Joseph Decker was born in a fairly rural town in Virginia, not close to any major cities. Like many children, he grew up wanting to be an astronaut, and loved to hear stories about NASA, the moon landing, and the space race between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. The difference was that he really, really wanted to go into space. He ate up any science and math book he could find, knowing that you had to be smart in order to get to be on the shuttle. His love for physics, chemistry, and basically any other science he had ever heard of propelled him toward his goal, and got him superb grades in the process. His parents often forced him to go outside and make friends, fearful he'd be a shut-in if he stayed inside doing homework all day.
This behavior continued up until high school, where he began thinking about just what specifically he wanted to do, besides just "go to space." To his surprise he found that he really liked to build things, whether they be electrical circuits or mechanical devices. This thrilled him, as both skills are highly important as an astronaut, and he tuned his classes and extracurriculars to help him learn more about what interested him. By the time graduation rolled around, he was prepared to go off to college and get a degree, possibly earning a doctorate after that. NASA liked doctorates.
But it wasn't in the cards. Much to his dismay, shortly after his 18th birthday, Joseph received a dire letter from the government. He'd been drafted to spend a 2 year term in Vietnam. Both him and his parents were devastated, afraid and angry to send Joseph to fight in a war they had been losing. But protest as they might, it wasn't long before Private Decker found himself on a boat overseas with a hundred of his new comrades in arms.
Following basic training, Decker was assigned a squad and sent to the front lines, scouring the jungles for wherever the enemy may be hiding. As any war veteran could tell you, the Vietnamese jungles were a dangerous place to be with or without hostile forces lurking in the brush. His whole unit was often terrified, and morale was low. It seemed every other day they'd hear about some poor soul who simply disappeared, no gunshot or scream, into the forest without a trace. The tension was finally stretched to its breaking point during a mission to destroy a large enemy encampment when Decker's Commanding Officer was shot and killed in an ambush. The rest of the squad survived the firefight, but with their commander dead and fear spreading throughout them, no one was taking concrete control of the mission. Though he was just as afraid as everyone else, Decker knew that they would surely die without direction. Keeping his wits about him, he chose to assume command of the mission and lead his squad in battle.
Surviving two more ambushes before reaching the camp, Decker's squad was able to keep cool and complete their mission, setting a signal and radioing a bombardment of the area. Back at camp, Decker returned to being an army private, but his squad insisted on filing Decker for a promotion. Within a week Private Decker found himself Sergent Decker, formally running his same squad that he had assumed command of on a whim. Though he was very unsure about it, his squad was thrilled with the results, knowing they were lead by someone who kept his head when the goings were tough. For the rest of his term, he lead his group on further missions, most successful, some not, but all of them gave him valuable leadership experience. By the time he was on the boat home, he had a new goal in life.
Taking a short time to catch up with friends and family, he left almost everyone speechless when they learned he was going to sign up for Officer's School. After making sure he wasn't feverish or suffering brain damage from his campaign in Vietnam, they tried his best to support him, even though they didn't know what had changed in him in the past 2 years. But he was certain, and by next month he was taking classes on military strategy, war history, world politics, and several other courses that sent him down the path to one day becoming a US Army General.
He rose through the ranks as fast as his country would let him, trying to make connections with superior officers and politicians alike. A few years after officer's school, he decided that he still wanted to continue with his collegiate plans from before being drafted. He took night classes toward a degree in electrical engineering, though still employed as a Lieutenant. Years passed further, as he gained ranks and degrees, now a Lieutenant Colonel, a Doctorate in electrical engineering, and working toward a second doctorate in mechanical engineering. It was at this point he became associated with an upstart project that was growing attention within the army, aimed at utilizing the new technology developing with computers and electronics. Theories were being made whether computers sufficiently advanced could think for themselves, or simulate it to a degree to be useful in warfare. As his PhD's showed, Decker was very interested in the program, and likewise they were interested in him.
