Blue watched the small lifting beam crane hoist the cargo container off the bed of the automated delivery truck. The truck pulled forward, leaving the load dangling in the air. A moment later it was gone and the warehouse door rolled shut behind it. The crane lowered the cargo container to the floor. Blue turned from the wall screen and headed to the warehouse floor.
Max must have been closer, because by the time Blue got to the warehouse the other Dog already had the container opened and had teleoperated one of the rovers out of the shipping unit and onto the floor.
Blue hung back as Max paced around the unit, bending time and again to inspect it, to reach in and rotate a sensor cluster, to sniff at a battery pack.
He was trying to find something to complain about, Blue knew. How long would he spend? He watched with growing impatience as Max paced around the tracked robot a third time, silently evaluating it. Finally Blue spoke up “What do you think?”
Max looked up at Blue, then bent down to peer at yet another detail. “It’s not parts-compatible with the rovers we’ve already got.”
Blue compressed his lips. “Yes. We knew we were getting the same model Gamma uses at his facilities.”
Max looked up. “When do we arm them?”
“The machine shops should be delivering the first guns later today. I’ve got deliveries staggered out over the next two weeks; they should keep pace with the deliveries of rovers.
“And the sponsons?”
“Different vendor, same schedule.”
Max nodded. “OK, I’ve got second gens lined up to help me install them.” He nodded towards one corner of the warehouse. Blue looked and saw several gray coated Dogs and two more reds.
Blue looked at Max. “That’s not going to scale; is there a -”
Max looked at Blue with disgust. “I’m not an idiot. We’ll do a dozen so we know the tricky bits steps, then when can we train the assembly arms.” Max scowled. “Don’t worry about my end – what’s your schedule?”
“Duncan and I have finished the architecture and we started coding two days ago.”
Max snapped. “I wanted to know when it would be done – not when you started it.”
Blue looked at Max. There was anger there – a lot of it. “What is this about?”
“What is it about?” There was scorn in his voice. “It’s about the fact that you’re questioning me about how I’m going to assemble the robots, but you won’t even commit to a schedule for the software schedule. ‘I’m starting it.’ What kind of answer is that?”
Blue took a deep breath and sat. Max stared at him, as if waiting for an answer to what was clearly a rhetorical question.
After a moment Blue said carefully “The software is going to take longer that we’d thought at first because we’re not coordinating with the Boardroom Group, which -”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
Blue held up one stubby fur-covered finger. “I was explaining before you cut me off. If we coordinated with the Boardroom Group we’d use the distributed combat architecture that they developed. But you wanted us to be fully independent, so we’re not doing that.”
“This isn’t my fault. You and Duncan chose to own the software and now you’re running behind schedule.”
Blue felt the fur at the back of his neck begin to stand up. He locked eyes with Max. “We are NOT running behind schedule. We never gave a schedule.”
“Well I thought-”
“If you created a schedule for us, in your mind, I don’t care. We didn’t commit to one.” Blue’s stare, if anything, grew more intense. “This isn’t about the schedule. This is about the fact that when you declared that we wouldn’t coordinate with the Boardroom Group, I didn’t instantly bow to your decision. This is about the fact that I wanted to think things over first. Do you think that you’re the king of the Dogs? That I – that we – should all instantly obey you with out thinking or debating, or talking to other -”
Max’s nostrils flared. “I’ve read more military history than-”
Blue felt a growl building and forced it down. “I don’t care. This isn’t about military history or expert opinions, it’s about the fact that I – all of us – are allowed to have opinions of our own. Why are you even upset? You got everything you wanted! The rovers? Our own software. Our strategy and tactics? Independent command. What more -”
Max interrupted him. “I want you to admit that you were wrong to even talk to Mike about subordinating our forces to theirs.”
“Coordination is not the same thing as subordination.”
“The fact that you can’t smell just how similar they are says a lot about you and your -”
Now the growl slipped out. “Damn it, Max – first you claimed that this was about the schedule, then that it was about my decision making, now you’re just making ad hominem attacks. The core issue here is that you think that not only should you lead, but you should be UNQUESTIONED as the leader.”
Max gestured angrily to his left, indicating all the tunnels beyond the Den. “We’re going to have a war out there. And soon. And you can’t win a battle with two generals.” He huffed, the air blowing the edges of his black lips. “I bet you haven’t even read about the battle of Cannae. One thing -”
“We’re not fighting a battle – we’re defending our species and we’re planning a strategy – together – to do that.” Blue paused and saw movement out of the corner of his eye. The second gens who had gathered in the corner of the warehouse. There were more of them now. Perhaps a dozen. And they were all staring.
Blue lowered his voice. “If we have to have this fight, let’s have it some other time.” He looked meaningfully to the side of the warehouse.
Max followed Blue’s eyes, then looked back at Blue. Finally he said “Fine.” He paused. “So. When will the combat OS be done?”
Blue thought for a moment that Max was re-opening the battle, but then decided that it might be an honest question. “No software project is ever done. I think we might have an alpha drop in two weeks, and I think we’ll have have something pretty solid a month after that.”
“You’ve got enough Dogs to do that?”
“We’ll be using a few contractors for some of the trickier stuff.”
Max stared hard at Blue. “Human contractors?”
“Let it go, Max.”