Monday, November 13, 2017

Spacecraft Mods

While fully fleshed out mechanics for operating spaceships in a combat scale are yet forthcoming, below is a list of some possibly modifications to most forms of spacecraft which should work in any campaign featuring them more heavily, without getting too into the mechanical nitty gritty. One can use any or all of these ideas as they like - as normal use common sense deciding which attachments make sense to stack with one another. Like most things, robotic enhancements and even armor mods can probably be installed in most vehicles without too much adjustment.

For purposes of categorizing, this concept uses (read: steals) a "Silhouette" system. A given spacecraft has a Silhouette based on it's rough size category without needing to get into specifics, similar to Size Traits for morphs. Something human-sized is a Silhouette 0, which also includes all Personal Vehicles. Very spacecraft, either autonomous or intended for small occupancy, including Fighters, Interceptors and RKVs and most other drones are Silhouette 1. Small spacecraft, designed for local transit with small crews/passengers and cargo are Silhouette 2 - this includes GEVs, SLOTVs and Outsystem Skimmers. Medium ships that are larger and have more rounded capacity numbers, but are still of a fairly average in that size and capacity are Silhouette 3, such as the Courier, Mining Tugs, Salvage Ships and the LLOTV (and probably the Hab Lifeboat). Silhouette 4 is fairly large, longer-range ships, including Bulk Carriers, Transports of both kinds and Destroyers. Silhouette 5 is for the very large ships of incredible bulk or capacity, such as Scum Barges, Factory Ships, LaFrance Rigs or Battlecruisers. Silhouette of a target ship may affect cost of a mod, or some mods may be limited to ships of certain Silhouettes.

4CI SUITE
"4CI" stands for Command, Control, Communication, Computers and Intelligence. Essentially, this modification acts as a Tactical Network node for the spaceship. It involves dedicated computing and communications equipment, which hooks up to every friendly ship in the vicinity, feeding in and organizing sensor information, positioning data and tactical data. This is all done on encrypted machines and frequencies for better security. It coordinates this data into multiple feeds and interfaces it with the normal functions of the ship. It allows for secure and fast sharing of tactical data to coordinate multiple ships, and can be networked with individual crewman's Tactical Networks as well. Typically, because of the vast amounts of information being collated, 4CI modules utilize a dedicated crewman, or one or more supervising AI. This is usually installed in command or flag ships, but might be placed in any ship coordinating others. [Moderate]

AFTERBURNER
While this type of modification is often called "Afterburners", this may not be true in the strictest sense. It does, however, follow the same principle - it increases the thrust of the engine slightly by consuming a higher amount of fuel. Suitable for short bursts, this can slightly improve acelleration, and is mostly used by smaller ships with tighter maneuvering profiles, such as security patrols or other orbital operators. It improves the thrust of a ship by about 10% (amounts vary based on type of rocket motor) but has a considerable impact on the fuel efficiency of the ship. Silhouette 3 or less only. [High]

AMENITIES SUITE
A common modification to passenger ships, though sometimes placed on long-haul cargo ships. This gives a ship a full set of amenities for a pleasant space travel. It includes proper storage and preparation facilities for proper food, one or more VR couches for simulspace access, dedicated wireless networks for visitors, and high output environmental systems for clean and pleasant air conditions. They also often include additional recreation spaces, media libraries and convenient interior spaces. These help passengers relax and have a stress-free time on a journey, and help crewmen unwind. It grants crew members a +10 on certain Social skill tests with people who are using the Amenities, and may prevent requirements for stress tests on a long journey. [Expensive]

BATTERING RAM
While ships are not often in close enough quarters to come into physical contact, this can be a quite dangerous situation. To alleviate this fact, some ships are equipped with frontal armor to protect the ship. This is most common on light military and security vehicles, and on pirate ships (who may engage frontal contact as part of a boarding maneuver). Additional armor plating on the fore of a ship is also rarely a bad thing. A ship with a battering ram is considered to be travelling half as fast when calculating a head-on collision, and reduces any damage crew and passengers take from such an impact by half. It also grants an additional 10/10 armor against any strikes from the front. However, the added weight will upset the maneuverability of most ships, giving them -10 Handling. [High]

