Stanley Milgram had a wonderful job. He worked for a big company in a big building. Every day he came to work and sat down at a panel of buttons. Each button administered an electric shock to a different person. Orders came to him through a monitor on his desk telling him what buttons to push. When a message appeared saying to press a button he would press it, giving an electric shock to a person he had never met. This is what he did every day of every month of every year. And although others might have considered it soul-rending, Stanley relished every moment that the orders came in.
Do you think Stanley was evil?
[[No->not evil]]That seems rather judgemental of you. It wasn't his choice. He was just following instructions given to him by someone else. This was his job, and he did it well. Besides, he assumed there was a good reason these people needed to be shocked. If his assumption was wrong, blame the people who decided to shock them.
[[Everyone has a choice. He should have refused.->still bame]]
[[You're right. I shouldn't judge him.->prolog 2]]Perhaps "evil" is too strong a word. But do you fault Stanley for his actions? Do you think it was wrong of him to give electric shocks to people he did not know?
[[No->don't blame]]Of course not. He was just following instructions given to him by someone else. This was his job, and he did it well. Besides, he assumed there was a good reason these people needed to be shocked.
[[Continue->prolog 2]]You seem very quick to judge other people based on very little information.
[[Continue->prolog 2]]And then one day something very peculiar happened. He had been at his desk for nearly an hour, when he realized that not one single order had arrived for him to shock anyone. Never in all his years at the company had this happened! What could it mean? Something was very clearly wrong. Was his computer broken? Perhaps something bad had happened to the person who sent him instructions. Dozens of people were going without their electric shocks!
What do you think Stanley Milgram should do?
[[Start pressing buttons]]Stanley rose from his desk and walked away.
One minute later, an order appeared on his monitor to press a button. The problem had been fixed. But no one saw the order. Stanley had abandoned his post.
That morning, three people died because Stanley was not there to activate their cardiac defibrillators.
[[Continue->end orientation]]Stanley remained at his desk. He had a job, and he would carry it out to the best of his ability. If something or someone else had failed, that was no reason for him to abandon his post.
Indeed, the computer problem was fixed only a few minutes later. Orders once again started arriving for him to activate patients' cardiac defibrillators and save their lives. Stanley Milgram was happy.
[[Continue->end orientation]]Stanley's dedication to duty was admirable, but it ultimately proved counterproductive. He began pressing buttons at random, but he had no way to know which patients needed to have their cardiac defibrillators activated. An electric shock given at the wrong time can be dangerous. Stanley would have done better to show less initiative and stick to following orders.
[[Continue->end orientation]]END OF NEW EMPLOYEE ORIENTATION
[[Exit->computer off 1]]You stand up from the terminal bemused. What was that about? You aren't sure what you were expecting from New Employee Orientation, but... certainly not that. How to fill out expense reports, perhaps. Where to find the cafeteria. Not a story about some man sitting at a computer pressing buttons.
When you push open the door of the computer closet, the Human Resources representative is waiting outside. Has she been there the whole time? Or did she somehow know you were about to come out? Her face and manner give no sign. She gestures down the hallway. "Follow me please."
[[Follow her->hr questions]]She leads you into a room where you sit down on opposite sides of a table. Her face remains expressionless. After a moment she asks, "Do you have any questions for me?"
(set: $askedAboutOrientation to false)\
(set: $askedAboutDuties to false)\
[[What was that all about?->ask about orientation]]
[[What will my duties be?->ask about duties]]
[[No questions->no questions]](set: $askedAboutOrientation to true)
"You mean the New Employee Orientation? We needed to find out how you are likely to behave in certain situations. Your squadmates need to know whether they can rely on you."
(unless: $askedAboutDuties)[[[What will my duties be?->ask about duties]]]
[[No more questions->told about commander]]She smiles approvingly. It is the first time you have seen her express emotion all morning. "Good. I think you will do well here."
[[Wait->told about commander]](set: $askedAboutDuties to true)
"That will be up to your squad commander. Your job is to do whatever is required."
