War Drone

There's nothing so primitive as a point of view in a swarm. Each one of your drones sends a video feed (and so much more) but you see all of it at once, not as a mosaic or even a map, but as a tactical gestalt.

So you don't see the strike target going down. You know it did, in multiple ways perceived as a single fact. Collateral damage is just a variable within bounds, not incredulous civilian looking for missing body parts as they die from shock among the ruins of an open café.

You instruct the swarm to leave the strike zone. Most of it does, and only then, when it's relevant, you become aware than one of the drones has sustained significant damage from a secondary explosion. Its telemetry shows it's been damaged beyond repair, but there's a strict policy of not leaving critical hardware behind, so you activate the retrieval protocol and monitor as the soldiers pick up their dying comrade.

There's no grief or hurry in their movements. You keep their cortisol levels within tight bounds, and shut down the dying soldier's consciousness not out of mercy but to facilitate transport.

To feel mercy you'd have to be more emotional than the controls inside your own brain are allowing you to. They'll have to be disconnected when you're on leave, that's the deal the Army made with the Supreme Court, but everybody avoids leave for as long as they can. Better to know you'd miss your family if the hardware let you, than to have it turned off and feel the nightmares you sleep through every night.

After the swarm is marked as safely en route, the software that did most of the battle management — could do all of it, really, except preserve the anthropocentric war fantasies of Congresspeople and pundits — takes full control of all combat hardware and biological support platforms. You wait for the system to assign you the next mission, your own neuro-hormonal parameters safely within the nominal range for a blindingly fast fifteen-year-old.