BOARDING UMBILICAL
Boarding ships can be quite complex. Most ships have reinforced external airlocks to protect them from accidental decompression, with secured interfaces to prevent sabotage. For pirates and security ships, this presents a problem to board ships without authorization. In this case, they typically use a boarding umbilical. This flexible attachment unfolds from one's own airlock with a maximum reach of several meters, and uses nano-grip material to hook on to the ship. This creates a temporary pressure seal and attaches the two ships. This also has a specialized cutting torch on the end, designed to cut through airlock doors. It will burn completely through the door in about 3 Action Turns. It can attach and breach hulls directly as well, but this takes much longer. One can attempt to wrest away from the boarding tube, assuming they have power, with a -20 Pilot check. [High]

COLD GAS MANEUVERING JETS
This modification replaces the type of fuel used in a ship's normal maneuvering and RCS systems with highly pressurized, super-cooled gasses. The result is that the ship can control it's maneuvering without expending large amounts of heat, and thus is less obvious to sensors. While "hiding" in space is very difficult and mostly a matter of time and relative positioning, this modification can allow small maneuvers while remaining relatively hidden, or fail to draw the attention of many observers. The only downside is the cost of the system, and the fact that installing it is likely to raise a few eyebrows. This grants a -20 on tests to notice the ship when using just maneuvering thrusters. [High]

CONTAINMENT CELLS
Also called a "brig", Containment Cells are fairly straightforward - secure holding cells for transhumans. Space travel is the epitome of physical travel, thus people will often have to deal with people in physical instances on these trips - or even arrange a physical transportation of them. This can be done with a containment cell. It involves hardened rooms which are shielded from wireless transmissions, and hardy enough that they should resist smuggled tools for an extended period. They contain cameras and microphones for constant monitoring of prisoners, and can be reconfigured for other sensors as well. They feature a secure, wired intercom on the outside for interrogation as well, and a space for one or more security guards. They may also be equipped with other security measures, such as a nonlethal portal denial system or anesthetic gas. Without too much trouble, one can use them as quarantine cells as well. Installing Containment Cells reduces passenger capacity by 5, and makes 5 secure cells. This mod can be purchased multiple times, each time adding 5 more cells and reducing the passenger capacity by the same amount. Military ships may already have Containment Cells installed. [High]

DRONE RACK
An incredibly common modification on ships of all sizes (and even on smaller air or ground vehicles), this simply adds an internal storage bay to hold and maintain drones for use by the ship's crew - which can be deployed internally or externally as needed. A typical drone rack holds up to 6 bots (less if they are particularly large) and contains all tools needed to maintain them. A single bot can be deployed from the rack as a Simple Action by anybody with proper controls and authorization. This upgrade can be bought multiple times, each adding more racks for drones, to a maximum number of the ship's passenger amount +6. Silhouette 2 or larger only. [Moderate]

ECM SUITE
Electronic Countermeasures are a major part of spaceship combat, and many other spacecraft operations. This suite when added to a ship gives it powerful radio antennas, signal boosters and other equipment to jam radio transmissions and other sensor systems in the immediate area of the ship. It also can double as ECCM equipment when needed. As is typical with many of these add-ons, ECM suites usually require a dedicated crewman or AI operator to utilize properly. A ship equipped with an ECM suite gains a +20 on Interfacing tests to perform universal jamming (p. 262), and a +10 on all opposed interface tests related to Radio Jamming (including Radar Jamming). [High]