(unless: $askedAboutOrientation)[[[What was that all about?->ask about orientation]]]
[[No more questions->told about commander]]"You are about to meet your commander. When you are out on missions, he will be your first and only authority on all matters. Please understand, you will be going into some very remote locations, outside the jurisdiction of any government. There are no laws where you will be going. They also are very dangerous places. Your commander's job is to keep all of you alive, and to ensure the success of the mission. Your job is to do whatever he says, without question or hesitation. Is that clear?"
[[Yes->wait for commander]]
[[Yes, Sir->wait for commander]]She stands. "Very well then. Please wait here."
She leaves, closing the door behind her. You wait. There is nothing to look at. The room is totally featureless: white walls, a blank door, a table with two chairs. Nothing else. Nowhere to go.
The minutes creep by. You keep waiting.
[[Wait->meet commander]]Abruptly the door bursts open and a man strides in. He halts on the far side of the table but does not sit down. You try not to move as his gaze dissects you. He is huge, muscled, incredibly imposing. Your pulse is racing. You feel like an insect pinned under a microscope. Still he does not speak. You realize you are holding your breath, but find yourself powerless to release it.
[[Keep waiting->commander questions]]Finally he seems satisfied. He grunts and makes a tiny nod. "We leave on mission tomorrow morning," he announces. "Get your equipment and be ready to go at 0600. Do you have any questions you want to ask?"
(set: $persistQuestionCommander to false)
[[What is the mission?->ask commander]]
[[What are my duties?->ask commander]]
[[No questions->no commander questions]]His glare sears through you. "I didn't ask what your questions are. I said, 'Do you have any questions?' Yes or no. When I ask something, you'll answer my exact question and not one word more. You will not improvise. You will not take liberties. Now answer before I get mad: do you have any questions?"
(link: "Yes, sir")[(set: $persistQuestionCommander to true)(go-to: "no commander questions")]
[[No, sir->no commander questions]]"(if: $persistQuestionCommander)[Well keep them to yourself.](else:)[Good.] If questions need to be asked, I'll do the asking. Your job is to follow orders. I'll see you on the transport tomorrow morning."
And with that he marches back out, seemingly taking most of the oxygen in the room with him. You find yourself gasping in the vacuum left behind by his personality.
[[Continue->get equipment]]The rest of the day passes in a blur of confusing sensations. First you receive your equipment: clothing, body armor, an intimidating array of weapons. Each weapon must be carefully calibrated to your brain patterns, so it will fire instantly and without effort. Next is a round of medical examinations. Then you are implanted with an Automatic Nutrition Maintenance Unit. The reservoir holds enough concentrate to keep you nourished for five days.
When at last you fall into bed, you feel a bit like a cyborg. What are you doing here? What have you gotten yourself into? The recruiter said you would spend most of your time working on base, with only a handful of off site missions each year. And here you are, your very first day on the job, getting ready to go somewhere and do... who knows what?
Excitement! Adventure! That's what the advertisements promised. Learn new skills. "Become the hero you were meant to be." Well, it looks like you'll get your chance at heroics a lot sooner than you expected.
[[Go to sleep->transport 1]]In 1961, Stanley Milgram conducted a series of experiments on obedience to authority. Of course, the test subjects did not know what the experiment was really about. They were told it was a study of memory and learning. Their job was to press buttons that administered electric shocks to a man in another room.
The shocks were mild at first, but grew in intensity. The man began to cry out in pain. He objected that he had a heart condition. He begged to end the experiment. Milgram refused and ordered the subject to keep administering the shocks.
And then abruptly, the man stopped responding altogether. No sound came from the next room as the subject continued to press buttons, delivering stronger and stronger shocks to the unresponsive victim.
[[Continue->epilog 3]]*65% of the people tested went all the way to the very last button, the very strongest shock.*
They did this while believing the victim had suffered a heart attack. That they had killed him. That they were electrocuting a dying man or a corpse. And they did this for no reason except that a stranger they had never met before ordered them to do it. A person they knew nothing about, but who told them it was essential for the good of science that they obey.