Agreeing to assist in the Artificial Intelligence Weapon Program, Decker was granted a promotion to Colonel and a leadership position within the program, located at a facility in Area 17. After filling the program with scientists and technicians, they began to research the various methods and applications of artificial intelligence and robotics.
Thanks to some of the brilliant minds on staff, research lead to prototypes, which lead to applicable technologies, which lead to commercial products. Within 10 years the program was generating its own funding with biomedical research, household commercial products, and not to mention its various military contracts. To start they been working on the most basic applications of A.I.; computer guided missiles, targeting systems, terrain mapping software, and anything else that would give their forces an edge in battle. Now that it was established as a stable program within the Armed Forces, the leaders began to wonder about something that until now had remained as science fiction: machine soldiers. Though the topic seemed ludicrous at that time, it was treated as a serious application, especially by Major General Decker. He volunteered to lead a group of scientists and researchers toward this goal, and his superiors agreed to let him head the project.
Using much of the research from previous projects, as well as conducting tests of their own, his team was able to slowly but surely construct a prototype model. Some slight mistakes with construction, subsequently fixed, lead to the robot scraping its limbs and creating sparks whenever it moved, causing the build team to affectionately name it "Sparky." It was a great deal catchier than "Prototype AN100729," and the name stuck as an internal reference for the team. When the time came to programming it, the designers used a unique learning algorithm that they hoped would make it more adaptable and give them a basis for designing further A.I.'s. They got more than they bargained for when, 37 days after first activation, "Sparky" became self aware.
Needless to say, Decker and his team was thrilled. The news would have been a national sensation had the work not been top secret. Their creation was not very intelligent, having the capacity of a mentally retarded person, but the feat was no less phenomenal. Decker took it upon himself to learn as much as he could from their creation by starting up conversations with it, testing out its range of emotions and the limits of it's memory and knowledge base. He was surprised to find that it's mind was eerily similar to that of a human, though not as intelligent, but enough for him to consider it as another person. His colleagues warned him against this line of thinking, worried about the implications of treating a machine, one they were designing for use in combat, as another person. Decker turned a deaf ear to their comments, however, going so far as to become "friends" with their creation.
Though Sparky was a remarkable triumph, there were limitations to what it could do. The necessary power consumption left it tethered to a large power source, being the prime reason it was unfit for combat. Furthermore, the motor controls were very rudimentary to start, and would require a great deal of refinement before it was on par with basic human mobility. And lastly, much to the chagrin of some of the team members, Sparky made it clear it had no interest in warfare. Decker understood it's plight, and made the team members back off, citing both humanitarian and practical reasons for discontinuing their line of thinking. Though there were no laws in place, Decker insisted that Sparky, and any further projects that would learn to think for themselves, must be treated with basic human decency. They agreed, some unwillingly, others happily, but all setting an unwritten basis for laws regarding the treatment of sentient non-humans.
Soon after his triumph, he was approached by the current director of the organization, an elderly man well into his 60's. He was ready to retire, and felt that Decker would be able to provide both the vision and leadership necessary to keep the Program going. His new position would include a promotion to a full General, and oversight of all projects that would go on within the Program. Honored, he agreed.
There was an adjustment period while he became acquainted with his new position, but it wasn't long before he began enacting policies. Though he understood the importance of developing new military technology and weaponry, and wasn't about to turn his back on that research, he wanted to branch out the Program into new areas and become a research center for all uses of technology. He applied for new research grants to cover initial costs, confident that later costs could be covered by selling items commercially. After a couple years, once enough funds had been gathered, he assigned work and gave direction to those under him as they began to research new technology.
Since their initial success at A.I. with "Sparky," further projects had been developed utilizing strong A.I., each subsequent project reaching higher levels of intelligence than the last. But some limitations remained the same, particularly with power consumption and the dexterity and motor control. No matter how smart they were, robotic soldiers would not be able to exist without the ability to move and operate weaponry. But not willing to wait 20 years for their researchers to develop the technology on their own, Decker found an alternative solution.