EJECTOR SEAT/ESCAPE POD
One of the most common modifications to ships, a way to exit a ship quickly if it should be disabled or destroyed. Ejector Seats are simple, but more risky. These typically shed the canopy or cockpit on smaller vessels and eject just the pilot and other operators with a thruster unit, equivalent to a thruster pack. It is also equipped with a drag chute if deployed near a planet with atmosphere, but does not have full re-entry shielding. More commonly, larger ships will attach an Escape Pod instead, which is basically an better armored and pre-inflated Emergency Bubble. Escape Pods can launch with a Simple Action, and have an AV of 10/10 in addition to all the normal functions of an Emergency Bubble. [Low] for Ejector Seats, [Moderate] for Escape Pod (cost is per seat/pod)

EXTERNAL DOCKING CLAMPS
Most ships are equipped with standardized airlocks, or flexible soft-locks to dock with other ships and stations. This serves most purposes, but can be a little awkward when attempting to move with or even transport other ships (or external attachments such as cargo containers). In this case, many ships attach external docking clamps. Reinforced, secured and usually utilizing a pneumatic or magnetic grip, they will safely hold the docked object until released by the carrier ship. A ship can hold something at maximum 1 Silhouette less than itself in a clamp. Docked ships and items cannot usually interact with or transfer directly to the host ship. This mod can be installed multiple times. [Moderate]

EXTERNAL ORDNANCE LAUNCHERS
Sometimes nicknamed "pack n' racks", this is one of the most common weapon systems installed on spacecraft. This system is a prebuilt, preloaded set of disposable launchers for Seekers, usually in packs of ten. They are designed to be modular and easily fit on any configuration of spaceship. Once all the seekers are deployed, one simply removes the rack and purchases a new one. Armed spaceships are a touchy legal area, but when operating in packed space regions which may involve pirates, aggressive governments or other unsavory persons they have a great range and damage potential. The only complication is that one cannot reload in the middle of a combat without going out onto the hull and replacing the rack. For an additional cost, the rack can be put on a turret mount for a 360 degree firing arc. [High] (includes missiles) [High] again for the 360 mount

FALSE TRANSPONDER
While there's no such thing as a "universal" ship registry in the Solar System, most traffic control offices can and will be in touch to check up on ships, and law enforcement will but out bulletins on suspicious or criminal vessels. This can be a problem, because most ships are equipped with unique registry or serial numbers by the manufacturer to keep track of the ship and as a standard safety measure - even if this is just as simple as a slightly more prominent form of device ID. These are also very important to IFF systems used by government ships. Modifying these transponder codes is universally illegal, and even in anarchist habitats is seen as anti-social. But this doesn't stop those who do dirty deeds from making the modifications. With some tech and a little work, most ships can not only disable their transponders (mostly an obvious sign you're doing something shifty) or more commonly install false transponders which display altered details about the origin, history and ownership of the craft. It's relatively cheap to install a singular altered transponder, those with contacts and cash will spring for a special rolling transponder which can alter registry and authorization codes as needed, so long as it can be securely updated. A ship with an altered transponder imposes a -30 to Research and other tests to track it's (accurate) history and flight plans. [Moderate] for a single transponder, [High] for rolling

FLAK CANNON
"Flak" is a term derived from the name for point defense and anti-aircraft weapons (in German). While the technology is an outdated system, principle of point-defense still apply and it is a very cost effective way for small or civilian ships to defend themselves from attackers while not being interpreted as "militarized" These cannons use high-caliber fragmenting shells, usually on proximity or timed detonation to explode into small clouds of high-velocity shrapnel. This is highly destructive to small targets like enemy missiles and AKVs or other drones, and will damage the micrometeorite protection of many smaller ships, reducing their hull integrity. Flak cannons are usually built into turreted systems, which are controlled manually or remotely. They are also typically Linked weapons (see below). Flak ammunition costs [Low] for 1000 rounds, and has the Proximity quality, and cannot be combined with other Kinetic/Smart ammo types. Note that the damage listed below is the typical profile. For spaceship weapons an appropriate multiplier (x2, x5 or x10) should be applied based on the size of the ship using the gun. [Moderate]
AP -4 2d10+6 DV SA Ammo 1000

