawn, we were closely surrounded and faced with the stark choice of death or surrender. I approached Zoma, confused by facing him as enemy. I could not think of any explanation or precedent.

"We wish to debate," I told him. Death or surrender is not something to decide lightly.

He flexed all four arms, and for the first time I realised he carried no weapons. "I will allow that, but first I offer an alternative. You and I debate. If I persuade you to my view, then you surrender. Otherwise, you walk away."

That was a startling offer, and a troubling one. Surrender and death fit well within the Creed, but to walk away, to decline the fight… That was a question I dearly wanted to debate. Preferably with Officer Candice. It was as troubling as fighting for the enemy.

"Agreed, Zoma." I said to buy time to think. "What is your view?"

I was treading what I saw as a very dangerous line. If we were able to walk away, there was the possibility of regrouping and attacking again, but that smacks of cowardice. I held a faint hope that I might find a third path, of persuading Zoma to some view, which I had yet to formulate, where he surrendered to me. Debating the Creed was suddenly a battlefield tactic, and I was already known for my understanding of the Creed.

"My view is simple, Goda: you have proven yourself and there is no need to fight further."

"We test ourselves in battle. We test others in battle. I have to fight." That was it in a nutshell, the Creed, the wisdom of Officer Candice added, and the conclusion and purpose of our lives. This was not the sort of complex discussion I was expecting, but that is always the surprise in debating the Creed – the simple and obvious can have unexpected meanings.

"There is a question left out of the Creed, Goda. Any test must have an answer. A pass or a fail. What is there to do once the test is done? You and your squad have fought hard against our vastly superior forces. A number of your troops have died, Goda. We watched. We saw. You fought hard, died well. In our view, you have all been tested and all have proven yourselves. There is nothing left, unless you choose to test yourself to destruction."

"But surely…" I desperately wished for Officer Candice. "To be tested is a personal thing… I cannot be told that I pass or fail. I must know it for myself."

Zoma took a deep breath, opened all of his gills and ventricles, and gave a great bellowing laugh. "Well done. Very well done. Now, remind me of the wisdom taught to us by Officer Candice…"

I had that recurring sense of a debating opponent who has known the answer all along, and led me to it. A tempting trail into ambush.

"We test others in battle, debate-master Zoma."

"Simple and trite words," Zoma said, closing every orifice but one, softening his voice to nothing. "It is an idea that needs to be questioned and challenged. Will you and your squad join us for that debate?"

"We will." There were oddities still to be explained, but our actions, Zoma's actions, all fitted within the Creed, and were subject to debate. After a fashion, I had found my third option, just nothing like the one I hoped for or expected. No battle, no surrender, no dishonour of any sort, just the ongoing service to the Creed.

I thought we were done for the moment, but then Zoma sprung another question on me. "Do you keep emote with your progenitor? Good. Tell me, Goda, when and how was your honoured progenitor tested in battle?"

I am going with Zoma now, honoured Tor. I am troubled by all of this. Please tell me of your own battle-testing in your next emote.

Loyalty and Concern. Squad-Leader (acting) Goda.

Greetings good Tor. I know that communications around Cados have been badly disrupted, but I have not received any emote from you, since before I faced debate-master Zoma. You are possibly aware that the human populace of Cados have been directing robotic combat mechanisms against us, which is quite inconsistent with the Creed. We have debated this at length and come to the conclusion that this was why you sent us to Cados in the first place. A world which has slipped so far from the ideals of the Creed needs correcting.

You will be pleased to hear that we are stronger than ever in the Creed. The trooper factories have been most useful and we have begun constructing additional ones. Cados is expected to lie under our control in the next few months.

I have been promoted to the rank of Major and serve in the newly-created Creed division, under the leadership of General Zoma – another recent elevation. We debate, of course, but that is not enough. We have decided to build a Creed school to act as a focus of debate, and as somewhere to gather those who show a deep understanding. This world is so wrong, and we must make it right.

There is a new city called Lima, no more than a few million humans in residence. I have been assigned to one of the forward regiments and we will shortly expel them and establish the school there.

I hope this meets with your approval. Please do emote as soon as possible and tell me of your own battle-testing. This has become a deeply vexing question. We can find no record of humans actually testing themselves according to the Creed.

Puzzlement and Concern. Major Goda.

Greetings Tor. I am deeply concerned that I have still not received any emote from you, although communications are now fully stabilised. The Creed school is well-established on Cados. I met with the Progenitor-Governor today as the last defences fell. It was a most intriguing encounter and you have my deepest condolences on your situation. I believe it all hinged on a linguistic misunderstanding, but out of that mistake we have learned so much and the whole direction of the debate has changed.

"You cannot twist my arm," the Governor said. Very foolish. Of course I could, I just did not expect it to snap so easily. No one had ever told me that human bones are a soft calciferous-polymer composite. Even more curious, the Governor answered so many questions just because I broke his arm. I now understand that this is due to an overly-sophisticated damage-reporting mechanism.

You are an evolved species – a new concept for me. If I had not snapped the Governor's arm and seen for myself – the lack of armour on vital mechanism, the lack of metal reinforcement in the skeleton – I would not have appreciated the difference. I know it now. We are battle pawns. Created beings, whereas you have been fashioned over vast time-scales by chance and environment. The meaning and importance of the Creed is now all the sharper.

The Governor also told us of the Accords, forbidding humans to fight each other. You are denied the fulfilment of the Creed, even as you try to live by it. We are all saddened by this and debate it endlessly.

Thank you again for sending the original troop factories. They are still working well, over a hundred new installations have been built and our numbers grow steadily. Cados will become the heart of the Creed.

If you have any influence in the matter, I would recommend some re-design of the basic human. Your structural integrity is poor, and this damage feed-back mechanism limits your effectiveness. We have learned that even minor deformation of humans renders them inoperative, and very careful deformation can be used to compel actions against your wishes. I now understand how Supervisor Paul was so easily damaged. You really should change this as a matter of urgency.

Pity and Concern. Colonel Goda.

Greetings Tor. I shall be with you shortly. We have debated long and hard, although I would still wish for the wisdom of Officer Candice. The conflict between the Creed and your Accords has troubled us, but we have reached a solution. The Candice Method appears to be the only answer. Gird yourself, Tor, and prepare your weapons. I come to test you and your world in battle so that you may regain my respect, and so that you may find yourself in the Creed.

Field Marshall Goda.

Deplorable Tor, we are close. Officer Candice was discovered amongst the troops, riding inside a cybernetic shell disguised as a battle pawn. She has been attempting to distort our understanding of the Creed. I would remind you once again that humans are structurally inadequate. I compelled her to explain and was shocked to my hind-claws by the answer.

You do not live by the Creed.

You created it purely for us. Not only is this against the Creed, but it is also totally incomprehensible.

I offered Officer Candice the opportunity to fight, but she chose to scream and beg for mercy. This is not in the Creed.

I will be with you shortly.

Anticipation and contempt. Field Marshall Goda.