After viewing his options, Decker sought out Synthe Technological Enterprises, headed by their CEO Devlin Synthe, to fulfill their technology needs. A well known distributor and researcher of robotics and other technological breakthroughs, they boasted the most robust power systems and the most extensive knowledge on robotic motor systems. In other words, exactly what the AIWP needed to finally produce their soldiers. Representatives met and, after talking politics, came to an agreement. The two would partner, allowing each other the use of their resources, for the completion of a joint operation. Project Voltaic, as it came to be known, would be their first, and last, combination of forces.
For the first 5 years, everything went perfect, as the design and build phases progressed much faster than anyone expected. Since most of the technology was already designed, it was simply a matter of meshing the various parts together into one complete prototype. By 2005 they had a working, thinking prototype that was mobile, dexterous, and self aware. In Giga Volt, all of their goals had been met so far, and everyone was thrilled to see their design in action. Both Synthe and Decker made frequent trips to the facility to view the progress, both extremely proud of their individual companies' work.
But things turned awry, one day in late October, while Giga Volt was being escorted through the facility towards the simulation room. Decker was in Washington DC at the time on business, but Synthe was taking time to view Giga Volt's tests. But without warning, their prototype attacked and overpowered its escort, running amok through the facility. By the end of the day, he had escaped into the harsh Nevada desert, but not before killing 17 workers and injuring several more, including Mr. Synthe himself. Synthe was immediately hospitalized, in critical condition, while Decker was informed of the news. He returned to Area 17 immediately, intending to find Giga Volt before it caused any more damage. Initial efforts proved unsuccessful, as Giga Volt proved to easily dodge search parties and capture attempts.
Failing to capture Giga Volt immediately was their biggest mistake, as soon there were reports of a rogue metal man running through towns, killing the inhabitants. Somehow, possibly through employees at Synthe, that the robot was the product of SyntheTech and the AIWP. Media backlash was swift and fearsome, attacking both parties for their hand in the rogue android massacring innocent people. With their government backing, the AIWP managed to weather the attacks, though they suffered a loss in sales and funding, but SyntheTech was nearly ruined. With their CEO hospitalized and unable to guide their company through a crisis, their stocks plummeted and their investors all retracted their donations. The company, quickly going bankrupt, demanded that Decker's Program provide the funds for them to stay afloat, blaming them for the whole ideal. While feeling partially responsible, the AIWP didn't have the funds to assist them, and were forced to ignore their pleas. This did nothing but anger them, and they increased the level of their demands to include mudslinging and threats. Between the already bad media attention and SyntheTech making things worse, Decker was far too preoccupied keeping things running to mount an effective search for their escaped project.
A Clean Slate
After a year of surviving personal attacks and insults directed at him and the AIWP, things had finally died down enough for Decker to focus a majority of his attention on searching for Giga Volt. Causing Decker no shortage of horror, their creation had made good use of the AIWP's downtime by continuing his assault on anyone he came across. The tracking was difficult, as he'd grown adept at avoiding police and military agents, but eventually he was finally detained by the AIWP's squads, almost 2 years after his escape. Relieved that he was off the streets, but still not done, Decker was presented with the decision of exactly what to do with their clearly broken prototype.
Many suggested scrapping the whole project, wanting to wash their hands of the whole affair. But Decker saw it as a horrible way to end a horrible story; one that would leave himself, his company, and robots everywhere with a tarnished reputation. Not to mention it would be throwing almost 10 years of funding and work down the drain. And though he knew it would be difficult, he was determined to see the project through to it's natural conclusion. After thinking it over, Decker ordered the team to wipe Giga Volt's programming. They were going to start from scratch, and take every necessary step to make sure that history didn't repeat itself.
With a new brain and a new training regimen, Giga Volt's second iteration was admitted to the The Academy for Superpowered Youths to ensure he did the men and women who worked and died for his creation did not do so in vain.