HANGAR BAY
Another incredibly common modification for larger ships, this adds an internal bay where small craft can be stored and deployed rapidly. It can only built in ships Silhouette 3 or higher, and the bay can only contain vehicles of a Silhouette less than or equal to the host ship's Silhouette -2. The bay holds a maximum number of Silhouettes as the host ship (I/E a Silhouette 5 ship with a Bay can hold 5 SIL 1 ships, or one SIL 2 and a SIL 3). These ships can launch and dock as a single Complex Action, and the Hangar contains all necessary tools and equipment to maintain the complement of ships and restock them with their own fuel and ammunition, in the case of armed Fighters/AKVs. Many military ships, such as the Destroyer, already have hangars. Cost starts at [Moderate] for Silhouette 3, and goes up by one for each increase in Silhouette

INTERNAL HEAT SINK
Heat dissipation is one of many things which makes stealth in space difficult. Almost any heat level will stand out against the background. Some steps can be taken against some of the things which release heat, though not all of them. The Heat Sink is one of these. Using special advanced materials in a shielded location the sink can absorb waste heat generated by certain systems of a ship and effectively store them for a period of time. This can't mask active sensors or primary engines (which basically radiate their own heat from the ship), but can mask the heat of morphs, power systems and other internals. How long it operates depends on the size of the sink and the ship, but it's usually a couple hours. Eventually the heat sink will become so hot it either causes a catastrophic failure, or is able to be detected through the shielding material. At this point, it either needs to vent heat (a long process due to radiation being such a poor method) which takes about 10 times the amount of time it was operating, or the sink to be ejected and replaced. When active it gives a -30 for a ship to be detected via infrared or similar sensors, but only when not actively scanning or using primary engines. [High]

LINKED WEAPONS
Spaceship weapons are incredibly powerful, but due to their size and nature, they do not always have the ability to fire rapidly at scale like personal weapons. To alleviate this, one usually links weapons up, building pairs or quads of weapons - often in turrets. Linking a weapon requires paying 50% of the original weapon cost (if not sure, it's [High]), linking it a second time for x3 is that 50% again, and so on. A weapon linked once (so two weapons) can do either +1d10 DV or +10 to hit, but uses twice as much ammo. Triple weapons (linked twice) does +2d10 or +20 to hit but uses x3 ammo, and quads (linked 3 times) can add +3d10 DV or +30 to hit, but uses x4 ammo per shot. This allows weapons with slow rates of fire to put more shots down range for more effect on target, but uses much more ammunition from storage - and so is usually only the choice of hardcore ship operators. [50% of Weapon System]

LUXURY CABINS
Physical space is at a premium in the Solar System, especially in Space. This means people value it, and ships can find providing this space helpful. Luxury cabins are larger, single (or couple) occupancy with fine internal features such as dedicated thermostats, air handling, luxury beds or grav couches, personal refreshments and more. They are the pride of any ship they are installed in, and a perfect way to relax even in a tin can flying through the void. Anybody who stays in a Luxury Cabin heals one more DV when healing naturally, and heals one more SV from all sources. This limits the amount of space a ship devotes to passengers and crew, however. Installing it halves the normal passenger capacity. [Expensive]

MARINES MODULE
Marines, sometimes called "Security" or "Tactical" personnel are not uncommon on military or police ships - and may be utilized by pirates or militias. They provide internal security and can be used to board and interdict other ships. This mod increases a ship's passenger capacity by 12, by adding space for up to 12 marines to bunk and keep their equipment and be ready to move at a moment's notice. However, these quarters are cramped and spartan, and staying in them for long periods may cause Stress tests. Can be combined with a Hangar Bay to store Battlesuits or other vehicles for the marines to use and deploy in combat. A ship must be SIL 3 or higher to install this modification. For each SIL over 3, a ship may install this modification an additional time, adding more space for another 12 marines for each new purchase. [Expensive]

