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This is a follow-up to Government Maintaining Good PR despite zombies and is another XCOM-inspired question.

In XCOM, a substance called Meld ( a mixture of hybrid nanomachines, part nanobot, part microorganism) allows scientists to A) genetically modify humans and B) integrate nanomachines in human bodies to create cyborgs. My question is how the government would maintain good PR despite their controversial actions to prevent revolts/insurrections if a similar scenario occurred.

Now, what is this "similar scenario?" There are three parts:

  1. The elite among the aliens seem to have advanced psionic abilities (telekinesis, telepathy, energy projection, even mind control) and through a combination of gene therapy and reverse-engineered alien tech, select military operatives have gained the same abilities.

  2. The government, using reverse-engineered alien tech and recovered alien corpses, have genetically modified select soldiers to have alien traits, including but not limited to: superstrength, superspeed, enhanced healing factor (think axolotl), chitin armor, flight, camouflage (which is advanced to practical invincibility), extreme resilience and/or durability (think cockroach or indomitable ironclad beetle, they're good examples of resilience and durability, as are rats...NOT speaking from personal experience, just an animal buff...)

  3. The government, using advanced alien biotech, have created cyborgs-think humanoid, giant Battlebots combined with big, buff soldiers and you have the basic idea. Basically the 'mechs' so common to science-fiction, but integrated instead of separate (cyborg instead of human pilot/robot mech combo). No cyborg is more than 9 feet tall.

In the first question, it turns out when there's a crisis or ongoing war, politicians are untouchable, but in this case, the aliens have been beaten and life is getting back to normal again. Except.....y'know, the government really didn't see a reason to inform military personnel's families of their extensive modifications during the war, they let military personnel contact their loved ones but made sure the secret didn't get out.

Why? Because using poorly understood alien technology and genes to create super-soldiers is controversial, if not outright wrong, even if done with consent. It is obviously a poorly thought out plan, that only someone truly desperate would undergo, and yet this has happened.

There will be an absolutely massive backlash (at least, if my reasoning is correct). Below are four different examples, each happening to a different person:

  1. Your husband is called into action and you haven't seen him for about a year when he comes back, looking like a Goliath from Evolve.
  2. Your military boyfriend comes back, clad in modern-looking power armor, and you're happy to see him; and then he tells you it's not power armor, that he was infused with nanobots and is now literally walking, talking half-alien tech....a cyborg.
  3. Your brother comes back, his hair and skin now an eerie white, and he acts strangely. You wonder what happened to him, and finally he reveals that he's looked at the world differently after seeing it through the eyes of the aliens and zombies he's mind-controlled. You don't believe him, but then he lifts your pickup with his mind and shoots a lightning bolt from his hand that nearly hits you as evidence. "Now do you believe me?"
  4. Your sister comes back, but she's acting so strangely that you consider having her tested for insanity. Finally, she tells you that she was turned into a zombie by an alien soldier and that while her humanity was partially restored by modern medicine (ie. she can think and act like a human,), deep down, she's still a zombie. Oh, and she's traumatized by her memories of being first zombified and then being mind-controlled to fight the aliens.

My question is, How can the American government best handle this to A) keep their positive PR and B) dial down the backlash?

Specifically, the government has to:

  1. Ensure benefits for those who agreed to modification and fought against the aliens
  2. Prevent discrimination against those specified in 1
  3. As specified in the preceding question, the mind-control ability of certain operatives is already set so they can't use it on people; however, they can use it on aliens and zombies, and something tells me that will cause tension... .A) there will be that one guy who wants to bring his alien "pet" back home with him, B) there will be people mind-controlling select aliens to help the government uncover their secrets and recreate their technology and C) zombies will likely be protesting against the actions taken against them (ie. mind-controlling them and putting them on the battlefield) and calling for government action to ensure that they are not controlled again if they're not actively seeking revenge....

