One of the problems we faced in trying to control—if not turn back—the expansion of the Sa'arm was the lack of weapons that could kill enough of them to reduce a hive's ability to function. We had learned, quite early on, that shock and awe doesn't go very far when you can only surprise a small minority of the units that make up the gestalt.
I'm a grunt, a GROPO. I could have had more rank, really, given my CAP score, but there was something about being a GROPO that appealed to me. I quickly learned that there was a certain advantage in "honest information" being at the front end. I've seen, usually from the bottom of a food chain, how information gets corrupted on it's trip from the front end (where the customers are) and the hind end (where the executives live).
Even with AIs there is, I've learned, still a bureaucratic mindset in those furthest from the tooth and claw of the organization.
That I was putting off my turn in the role of an REMF was reassuring and I did my best to protect my men from orders dropping from the adminisphere. Any order that did not make enough sense given our situation were usually subject to "interpretation" ... and I could thank the AIs for backing up my interpretation once I explained how reality had to trump the thinking—or lack thereof—of those above me on the food-chain.
Orders may flow down-hill, just like shit does, but seldom, if ever, does reality flow the other way.
I had already reached the conclusion that body counts were not a useful datum in reports, unlike the REMFs who keep asking for such useless estimates, since the Sa'arm had too many bodies available to throw at any challenge. They also had a much shorter maturation time since any off-spring would be integrated into the gestalt so would not need to be taught anything, giving them an unfair advantage on us humans ... and those bodies are no more than ammunition to the Sa'arm gestalt, their collective "mind".
When it came to reproductive potential, especially with multiple concubines expanding the number of wombs allowing extra parallelism, we had as much of an advantage over all of the other races within the Confederacy, but, then, they'd genetically engineered themselves to slow that down.
We humans hadn't had to re-engineer ourselves for limited lebensraum and resources as had all of the other members (assuming we humans qualified as members) of the Confederacy.
If the Sa'arm had an Achille's Heel it was that the gestalt had to supervise so many functions that bordered on what, in a human being, would be considered autonomic. While breathing, eating and shitting are easy for us humans, the gestalt had to cope with being made of units that found those three activities taxing, leaving very little capacity left over for the gestalt to use for "shared thinking".
As a Lieutenant my on-duty activities were fairly straight-forward. It was in my off-duty time that I took advantage of the flatter "information hierarchy" to pursue subjects that aroused my curiosity. One of my activities centered on data mining covering human discoveries, explorations and research.
Fortunately the old "loose lips" warning—you know, something that drives the whole "need to know" mindset—does not apply in our dealings with the Sa'arm.
One project I ran across had me shivering. I'm not sure I understood how the people in the project could cope with it, themselves, since it centered on "fighting fire with fire". I did not think we humans could be comfortable as part of a collective group mind, like the Borg from one of the Star Trek series. While it would make managing a military unit more "controllable" it has been the exercise of individual initiative that has, in human history at least, often turned the tide of battle. Somehow I did not find this idea comforting.
Most projects I saw were less than exciting.
One discovery that did excite me, on the other had, was made through an odd-ball colony named Ishtar which, as I understood it, had started out as one of those little filling stations in the middle of nowhere, but had accumulated some curious characters over time. They got an extra job once a ship missed their system and ended up "next door", finding an asteroid field with artifacts from an advanced technical civilization.
The small white dwarf star in that system wasn't one that the Sa'arm had a tendency to look at—they preferred A, F, G and K spectral classes—and was attracting the curiosity of some folks in the Human end of the Confederacy since this "advanced technology" did seem to exceed what the Confederacy was willing to give us.
One suggestion I dropped into the "suggestion box" was that we needed both archaeologists and paleontologists much like "IPX" from the Babylon-5 series. You can learn a lot about a future by studying the past.
So I kept a finger on the pulse of Ishtar's project—and the one about giving humans a group mind, if only to know when to worry—as I continued digging for my own amusement.
I didn't know that one of the fruits of that suggestion would actually apply directly to fighting the Sa'arm though it had been through so many hands there was no credit accrued.
One of the jokes that made the rounds was that Ishtar had copied an "infinite improbability drive" they found and that they demonstrated it as working ... more or less. This drive would not make much difference to me or to anyone else, directly. The indirect effects, however, would end up becoming very important to me.
Fast forward approximately two years. I'd long since gotten a bunch of promotions and was still doing my best to not be an REMF, though, as a Major, I was right on the border-line ... if not just barely over it.