MEDICAL SUITE
Due to the nature of space travel, medical emergencies usually come with other problems, but it's possible to get serious injuries in long-haul flights or daring maneuvers. In this case, it's good to install the Medical Suite. This comes with at least one Healing Vat (more in larger ships), a set of pharmaceutical makers with common medical blueprints, an exam room with diagnostic equipment, and a fully-robotic surgery suite. It even comes equipped with a standard medical AI which can provide basic medical instructions and attention. In a pinch, it can also double as a coronary and forensic pathology lab. Installing this reduces passenger capacity by 10% (Min 1). [Expensive]

MILITARY TARGETING COMPUTER
Civilian spec ships do not typically come with weapons, and even when weapons are installed, they do not normally have the same equipment used to target and coordinate those guns. This can be solved with some (expensive, illegal) modifications. This makes sure to add appropriate gunsight cameras, configure sensors for proper range-finding and a variety of other features to make sure added guns can be as accurate as possible. Using a Military Targeting Computer adds a +10 to all Gunnery checks to use mounted weapons, similar to a Smartlink system. Most military ships come with this already installed. [Expensive]

MULTIPURPOSE ARM
Since the Fall "spaceships with hands" makes some people wary, ships can benefit from an extendable armature. This mod installs a flexible arm onto the ship, of appropriate length and scale for the size of the ship. The arm can fold up and stow inside the ship. The end of the arm can have a variety of relevant attachments for for it. It can be a gripping arm to grasp cargo, debris for salvage or EVA morphs, it can be a large cutting arm for salvage or boarding, drilling or excavator arms for digging or a winch arm for towing, and more. Some have even modified the arm to hold a gun, but this is wildly inefficient. [Moderate]

ONBOARD RESOURCE REFINEMENT
Space travel is fairly time consuming, and by it's nature requires physical resources - which are finite. To better manage these resources, some ships are equipped with onboard facilities to gather and process resources, which are gathered via external workers or drones. This facilities include both fabricators and conventional technology to process various materials, such as prepare or refine many types of fuel, process or recycle additional oxygen, seperate organics and even grow plants or clone meats, and process raw metals and rocks into more usable, pure materials. Other than intake, refinement is mostly automated and runs at all time power is available, but does not fabricate finished products, just the refined materials. Ships can use this to repair and refuel, or even just as part of normal trade or resource gathering for the hab. Some ships are already installed with these facilities. Installing this reduces passenger capacity by 25% (Min 1). [Expensive]

PHYSICAL COUNTERMEASURES
Even in this advanced computer age, physical deterrents still work for many offensive or even sensor systems. This modification installs launchers which can release flares, chaff and decoys to throw off guided weapons of several varieties and targeting systems. Releasing Flares is usually a Free Action. These countermeasures add a -30 to all guided weapon attacks (such as Seekers) and removes the benefits for using Smartlinks/Homing Ammo for the rest of the Action Turn. It may also add penalties of -10 to -30 to certain sensor tests for the rest of the Action Turn. A ship holds a number of uses of Countermeasures equal to it's Silhouette x10. Restocking flares is a cost of [Low] per 10. [Moderate]

PIRATE BROADCAST ARRAY
Governments and corporations will engage in certain broad area jamming or radio censorship to block certain information from getting out or in. They may also take over certain frequencies for government use. To combat this, criminals and anti-establishment types often use pirate radio, and specifically use specialized radio arrays. This modification installs a large, high-definition radio array. This array automatically scans radio frequencies for ones which are opened and not jammed or blocked, and can boost its own signal to push through jamming or weaker signals it picks up. It also has directional, tight beam radio and laser communicators for more covert comms. The array also has tools to decrypt and listen in on military and government frequencies. In a pinch, this system can also hook up to QE comms or neutrino farcasting rigs, but this has it's own practical concerns. [Expensive]