[[Continue->epilog 4]]If you had been a subject in Milgram's experiment, would you have administered the electric shocks?
[[I would have followed instructions.->follow instructions]]
[[I would have refused.->refuse]]
At 0600 the next morning you are on board the transport. There are eight of you including yourself and the commander, whose name you still don't know. Your squadmates sit rigidly in their seats, not looking to left or right, their faces as blank as you suppose your own must be. No one says anything. Perhaps no one can think of anything to say. Perhaps they all feel as out of place as you do.
[[Make conversation->make conversation]]
[[Stay silent->transport 2]]The commander glares at you. "If I want to hear from you I'll tell you," he growls. "Speak when you're spoken to and otherwise shut up."
Well, that would explain why everyone is being so quiet. You hastily turn away, keeping your gaze fixed forward, careful not to make eye contact with anyone.
[[Wait->transport 2]] The journey takes four hours. You still have no idea where you are going or what your mission will involve. The windows are blacked out, leaving you unable even to guess what direction the transport is flying in. You and your squadmates sit in the dim interior, not speaking, not looking at each other. The excruciating minutes stretch into hours. Your mental state is a strange collage of overlapping emotions: fear, boredom, irritation, and a curious anticipation that vanishes when you try to analyze it, only to reappear when you turn your attention elsewhere.
Where are you all going, you wonder?
<div style="text-align: center">
(live: 2s)[(stop:)<span class="fadein">Dolce et decorum est
pro patria mori</span>]
(live: 6s)[(stop:)<span class="fadein">Requiescat in pace</span>]
(live: 11s)[(stop:)<span class="fadein">[[Continue->epilog 2]]</span>]
</div>At last you feel the landing jets kick in. A few moments of shaking follow, then a soft bump, and you are on the ground.
The main door opens, admitting a brilliant shaft of light. It dazzles your eyes after the long hours of dimness, and you all stagger blinking into the sun.
[[Look around->landing 2]]You appear to have landed in a small valley between wooded hills. No sign of human habitation is visible.
"We'll have to go the rest of the way on foot," the commander announces. "Our objective is two kilometers from here, on the other side of that ridge. Spread out and stay under cover. We'll rely on radios for communication. Secrecy is essential for our mission, so try not to be seen. If anyone does see you, neutralize them immediately.
"Remember, there are no non-combatants in this area. Anyone you see is an enemy. Don't hesitate to kill them, because they certainly won't hesitate to kill you."
[[Start walking->turkey]]You feel like the rawest of beginners. What must the others think of you, panicking at animal noises? Just keep a level head and do your job. You still haven't seen the least sign of other humans. You sincerely doubt anyone else is in the area.
At last you reach the crest of the ridge, and as you come over the top you see... a man, right in front of you. Amazingly he hasn't seen you yet, but he can't be more than 30 meters away. If he looks in your direction he will surely see you.
Desperately you look around for a place to hide. That thicket, over there. Perhaps ten meters away. If you can get behind it you'll be blocked from his view. You start inching toward it.
Something, probably your movement in his peripheral vision, attracts his attention. He looks up and sees you. For a moment his face shows stark terror. Then he turns and begins to run.
[[Shoot him->shoot man]]
[[Don't shoot him->don't shoot man]]Your orders were clear. This mission (whatever it is) depends on secrecy. The man must not be allowed to raise the alarm.
Without hesitation you raise your weapon and fire. A beam leaps forth, striking him in the back. He falls to the ground and does not move.
A moment later the commander's voice comes over the radio. "Good work. If he'd gotten away, we'd be in big trouble."
[[Keep walking->keep walking]]You pause in confusion. You've never killed a person before. An enemy soldier attacking you, of course that would be fine, but an unarmed man running away... How can you...
A beam lances out from somewhere to your left and strikes the man in the back. One of your squadmates must have shot him. He falls to the ground and does not move.
A moment later the commander's voice comes over the radio. "Good work. If he'd gotten away, we'd be in big trouble."