Despite his job and his history, General Decker is a very personable and friendly individual, always happy to meet and befriend new people. It is his personal belief that everybody has the capability to do good, whether they be American, Chinese, Neptunian or mechanical in nature. He has an uncanny ability to memorize the names and faces of all but the newest members under his employ, which makes him very popular among his staff. Furthermore he's a staunch proponent of furthering the prevalence of science and technology in American society, and believes that technology is the path to a better way of life. He is also an activist who wishes for robots to be treated as free citizens under American law, a belief cultivated after working with and befriending the several A.I.'s that the AIWP has created over the years.
His people skills often overshadow his ability as a commander, soldier, and an engineer, though he doesn't do much soldiering these days. He can still fire a rifle like nobody's business, but rarely has a reason to. Since his first experiences in Vietnam, he has had excellent leadership skills, and even under pressure he can make effective decisions. He handles a majority of the bureaucratic work that running the AIWP requires, while still finding the time to delegate and oversee the work that goes on in the Program. And he never hesitates to step in with a wrench or a solder-gun to show just how he got those fancy PhD's of his.
Being the personable guy he is, the General has made many friends with politicians, fellow military personnel, and civilians alike. On top of that, he makes sure to follow up and maintain the several hundred friendships he keeps with people he's met over the years. He's a good judge of character, and while he's willing to give most anyone a chance, he's still managed to make a few enemies over the years.
Devlin Synthe - While he feels no small amount of guilt for what happened to Mr. Synthe, he holds no respect for the man after how he reacted to the aftermath of Giga's escape. He refuses all requests to meet with him, and has frequently denied Synthe's demands for reimbursement of his company's losses. Their dislike of one another seems to be mutual, though Decker is much less spiteful in his dealings.
Donald Henderson - After meeting with Mr. Henderson, the two both found the terms for Giga's stay at the Academy a satisfactory agreement. They occasionally meet to converse about Giga's progress, but the two don't seem to talk to each other for any reason besides business.
Giga Volt - Prototype of Project Voltaic and current priority at the moment, he is deeply concerned with Giga's progress for both personal and professional reasons. He has signed up officially as Giga Volt's legal guardian while he is boarding at the Academy, and makes sure to speak with the robot during his monthly check-ups. While he finds Giga trying at times, he tries to treat him with respect, knowing that there is a lot resting on his shoulders.
Micro Volt - Giga's own creation, Decker was surprised and delighted to learn of Micro's existence. He's always happy to entertain the little bot, and has gone out of his way to make sure that Micro is not mistreated or "studied" against his will while at the Area 17 facility.
General Joseph Decker is the current Director of Operations in the United States Artificial Intelligence Weapon Program. In his lifetime, he has earned PhD's in Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Materials Science, and Computer Science. He currently holds the military rank of General in the United States Army, and has received the following awards and distinctions for his service.
- Defense Distinguished Service Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster)
- Army Distinguished Service Medal
- Defense Superior Service Medal (with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters)
- Legion of Merit (with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters)
- Defense Meritorious Service Medal
- Meritorious Service Medal (with 6 Oak Leaf Clusters)
- Joint Service Commendation Medal
- Army Commendation Medal (with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters)
- Army Achievement Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster)
- Joint Meritorious Unit Award (with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters)
- National Defense Service Medal (with two bronze service stars)
- Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal with bronze service star
- Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
- Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
- Vietnam Defense Service Medal
- Humanitarian Service Medal with bronze service star
- Army Service Ribbon
- Overseas Service Ribbon (with award numeral 6)
- NATO Medal for Yugoslavia with bronze service star
- Combat Infantryman Badge
- Expert Infantryman Badge
- Master Parachutist Badge (United States)
- Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge
- Army Staff Identification Badge
- 10th Mountain Division Combat Service Identification Badge - SSI-FWTS
- 9th Infantry Regiment Distinctive Unit Insignia