The government has to somehow account for all of that. Yeah, it's an awful lot to take in, I'd go step-by-step. As always, I appreciate your input and feedback, thanks in advance! As a final note, if this question needs narrowing down or fixing please let me know, and if you decide to close-vote or downvote, please don't do so without an explanation so I can keep improving my questions.

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    $\begingroup$ Based on the track record of the American government in returning Vietnam vets, they would get everyone to say 'Thank you for your service', give them all medals, make them heroes, and then wipe their hands of any further involvement or responsibility. What is the difference between them coming back the way you describe and coming back in a wheel chair, or with PTSD, or with limbs missing? A broken body is a broken body. No need for any different response than the current one. $\endgroup$ Jan 31 at 4:36
  • $\begingroup$ Too easy: "Unhappy? Blame the aliens for ruining your life." Good for 10 years of easy scapegoating. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Jan 31 at 4:50
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    $\begingroup$ I'm currently too distracted by having both a husband and a boyfriend turning up in the house at the same time, will sign off and come back to this tomorrow. $\endgroup$ Jan 31 at 5:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Tantalus'touch., those are four different examples, concerning four different people. $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Feb 1 at 13:49
  • $\begingroup$ That's fine, sorry about the misunderstanding. Glad you have some great answers. $\endgroup$ Feb 1 at 14:09
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A cover-up

It would not play out like some kind of superheroes show on cable: "I have a terrible secret that's also really cool; I hope you don't force me to confess how awesome I truly am and then date the crap out of me!" That's harlequin romance trash.

If military personnel are so irreversibly changed during the war effort, the government would prevent them from returning to civilian life, period. Families would be told that their loved-ones were killed in the line of duty, and there would be funerals with military honors. That would be the end of the public story. We know this is how it would play out because this is how clandestine services handle things in the real world. It doesn't matter how cool your dead dad's spy work was: they lie about it from the day he signs up to the day they bury an empty coffin. "He sold airplane parts for 30 years, and was killed when a gas main exploded. There are no remains."


What truly happens to the combatants depends on what state they are in when the war ends. If they're able to continue functioning more-or-less like humans, they'd be kept alive in some kind of secret facility, effectively prisoners but with friendly jailers. They would remain in secret captivity until death. I don't mean cells: think permanent military installation during peacetime.

They'll be free to move about within the facility. They'll be given jobs, if for no other reason than the therapeutic value of normalcy. At first, their "jobs" will be getting debriefed repeatedly, and while it will taper off after a while, it won't stop until the military is certain it has learned everything there is to learn about the war it just won. Later, they'd probably be tasked with analyzing intelligence. There would also be experiments; not gruesome or painful ones, but the military would continuously and actively study their health and abilities.

They'll eat in the same cafeteria as the research and security staff. They'll have books and TV (censored) and movies, all the entertainments that can be enjoyed in secret. Perhaps the military would even keep tabs on their families for them, subject to psychologist approval. But they would never leave, never be permitted to have any contact with the outside world, ever. No phone, no mail, no internet. Any who try to escape or otherwise expose the project will be stopped, even if that requires killing them. If they succeed in contacting anyone on the outside, the government would sweep up those people, too.

It's not hard to understand why they'd be kept alive. For one thing, each of these human weapons is a massive investment that has already been made. The military would not discard them if it could avoid doing so. It would keep them around for the next conflict -- whether that conflict is with more aliens or just some puny mortal dictator.

And secondly, each of these human weapons is an experiment -- one that is still ongoing after the war. How long can a human survive after modification? What are the long-term consequences? Exactly what powers do they have and precisely what are their parameters? Could we improve on the process with the second generation? Given the amalgam of dissimilar technologies you've thrown into these things, we have every reason to assume there are unpleasant side-effects. Some will undoubtedly die from the long-term effects of their modifications. Some will require surgery to prevent death.

The military will want to monitor these things as long as possible so that the next generation of super-soldiers will be better. The first generation isn't going to go off without a hitch; nothing ever does. There will be problems, and the military will want to study those problems for obvious and practical reasons. If nothing else, they would want to figure out how to make these modifications undetectable so that future soldiers might be able to return to civilian life. That would take decades of research.

