ENTRY 168: Missile Children
Intelligence is cheap, and readily available. There is a glut of AGIs and infomorphs, more egos than there are morphs to carry them. Yet at the same time, intelligence is a valued, desirable trait—the ability not just to reason, but to make instinctual decisions, to see through traps and discern patterns, to not just follow a program. It is a weird economy, with a constant demand against an overwhelming supply, and at the fringes there is room for very strange demands indeed. Slavery and indoctrination are often considered the whims of those rich or highly-connected and devoted enough to have a sentient object at their disposal, but in truth there is a brute and terrible pragmatism behind contemporary transhuman commercial slavery—why waste the time and effort on writing a program, when you can have an intelligent ego do the work so much better and just as cheap?
Missile children are a tradition dating back to the conflict with the TITANs, one that most transhumans would rather forget. AGIs or immature egos ripped from war orphans were drafted into virtual boot camps, indoctrinated in group discipline and obedience, educated in their peculiar function, and then installed inside military hardware. The lucky ones who scored high in tactics and reflexes were installed in gunnery emplacements, operating mass drivers, rail guns, and lasers; the rest were resleeved into missiles, torpedoes, and self-guided bombs. Intelligent kamikaze explosives that waited patiently for the order to fire themselves at the enemy, using their skills and training to bypass all defenses.
It is estimated that 80% of missile children were “expended” during the TITAN conflict, with the rest later “decommissioned.” Rumors persist of various groups, individuals, and habitats that maintain a stockpile of missile children, and lost or forgotten remnants are still found—unexploded bombs that have spiraled into insanity after the failure of their mission, or automated defense platforms who think the war is still on. It is one of the crueler reminders of transhumanity’s recent past, and there are those who seek to address the suffering of the surviving missile children, especially the Mesh-based Mothers of Missile Children (MOMC) network, which resleeves the egos and places them in foster family-groups to help reintegrate them into transhuman society.
Missile children are usually sleeved into missiles or small fighter ships with a range of sensors (typically radar and thermal imaging), propulsion systems, and sometimes communication, anti-missile countermeasure, or electronic warfare equipment in addition to their payload—which can range from conventional high-yield explosives to nuclear weapons or antimatter warheads. However, over the course of different conflicts missile children have also been placed into drop-bombs, torpedoes designed for underwater function, and orbital artillery emplacements. The missile morphs have strict limitations on attributes, capping out at 25.
Most have standard intelligence (INT 10-15) but are selected for good reflexes (REF 20-25). Self-guiding missiles will have Navigation 50, and may have additional skills depending on their specialty—for example, torpedo children often have Perception (Sonar) 44. Artillery emplacements always have Gunnery 55, and in some cases were even given command over a stock of missile children of their own to fire as necessary.