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In The Expanse Season 01 Donnager is attacked by the 6 ships with cloaking tech.

What I do not understand: why are crews of these 6 ships willing to sacrifice their lives on such a risky mission? What are they exactly? Mercenaries? Fanatics? Brain-washed high-tech soldiers?

When escaping from the Donnager, Holden encounters one of them. The enemy soldier replies: "I am dead already". What does he mean with this?

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If you have only watched the first (few) episode(s), I suggest you don't read this answer and watch the rest of the episodes.


I don't quite understand the premise of the question. Private military contractors and mercenaries (so-called "soldiers of fortune") have existed for a considerable amount of time in real life. Why do people become a mercenary and put their lives on the line? Money.

When escaping from the Donnager, Holden encounters one of them. The enemy soldier replies: "I am dead already". What does he mean with this?

This suggests that the enemy soldier is working for someone who will kill them if they fail to accomplish their mission. This is not too dissimilar from e.g. how mob families are portrayed, where interacting with the enemy (the police) is liable to get you killed by your own mob family.

"I am dead already" means "You (Holden) can't threaten me with death. Even if not by your hand, someone/something else will soon kill me."

What are they exactly? Mercenaries? Fanatics? Brain-washed high-tech soldiers?

This hasn't been expanded on (in the TV show at least, can't speak to the books).

I don't know how far you've gotten in the show (since you posted a pilot episode question) so I'll avoid spoilers, but much of the concrete workings of who sent the ships has never been explained. The show does explicitly state and suggest that they have a very wide reach and deep pockets.

The most likely answer is money, but in later seasons, you will also encounter characters who have aligned with the "evil" (for lack of a better word) side because they genuinely believe it is necessary to do what they're doing.

  • Hi there. Thank you for the answer. "I don't quite understand the premise of the question." - Mercenaries work for money, right, however, it doesn't sound realistic that they go on a mission where it's for sure that 90% is going to die. Something like this is realistic for freedom fighters, fanatics, etc. – ivicaa Mar 4 at 12:11
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    @ivicaa: By that logic, no one would commit violent (and thus dangerous) crimes for financial gain. Which clearly does happen. There are always those who either don't shy away from a fight, or naively think they'll be fine, or are paid such inordinate amounts of money that it blinds them to everything else. – Flater Mar 4 at 12:18
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    @ivicaa The soliders are attacking the Donnager with highly advanced ships, they are going in knowing they have a huge advantage, especially since the Donnager doesn't know how high tech their ships are, they are going in that they will succeed with a 90% success rate, not a failure rate. – morbo Mar 4 at 12:34
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    @ivicaa: To extend Morbo's comment, while trying to avoid spoilers, you can assume that the attackers were well aware of the Donnager's capabilities and wouldn't particularly think that they were starting a fight they were going to lose. – Flater Mar 4 at 12:37
  • In later episodes it is revealed that certain brain alterations have been carried out on at least some of these attackers that may significantly affect their strategies in this sort of situation – Whelkaholism Apr 23 at 13:38

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