On the other hand, if any of the super-weapons is now so mentally changed that they are a danger to themselves or others during their lifelong confinement, they'd be euthanized. These are war heroes, so the military won't be cruel -- nobody will be vivisected alive. But anyone who poses a physical danger to the health or secrecy of the project will be put down as a practical necessity.

Finally, it's worth considering that these individuals have just gone through a war, probably a uniquely horrifying one, and so even if their physical humanity could be magically restored, many will likely suffer from severe PTSD requiring ongoing psychological treatment. Because of the classified nature of their experiences, they'd only be allowed to talk to military psychologists who are part of the project and sworn to secrecy. And we may not be able to medicate them, given how physically changed they are.


So, what would happen?

They'll all be declared KIA. The ones who return from combat will be debriefed in secret and then evaluated with an eye toward viability as a long-term research subject. Those who are deemed not viable will be euthanized in a humane and extremely crafty way. The others will spend the rest of their lives in an underground research facility until and unless they're needed in another conflict, or until their situation deteriorates to the point that they must also be euthanized.

As a result, most of the specific concerns you raise would never arise in the first place.

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  • $\begingroup$ Great answer, very clear and well thought out. $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Feb 1 at 13:53
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Serious option: Kill them off before they can retire.

Depends on how far down the authoritarian slope the government has slipped, but it's easier to arrange a few thousand a military funerals, widow pensions, and a nice memorial, than to explain all that.

If there's oversight and war reporters and helmet cameras and no press censorship - this isn't going to happen. But I'm including it for completion.

Point to signed consent forms.

This is what will happen to those who were modified by the surgeons. Hands will be washed of the issue because they consent to it.

That it was allowed will be an issue, which will be dealt with:

Scapegoating

The general who decided to modify humans, and perhaps the general who lost the battle which resulted in the largest zombie hoard, will be expected to fall on their sword. They will submit their resignation and the government will try to wipe their hands of the issue.

It wont work entirely, there will still be angry people out there, which will be deflected by...

Hold a multi-year enquiry

Politicians do this ALL THE TIME, "let's not get mad now, lets empower some researchers to interview everyone and gather all the facts so we can make an informed decision later." By the time the 500-page report arrives, a new government is in command, anger has died down, etc.

These enquiries don't do much:

While you're waiting on the conveniently delayed report...

Give everyone medals, veterans discounts, call them heroes, and then ignore them.

Quoting Justin's comment, as I can't add anything to it:

Based on the track record of the American government in returning Vietnam vets, they would get everyone to say 'Thank you for your service', give them all medals, make them heroes, and then wipe their hands of any further involvement or responsibility. What is the difference between them coming back the way you describe and coming back in a wheel chair, or with PTSD, or with limbs missing? A broken body is a broken body. No need for any different response than the current one.

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Enclaves.

It is hard to have sex with a 9 foot tall supersoldier. Unless, of course, you are also a 9 foot tall super soldier in which case what you need are durable surroundings. Weird looking mind reading psionic people are beautiful to other weird looking mind reading psionic people, and of course they both know it when they encounter each other.

Your various engineered people will live in enclaves of their own kind where their idiosyncracies are the norm. There may be more to the alien engineerings than just battle prowess, and these folks will figure it out and grow into their new selves. These are not District 9 type internment camps and the persons are not blocked from interaction from the wider human populace. These are enclaves like Chinatown, the "gayborhood" or any other enclave of persons with similar ethnic, religious, or sexual orientation affinities who choose to live together in a given neighborhood.

Persons based in these safe environments find strength there to pursue common interests, deal with the larger human populations and in this case, learn about their own new biology that circumstance has brought them.

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  • $\begingroup$ Kind of reminds me of Roman Colonia. If you treat their new enclaves as a government gift of land as repayment for their services, then it looks like the government actively taking care of its vets instead of some seedy attempt to segregate them $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Feb 1 at 20:16

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