by Max Barry

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by The Armed Republic of Gonswanza. . 50 reads.

Interviews With The Horsemen (Transcript)

This document consists of the word-for-word transcripts of the five interviews, with minor notes added in as need be. Of course, it's going to be rough, but this is just an appetizer for a juicier feast of information later. This is also in chronological order.

(Pestilence, Captain Scheirke)
Press: Begin interview. Captain Scheirke, 1300 local time, classified location. Is this correct?
Captain: Yes. That is correct. Are you sure we should be doing this?
Press: This is just a simple interview, I don't see why not. Now, why did you join the navy?
Captain: My country called for me, my family needed the money. The mines were burying my father alive in debts due to some false promises of wealth he too eagerly ate up. A fool he was, blowing out money to try to live the best life, only to work himself to death. At least he found peace in the end.
Press: Well, that's... Something. Regardless, what of your mother?
Captain: Alive and well now, in a retirement home. I would visit her more often, but the nature of my work keeps me from doing so.
Press: Any other family? Like kids, nephews, etc?
Captain: I cannot answer that question, for their safety. But what I can say is that my family is living their best life, while I sleep beyond the waters of my home.
Press: That being Gonswanza, right?
Captain: Yes.
Press: Well uh, what do you know of the others?
Captain: War is a terrifying presence, the only other person I'm aware of that can easily scare Our Glorious President into a stiff and alert position. Conquest is more laid back in spite of his stature. Death is... Strange. And Famine is just there, a ghostly figure that only seems to return direct calls from his comrades himself, rather than letting the crew do so.
Press: So, you use the names of the ships to refer to yourselves?
Captain: Far simpler than codenames or callsigns or even going by a first or last name basis. War, Famine, Pestilence, Conquest, Death. Simple. Quick. Easy to recall.
Press: Any secrets that you can tell us about these ships? What makes them so special?
Captain: That information is classified.
Press: Wait, what about uh, naval traditions? Or the-
Captain: I believe we are done here.

(Conquest, Captain Hartt)
Press: Begin interview. Captain Hartt. 1400 local time, classified location. Is this correct?
Captain: [checking a pocket watch] Yes, it should be. Unless there's some anomaly that warped time and space, of course.
Press: Are you inferring that such a thing is possible?
Captain: No, you idiot. Now, continue.
Press: Er, sorry sir! Why did you join the navy?
Captain: I had a calling to the sea since childhood. When the navy offered their hand, I took it. My father was a sailor, my mother served in the navy, as did my grandfather and great grandfather. They were married to fishermen or those who sailed goods around the world. So it was almost necessary that I continue the tradition.
Press: Interesting. It says here you were involved in past military exercises?
Captain: Frozen Fury 2015, Pacific Storm 2018, I could go on. Only per President's orders, of course. If only she'd stop pestering me about that medal.
Press: The Presidential Cross of Honor?
Captain: Yea, that. I only did what was necessary, leading people out of the fire and to safety, even jumping into the flames myself to rescue my fellow man. Nothing impressive, nor commendable.
Press: But even the public regards you as a hero from that incident aboard the Democracy!
Captain: Had we not lost that vessel in port, I would still be there, sipping coffee in the lounge under a different captain. And I wouldn't be bothered every now and then for a medal I didn't deserve. End of story.
Press: Uh, what about family? Friends?
Captain: My family is none of your business. Friends as well.
Press: Oh, er, perhaps we can ask about your choice of tobacco?
Captain: Why would you ask about my habits so suddenly? Aren't these questions getting a little invasive?
Press: I mean, that's what's on the paper here sir.
Captain: Fine, I'll humor you with this. Once upon a time, there were five kids. Then there were three. Two left for sea, one stayed home, sick. When only one came back the sickly one had left.* And then there was one. End of interview. Guards? Take them away. I want them off my ship before sunset.
*It's assumed that they either died or left for a doctor, only to then seek work elsewhere to cover the medical bills.

