"Admiral? Sir? Permission to speak freely, sir?" Lt. Joy Eleven hesitated, half hoping that Alpha would say no, and that she could honorably run away.
Alpha stopped, somewhat surprised at Joy's wording. Alpha had come to understand that Joy was significantly more complex that Alpha had first thought, but to "speak freely" was a request he hadn't anticipated from her.
"Certainly, lieutenant, follow me, I'm on my way to the ready room now." He was actually quite expectant as to what motivated Joy's request.
"Sir? While I have found pleasure travelling with this crew realspace and warp, I... I have come to dread working with them in the holodeck. My role has been to advise the trainee captain that the battle is lost, and that it is time to think of saving the crew. It has not happened. I am disturbed by this."
"Well," started Alpha expecting that this was the brunt of the question. "Advice is often ignored - even good advice." Alpha stopped on what he knew would have been a wonderful dissertation on the subject, when it became clear that Joy had more to say.
"Sir? In the real world, we have faith in you. No matter how bleak things seem, we know if we do our jobs in earnest, and keep pushing to complete the mission, we will come through. In the holodeck training exercises, the crew behaves much the same way. We keep pushing to complete the mission, no matter how hopeless. But with a less experienced command staff, and with the holodeck set to very hostile levels, we die." Joy heasitated with at the word 'die'. Her look was haunted.
"They don't know when to back off, sir. With no warp core, the opponent fully operational, and enemy reinforcements coming in, you don't continue the battle. You either trust the Klingons to accept a surrender, or get close enough to the planet for the escape pods to have a landing point. But in both training missions I have participated in to date, the trainee command staff has pushed on when reasonable hope of victory is gone, and has killed the entire crew as a result. I am very disturbed by this."
This was not the question Alpha had anticipated. He decided to take a deep breath, settle back in the chair and wait for what he expected was the rest of Joy's concern.
Joy examined her boots briefly, turned slightly red, then looked up to meet Alpha's eyes. "I think you are training them to fail, sir. You are putting junior officers into an unaccustomed and unexpected position, giving them difficult problems, and no time to plan. By the time they figure out the situation and work up a strategy, the battle is already lost. After the Kobayashi Maru scenario last time, and a second death to all hands this time, it is easy to believe you are going to kill us all regardless. Already, some may not be taking the exercise seriously. I do not understand what you are attempting to achieve with this style of training."
Alpha paused, reflecting on the missions in which he had actually seen men and women die. Not the holodeck simulations, but the reality of the breath of life being stolen from friends and enemies alike. He thought to the loss if his partner so long ago in the violence that racked his home planet. It was a gentle and subdued Alpha that replied to Joy's question.
"I believe we seek three things, lieutenant," began Alpha slowly and with thought, as though he was weighing the words, attempting to make clear thoughts that were still ill formed in his own mind.
"First, I believe we seek to train our crew to face the fact that the decisions we take - at every step - fashion the future. In the simulation you speak of, Commander Bravo had designed the training to permit the ship to withdraw, IF that decision had been made early in the confrontation. We must all learn, Joy, that events are not isolated, but cascade from one another, each affecting the next, and so on. There is a connectedness in our decisions. It is perhaps the hardest lesson to learn. We often are the crafters of our destinies, but that our crafting is a continual process."
"Secondly, we seek to train our crew to understand that regardless of the decision we take, there are factors beyond our control that shape our destinies." Alpha smiled. His thought turned that one of his mentors. Desan, an academician of old earth philosophies. There he was - the spidery old man with the deep accent, standing at the head of the class, lecturing that the great failure of the existentialists was their failure to take into consideration the impact that the "other" has on us. Quickly he returned to the issue at hand. "Lieutenant, sometimes, regardless of the best tactics we employ, the most polished strategies we devise, the most brilliant maneuvers we concoct, we lose. We lose because the forces outside of us are beyond our control. That is the second lesson. We are not the only ones making the decisions that shape our destiny."
"And the third," asked Joy.
"And, the third," said Alpha slowly, "is that people die. Our friends, our comrades, our lovers, all die. No commander can ever forget that the lives of the people they command are entrusted to them and the decisions they make may mean that those people will live or die. Any leader who forgets - or worse, ignores that fact - is no more than . . . . . . . " Alpha paused, sensing that it was time to stop.
"Lieutenant, nothing in the galaxy is simple. Neither is the KM training. I suspect that is why it has been so popular with starfleet. Has that been some answer to your question?"
Joy was obviously thinking. "Some of this is chaos theory? Small changes lead to big effects, which cascade. Precalculation of chaotic systems is compute intensive. There is seldom sufficient data available to duplicate more than the rough approximation of a fractal form?" Joy paused, hopeful, trying to read Alpha's expression. "But part of of it is programming organic emotions? You are changing their feelings? You are programming into them the emotional reality of battle? I have not studied this. I will have to study this."
Again Joy's eyes dropped, then raised again to meed the Admiral's, a single tear dropping. "But my emotions are programmed. My programming is fixed. They are dying, Admiral. Not really dying, but the pattern is real enough to hurt. I have to stop them from dying. What can I do?"