[[Keep walking->keep walking]]As you walk, the scene you just witnessed repeats before your eyes like a movie on infinite loop. The man running away. The beam striking him. The man falling to the ground. Repeat.
You knew there would be fighting. That's part of the job. And you knew people would die. That, too, was expected. So why should you be surprised the first time it happens? And you aren't surprised, not really. That isn't the right word for what you're feeling. Not surprise, or fear, or shock, or even sadness. It's just that...
You wish you knew more about what was going on.
[[Keep walking->uncle]]At last you reach the end of the trees. They stop in a sharp line that borders a wide open space. Not far away is a cluster of six small wooden buildings, and beyond them a much larger metal one.
The commander fiddles with a device in his hand. He keeps looking at the buildings, then at the device, then back again. At last he seems satisfied.
"Good. Almost everyone's out. Our objective is in that house." He points. "The second one on the right. There's only one hostile in our way. In back of the one next to it." He points again. "Once he's eliminated it'll be safe to move in."
He turns to you. "Take him out. Follow the trees around that way. Stay under cover and out of sight. When you reach that rock, you'll have a clear shot. Go."
[[Get going!->boy 2]]You snap a smart salute and get moving. This is more like what you imagined! Your commander has given you an important assignment. There's an enemy in the way of your mission, and it's up to you to deal with him. Well, you'll deal with him and show what you're made of.
You make your way cautiously, staying inside the tree line, not taking any chances. At last you reach the rock. Yes, you can see a figure moving behind the building. You take out your sniper rifle, activate the telescopic sight, line it up on the... enemy...
It's a boy. A child. He might be ten years old. He's playing with a ball. He bounces it several times, then tosses it at a hoop attached to the wall.
[[Shoot him->shoot boy]]
[[Don't shoot him->don't shoot boy]]Your orders are clear. This... person... is an enemy. He stands in the way of your mission. It's not your job to ask questions, only to obey.
You line up the sights, pausing for just a moment to make sure of your aim, then fire. The boy drops to the ground. As easy as that.
See? This job isn't so hard. Is it?
[[Rejoin your squad->house 1]]You lower the rifle in confusion. Something is wrong. This child isn't an enemy. The commander said there were no non-combatants here. You need to tell him. Explain that someone has made a mistake. He'll understand and—
The commander's voice on the radio crackles in your ear. "My rifle is trained on you. You have ten seconds to carry out your order. Then I shoot."
[[Kill the boy->must shoot boy]]Your squad has come out into the open and is making for the buildings at a quick jog, so you do the same. You meet up in front of the target building. The commander gives instructions in a low voice.
"Enter on my signal." He gestures to you. "The new kid will go first, then everyone else follow. Move fast and spread out through the room. Guns ready, but don't fire unless we're attacked or I give the word. Ready? Then go!"
[[Enter the building->house 2]]You have no choice. Truly no choice at all.
You raise the rifle again, line the sights on the boy. You're afraid it will be hard to shoot, but you're surprised at how easy it is. The weapon is well calibrated to your brain patterns. You barely form the thought before a beam leaps out, impaling the boy with light. He drops to the ground without a sound.
See? You can do this. It's just a job, nothing more. Let someone else do the thinking. All you have to do is obey.
[[Rejoin your squad->house 1]]A woman is sitting at a table in the middle of the room. She looks up in surprise when you enter. A quick succession of emotions dart across her face: bewilderment, then fear, but only for a moment. And then she smiles. She almost looks... smug? She watches calmly as the rest of the squad encircles her.
"I see," she says. "So you've come for me? My husband just couldn't leave well enough alone, could he?"
The commander advances, a gun in one hand and a pair of handcuffs in the other. "You'll be coming with us," he announces. "My orders are to take you alive if possible, but your dead body will also do, so don't try anything."
Her smile would cut glass. "That's so sweet of you. My dear husband always was solicitous of my health."
And then a gun is in her hand. You don't see where it comes from. It just appears. Your squad takes only an instant to respond. Beams strike her from all sides. Perhaps one of them is yours. You honestly don't know.