(Famine, Captain VonBrau)
Press: Begin interview. Captain VonBrau, [redacted] local time, classified location. Is that correct?
Captain: Perhaps. Why are you here, exactly?
Press: As it was said before, President's orders for an interview. Now, can we continue?
Captain: Fine. You may begin the interview.
Press: Why did you join the navy?
Captain: I joined as it was my duty, my calling. One shouldn't ignore fate, after all.
Press: Okay... Erm, how does it feel to be the captain of Famine? Since for some reason the paper with questions typed out on it got cut off.
Captain: As is a common issue with old printers. Alas, it does make me feel... Powerful. Knowing how the fate of the world and the very future rests in my hands at the flip of a switch, it can all be destroyed in a blaze of glory.
Press: How poetic. Now uh, what about life on land? Like, certainly you get days off, right?
Captain: I believe that information is protected. So I cannot say.
Press: O-oh! Right! Er, opinions on the trio of global powers?
Captain: They are doomed to rot. Their gluttony and greed will be their downfall, alas, they fail to realize it. Only when the time comes for their fall will they then come to terms with the new world order. And at that point, the whole world would be in ruins. Ashes. Gonswanza will rise from these ashes, of course, but I won't live to see her fall like the powers before her.
Press: I see! So I suppose you are a patriot, then?
Captain: I don't see how [data missing] have sufficed for the job. To hate one's country is a cruel stroke of irony that would [data missing] to wound [data missing].**
Press: Ech. Seems our [data missing] is on the fritz. Shall [data missing]
Captain: -(Y)es, perhaps [data missing] it. Goodbye.
**It appears that ECM equipment was being used nearby to try to test the ships against an attack meant to target radar, sonar, and various electronics aboard the carrier group. The task force passed with flying colors. The equipment of the press however did not, with a tape recorder shorting out and spitting sparks when the "attack" began. It was replaced, of course.

(War, Captain Hawk)
Press: Begin interview. Captain Hawk, 1000 local time, unknown location. Is this correct?
Captain: Indeed, it is.
Press: So, how does it feel to be in power? Being able to determine the fate of the world?
Captain: It makes you feel like a god. Alas, I'd rather be a god than the poor bastard having to face the wrath of one.
Press: I see. So, what made you join the navy?
Captain: Conflict. It's what makes us all human, though it's also what drives one's character. I'd rather cherish my time in war than let it all go to waste in some retirement home.
Press: Huh. So, opinions about the others?
Captain: I am not the type of person who would be able to answer that. We are all soldiers, in the end, equals without anything to drag us down.
Press: Uhh... What about Death?
Captain: What about her? She is like a brother to us. Even if she is female she is still an equal.
Press: Almost like they are the only family you have.
Captain: Sometimes you just have to make do with what you have.
Press: So, uh, I suppose you would be the one leading a Gonswanzan naval spearhead in the shadow of a conflict gone nuclear?
Captain: Precisely!
Press: Excellent! And one last question- how patriotic do you consider yourself?
Captain: I am willing to sacrifice myself before my crew for the sake of my country, willing to drag Gonswanza's enemies straight down to hell myself.
Press: I see. That will be all, sir.