RAM SCOOP
Aka, a "Bussard Collector", this system long proposed by sci-fi authors and rocket scientists, is finally practical in the AF 10 period. This system involves a large collection scoop on the front or sides of the craft intended to draw in hydrogen or other particles in the vacuum for conversion into fuel. Interstellar hydrogen is rare, but it can be gathered in amounts near gas giants or just in areas of the solar system (or other solar systems for gatecrashing vehicles). The scale requirements to indefinitely power a ship are mind-boggling (multiple hundreds or thousands km across), so instead most ships install this as an efficiency measure, extending their operation time and lowering their operational budget. Ram Scoops work best powering MH or Fusion-based ships, but could theoretically pull oxygen or other gasses from an actual planetary body as well. How much efficiency a ship gets from a scoop depends on where it travels and at what rate. [Moderate]

REDUNDANT SUBSYSTEMS
Ships are very delicate things, and can be destroyed or disabled with very small amounts of damage to the right places. To combat this, some ships who experience rough conditions regularly (often combat) will install redundant failsafes and systems in excess of the typical safety measures to harden the ship and make it more reliable. This means minor damages to specific systems will be less likely to cause failures or detract from normal ship operations. This modification increases the ship's Wound Threshold by 2. It also grants Hardware: Aerospace tests to repair the ship a +10. [High]

REINFORCED SECURITY
For many people, spaceships are their livelihood. This means getting them damaged or stolen is a serious risk, as ships can be quite an investment. For this case, their owners may enhance the security of their ship. This modification hardens airlocks, improving their AV and DUR by 25%. It safeguards major passages with portal denial systems, and may integrate bug zappers. The exterior of the ship incorporates at least one lockbot unit to protect the entry way. Additionally, to start up the ship requires passing an electronic authorization, usually biometric or token-based, but sometimes a keycode. Wireless networks are also shielded and guarded from the outside. [Expensive]

SHIP CYBERBRAIN
Like most devices, a spacecraft has a sufficient computer system to run an AI or infomorph in its computers. However, this may not be particularly comfortable place for infomorphs for an extended journey. In this case, ship crews will install a Ship Cyberbrain. This system is somewhere between a normal cyberbrain and a Habitat Cyberbrain in power. The Ship Cyberbrain allows certain levels of parallel processing, allowing up to two Multitasking implants. Operating such a brain is somewhere between jamming a vehicle and sleeving into a habitat, including allowing access to appropriate junctions of a Habitat brain where relevant. A ship can install multiple brains to house multiple infomorphs. [Expensive]

SMUGGLING COMPARTMENT
A common modification, known to smugglers everywhere. This hides compartments in the normal cargo space of the ship to make them hard to find. This does not increase the cargo capacity of a ship, just gives it spaces to hide it's cargo. These compartments are at a -30 to detect, and even if found may be secured. [Low]

SOLAR SHIELDING
Modification to the external plating of a ship designed to make it more durable in high-temperature conditions, notably relatively near the Sun or other stars. This modification drastically improves the the heat-resistance of the ship, roughly equivalent to solar adapted morphs such as the Sundiver. It includes magnetic shielding as well as heat absorption and radiation systems. This also gives the ship +10 armor against energy attacks only. [Expensive]

SUBMERSIBLE
Despite many comparisons between the two, spacecraft are not submarines. Containing atmosphere against low pressure of vacuum is a different engineering question than preventing high pressure conditions from crushing objects of lower pressure. However, conditions may arise where a ship wishes to enter a body of water, or a high-pressure atmosphere such as of a gas giant. This modification greatly strengthens the structure of the ship to resist higher pressures than normal, to a maximum of 100 atm of pressure. It also installs limited Submarine mobility systems to move while underwater. This can be installed multiple times to increase the tolerance by 100 atm, to a maximum of 1,000 atm of pressure. [High]