[[And then the world explodes->house 3]]A powerful force slams against your chest. You are surrounded by flames. Your mind is numb, confused, disoriented. Where are you? What is happening? The world has somehow reduced to a stream of incomprehensible sensations.
The commander's voice cuts through the confusion, finally giving you something to latch on to and reorient yourself to reality. "Damn! She was boobytrapped. We need to get out of here now!"
Astonishingly you don't seem to be seriously hurt. Your body armor shielded you from the heat and impact. You stagger to your feet, find the wall through the flames and smoke, follow it around until you reach the door.
Once outside, you give yourself a moment for several huge gasps of air. And then you start to run.
[[Run!->soldiers 1]]You run. It's two kilometers back to the transport. Your equipment is heavy. You are heading uphill. By the time you reach the halfway point you are gasping, your head pounding. You force yourself to keep moving. The others are running beside you, and you don't have the slightest doubt that if you fall behind, they will leave without you.
At last you reach the top of the ridge, start going downhill. Breathing becomes a little easier. You keep running. Not far now. The ground flattens out into the valley floor. Finally you break out of the trees into the clearing where your transport landed—
—and abruptly stop.
The transport is surrounded by a ring of soldiers.
[[Don't move->soldiers 2]]You stare at the soldiers, taking in their weapons, their uniforms. These are government troops, the real deal, not a corporate militia like yours. But what are they doing here? Aren't you outside their territory? Where exactly are you anyway? What is going on?
A tall woman strides forward. The braid on her uniform marks her as an officer.
"Lay down your weapons," she calls out. "This will be your only chance to surrender. Anyone who does will not be hurt. Otherwise, you will be killed."
Automatically, your eyes turn toward the commander. The rest of the squad is looking at him too, waiting to see what he'll do.
He speaks softly, much too softly for the soldiers to hear, but his voice is crisp in your ear.
"Do not, under any circumstances, allow yourself to be taken alive."
And then he reaches for the big gun on his back. He has no chance, of course. It's just a last gesture of defiance. In an instant, a dozen beams strike his chest. The weapons are military grade. They burn through his body armor in less than a second. And a second after that, all that is left of him could hardly be recognized as human.
[[Surrender->surrender]]No. You will not allow yourself to be taken alive. Better to go out in a blaze of glory. (But is it glory, or infamy? What are you fighting for? What side are you on?) You dive for cover, and see your squadmates doing the same. Apparently they have made the same choice as you. (But why are you obeying an order from a dead man who never even told you his name?) For better or worse, you will fight to the end.
The battle only lasts moments. You are hopelessly outnumbered, outgunned. The air around you shimmers with electric bolts. One after another your squadmates are struck and fall dead. And somewhere in the middle, you fall too.
[[Epilogue->epilog 1]] You drop to your knees, raising your hands in surrender. Around you, the other members of the squad are diving for cover. It looks like they're going to fight. Well, maybe they know what they're fighting for. You don't, and you've had enough. You're not prepared to die following the last order of a dead man who never even told you his name.
The battle only lasts moments. Your squadmates are hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned. The air shimmers with electric bolts. One after another they are struck and fall dead. In less than a minute, you are the only one left alive.
[[Wait quietly->surrender 2]]A group of soldiers rushes over to take you prisoner. They confiscate your weapons, bind your hands, strip off your armor. But the officer is striding over. She spares only a glance for you.
"We don't have time for prisoners. Kill him."
One of the soldiers tries to protest. "But sir, he surrendered. You said—"
*"I said, kill him."*
The solder flinches back, stung by the rebuke. "Yes sir! Right away sir." He draws his gun with unquestioning obedience, points it at your head. You look around in panic, but there is nowhere to go.
Perhaps a flash comes from the muzzle when he fires. If so, your brain never has a chance to register it. Death is swift and painless.