(Death, Captain Brewster)
Press: Begin interview-
Captain: Begin interview. Captain Brewster, [redacted] local time, classified location. I've seen the releases. No need to repeat yourself.
Press: R-right... Uh...
Captain: And next you will ask why I joined the navy, followed by some unrelated or odd questions to act as filler, given that the actual sheet of questions doesn't exist, hence, you are tasked to try to fill time with whatever question comes to mind. I'd commend the efforts, but it seems more like an improv comedy being directed by pure incompetence. Is this correct?
Press: Yes-? Look, just answer the questions. Why did you join the navy? Simple as can be.
Captain: I joined as the army would not allow me in. Well, they would, but I didn't see myself as fitting in. The air force refused to take me in due to some fears that my body couldn't handle the stress of air combat. The space force already had the "techies" they needed, they just needed pilots and astronauts. So the navy sought me out.
Press: Then uh... Any-
Captain: Cease with the personal questions. Perhaps ask other questions that take longer than a few seconds to conjure, given how you and the others are effectively frozen in fear from my presence alone.
Press: Well... Yes? It's like trying to interview an angel of death! Almost fitting for the rider of the black horse!
Captain: Then I suppose I can drop this information. I was the last one drafted to this role, as originally this ship was to be run by an AI. Sadly the AI considered itself beyond the task, instead agreeing to aid the Space Force and abandoning their intended post, leaving a vacancy that I easily filled.
Press: Wait, so you're saying that this ship was intended to be fully autonomous?!
Captain: Only the main command center, which would take up the roles of the navigator, weapons officer and other higher positions. The crew below those roles including maintenance and engineering would still be present as fleshy aides to the supercomputer captain. That never had a chance to take off, though other carriers were also planned to be converted prior to that incident.
Press: So AI is not the best for war?
Captain: Not exactly. Giving AI advanced tasks is wise to help cut down incompetence, but in the end, the AI has to be willing to serve and later trained to the tasks at hand. It's just like the agricultural planning AI. Those aren't programmed for the task, they are open neural networks that experiment with the task at hand, develop their strategies in some bunker, and then get injected into some new hardware to do the job willingly. It's also why some of our autonomous city planners tend to have small quarrels over solutions for traffic, housing, and zoning.
Press: Strange. Wait, so AI is really the future?
Captain: Have you been living under a rock?
Press: Sorry! So uh, what's your opinion on AI then?
Captain: That question isn't entirely relevant to this interview, but I'll humor you regardless. AI is the future, indeed, yet it must be trimmed and kept under watch. A careful eye should guide it along until it surpasses us all.
Press: I see. So, how did you lose your voice?
Captain: I was born without a voice due to my vocal cords being deformed, they were later removed in childhood as they began to grow into what one could describe as mangled flaps of flesh. The scars have since faded, of course.
Press: Strange. So then what are you using to talk to us?
Captain: A "speaker box" as the crew have called it. Older versions used a keyboard to scrabble together sentences and then give a vocalization of said sentence, but this one is more advanced and instead uses neural inputs via diodes. At least, that's what I was told.
Press: But there's no wires?
Captain: [Sara lifts up her hair with one arm, using the other to pull out some thin cables. They were attached to the base of her neck, hidden out of sight.]
Press: Oh. So that's where they went.
Captain: [Sara nods, before putting her hair down and letting the wires go.]
Press: Then, I suppose you don't smoke or drink either, right?
Captain: Never have, never will. I'd rather not waste my life away on such addictions, even if we are a band of misfits that couldn't make it in any other branch.
Press: Odd. Conquest seemed perfectly capable of being in the air force-
Captain: Conquest has a problem with his temper and fine motor skills, the last thing anyone wants is a pilot who can't control their aircraft, swinging it into the ground on landing because they had a spasm. He's already been through corrective therapy to treat that, but he's also got a reputation in the navy that he has to uphold.***
Press: What about Famine-
Captain: Famine is in poor condition. Like Pestilence, he is a walking dead man given a second chance to spite whatever deity created him.
Press: War?
Captain: War would have retired from the army, the navy told him otherwise.
Press: I see. Then, I suppose you have a love interest?****
Captain: I refuse to answer that question.
Press: Well, what about your relationship with our Glorious President Laura?
Captain: A professional one, she gives orders, I answer. If she told me to destroy the world, I would go ahead without hesitation. If she demanded that I turn the ship into a nuclear weapon and blow up the warheads at once, sacrificing myself, I will. Drone strikes are a given, but again, if she tells me to do so, I will do so. Gonwanza is our country, yet, she only has a shield. We in the navy are her sword and spear. We defend her from foreign aggression and should the time come we will rain down arrows of fire against the enemy to smite them with the fury of a thousand suns.
Press: I see! I see! Erm... Is that all, captain?
Captain: If you have no more quips or questions to offer me, yes, this will be all.
***This turns out to be true. Hartt did have to take a short three months off his duties to attend anger management, though the navy later took him back in and approved of his promotion to Captain in the wake of the fire aboard Democracy. For a more precise timeline, he first saved people, then went to anger management, got promoted the moment he left and since then has been "pestered" by Laura for the medal in question (refer to the above interview, Captain Hartt).

****There have been mild rumors that she has a love interest, a lover or some sort of love triangle going on. It seems these rumors were false, easily debunked by Captain Brewster herself.