Epirian Master Bot Handler
The Epirian Foundation became one of the dominant forces in the Spiral Arm for two reasons: its terraforming technology allowed the Foundation to convert barren worlds into productive and verdant paradises, and its legions of robots and drones allowed it to harvest resources from inhabited planets and desolate asteroids alike. Both would be nothing, however, without Bot Handlers striding amongst their robotic charges, directing their actions and optimising their workflow. The limited AI of Epirian bots means that the true power lies in a Handler's control, and for many, training to become one of the Foundation's machine shepherds is the ultimate career to aspire to. By the time a Bot Handler reaches the hallowed status of Master, they are the Foundation's most valuable resource, guiding entire robotic divisions and piloting whole squadrons of starships on their own. They are so precious, in fact, that their corporate superiors overlook all manner of eccentricities and odd behaviors, both of which become increasingly common the longer a Handler plies their trade. As a Handler spends increased time with their consciousness projected into their robotic subjects, the more they become detached from humanity.
A Master Handler has spent decades diving into the electronic pathways of machines. Having to spend a few minutes conversing with another person is excruciating when one is used to simply thinking a command and have it be perfectly understood and followed. Master Handlers are often awkward and disdainful of other humans, which can unsettle those within their proximity. The elite human soldiers in the Foundation's SecDef division resent a Master Handler's lack of cohesion, despite the formidable abilities they bring to bear on the enemy. Master Handlers therefore refuse to serve embedded with any other Foundation unit, instead relying on custom built 'Defender' Drones to protect them. These modified Firefly drones have their clingfire payload replaced with state-of-the-art armour. Their vastly improved neural processors perform a 'swarm defense', continually scanning for potential threats, positioning themselves as a seemingly easy target, only to dart away once they have drawn enemy fire.
Master Handlers wear powerful machine-assisted armor normally reserved for elite SecDef forces, and wield an arsenal of weaponry that normal soldiers can only dream of. Some Master Handlers eschew additional weapons and instead utilize Neural Nodes: an incredibly expensive and controversial technology that combines a powerful machine neural processor with a tiny portion of the Master Handler's cognitive functions. The Neural Node acts as an independent, duplicated version of the Handler's consciousness for a brief moment, before safeguards purge its core memory. The Neural Node creates a powerful momentary electronic copy of the Master Handler's mind into the target drone, to assess the situation and provide the drones with a specific order. There are many voices both outside and within the Foundation that decry the use of Neural Nodes, claiming they are a form of A.I., which puts all of humanity at risk. The Foundation remains resolute that purging a Neural Nodes at regular intervals prevents any potential issues from arising. Master Handlers themselves ignore the controversy, relishing any opportunity to become closer to the robots under their control, to devastating effect amongst those that stand in their way.
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