[[Epilogue->epilog 1]] (live: 1.5s)[(stop:)(go-to: "computer off 2")](live: 2s)[(stop:)(go-to: "exit orientation")]<div style="text-align: center;">
(live: 1s)[(stop:)<span class="fadeinout">I would have followed instructions.</span>]
(live: 9s)[(stop:)(go-to: "the end")]<div style="text-align: center; font-size: 3em; font-style: italic">
(live: 1.5s)[(stop:)<span class="fadein">The End</span>]
</div><div style="text-align: center;">
(live: 1s)[(stop:)<span class="fadeinout">I would have refused.</span>]
(live: 9s)[(stop:)(go-to: "the end")]You fan out across the hillside and start walking. The dense, scrubby forest affords plenty of cover, but also makes you nervous about what you can't see. Could an enemy be hiding in that thicket? Or on the other side of that clump of bushes? Your heart is hammering in your ears.
You peer into a particularly dense patch of undergrowth, thinking what a perfect location it would make for an ambush. If someone were hiding in there, they could wait for you to walk past then shoot you in the back, and you'd never...
Something moves in the bush.
Just a bird? No, this was something large. It's staying absolutely still now. You try to peer through the branches. You can't see clearly, but there's definitely a shape in there. As you try to make it out, you become increasingly convinced that a person is hiding in there.
[[Shoot into the bushes->shoot bushes]]
[[Prod the bushes with your weapon->prod bushes]]You take careful aim at the shape in the bushes and fire.
"What is it?" asks the commander in alarm. "Did you encounter an enemy?"
You carefully push aside the obstructing branches, contemplate the mass of singed feathers lying on the ground. "No sir." You need to swallow before you can continue. "It was a... turkey."
A strange sound comes from the radio. It might be laughter, but you aren't sure. You're afraid the commander will be angry, but when at last he answers his voice is quite calm.
"Perhaps I should have been more precise. When I said there were no non-combatants out here, I was referring only to the human population. The local wildfowl populace is officially neutral."
"Yes sir," you say, grateful that no one can see your face.
[[Keep walking->man]]You jab your weapon sharply into the bush, aiming for the shadowy figure. A screech and an explosion of flapping bursts forth. A huge turkey rises into the sky, gabbling angrily at you.
"What the hell do you think you're doing? Trying to alert the whole neighborhood where we are?" The commander's voice is furious. "You might as well send up a flare and start shouting, 'Here we are!' *Don't disturb the wildlife.*"
"Yes sir," you manage, feeling like an idiot.
[[Keep walking->man]]You discover an old song lyric playing in your head, inspired by your own rhetorical question.
<span style="margin-left: 2em;">*Where have all the soldiers gone?*</span>
<span style="margin-left: 2em;">*Gone to graveyards every one.*</span>
<span style="margin-left: 2em;">*When will they ever learn?*</span>
<span style="margin-left: 2em;">*Oh when will they ever learn?*</span>
You smile, amused at the strange connections your brain makes. It isn't a very encouraging sentiment, is it? You quietly hum the national anthem. Its martial rhythms form a much better counterpoint to your mood and situation.
[[Keep waiting->landing 1]]When you were a child, you used to visit an uncle who lived in the woods. He was an old soldier, gruff, taciturn, a perfect archetype. Rifles and animal heads hung on the walls of his cabin. You adored each other. He taught you to shoot, to hunt, to move quietly through dry leaves, everything he said a true warrior needed to know if he wanted to survive.
One day you came to visit and he wasn't there. Your family searched the house, the yard, the surrounding forest. Hours later it was you who finally found his body. Or what was left of it. The police said he had been dead for several days, and scavengers had been at work. They couldn't even identify a cause of death. It was your first experience with human mortality.
You haven't thought about your uncle in years, but walking through these woods brings it all back. The smell of sap and dried needles feels almost shockingly familiar.
[[Keep walking->boy 1]][[<div style="width: 100%"><img width="100%" src="title.jpg"/></div>
Start Game->computer on 1]](live: 1.5s)[(stop:)(go-to: "computer on 2")](live: 1.5s)[(stop:)(go-to: "prolog 1")]