SURVEYOR SUITE
This modification installs a set of planetology based sensors for surveying asteroids and planetoid objects, commonly for mining or exploring ships. It includes ground penetrating radar, a variety of spectroscopy sensors and many other methods. It also has internal lab equipment to analyze samples gathered. This can accurately detect the composition of bodies, gas clouds and other materials. It can also map both surface terrain and sub-surface areas and convert them into digital maps via normal mapping software. This is like using the mapping software, and will produce analysis of temperature, topography, elements and radiation, etc. As usual, the Surveyor Suite usually requires a dedicated AI or crewman to operate properly. [Moderate]

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Hunter-Killer Grenades

Hunter-Killer Grenades: Also known as HK grenades or "spider grenades", this modification to the normal grenade is a curious and insidious one. Related to Smart Mines (p. 163 X-Risks), but much more portable and flexible, this system is basically a little four-legged drone which can mount a standard grenade to it. This enables the grenade to be moved around and placed without just needing to throw it, and more precision than seekers at close range. The drone can walk up walls using grip pad material, and can detonate via any normal grenade methods, and be controlled either by a primitive AI or by remote. This AI can be told to do a variety of things, such as "search and destroy", move to specific locations, wait for someone to approach, etc. Additionally, due to the grip materials, the HK grenade doubles as a Sticky Grenade. [Low], plus Payload cost.

Activating a HK grenade is as simple as triggering a regular grenade. Just dropping one on the floor is a Simple Action, but throwing it is an attack roll as normal. The drone then moves at a rate of 4 meters per round, and detonates when it is triggered remotely or otherwise meets it's detonation condition. If attempting to latch on to a specific person or object, the Grenade can make one Unarmed check to grapple per Action Turn at a rating of 40. One can shoot an HK grenade, and they do not dodge, but do count as Very Small targets (-30). Dealing any amount of DV to the drone will cause it to explode where it is currently. The drone is armed with a basic microphone and 360 camera to navigate with. The drone only has enough battery life for 24 hours, and then will need to be replaced or linked to wi-tricity.

HK grenades are not necessarily more effective than throwing regular or sticky grenades, but are more intimidating, and offer more opportunities to be clever. Some one perfectly skilled in lobbing grenades will not get much use out of them, but those who set traps or maybe need some help getting grenades on target may find them useful. Due to their propensity for use in sabotage or covert attacks, HK Grenades are illegal in most habs.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Case TARKIN DOCTRINE

Cetus
Type: Artificial Satellite
Primary Star: M3V (Red Dwarf)
Gravity: .75 g
Length: 2,500 km
Atmospheric Pressure: 1.5 atm
Atmospheric Composition: 2% Water Vapor, 3% Methane, 10% Carbon Dioxide, 15% Oxygen, 68% Nitrogen, 2% Argon
Temperature (Mean): 2 C
Day Length: N/A
Orbital Period: Variable
Satellite Of : Jonah
Gate Access: Cinder Gate

The short version is: We know what Cetus is. Questions of who, why and how elude us. And we're not entirely sure we want to know. The Cetus Gate was discovered by a routine check of library addresses for the Cinder operation, to ensure that nothing particularly dangerous was waiting just a quick wormhole away. While Cetus is probably very dangerous, it's probably too large to come through the gate. Initial reports indicated the discovery of an artificial structure, a bit like Wormwood, but this one clearly artificial. The walls were formed of some exotic polymers and carbon nanomaterials. It also seemed to indicate a gravitic force like a small terrestrial planet, and has an oppressive, humid atmosphere (which is, in turn, toxic to humans by default). The first assumption was that it was a structure built by an alien species to hold the gate. This both is, and isn't true. Long periods of scouting using drones and sensors have indicated what Cetus really is. This was confirmed by a scout team of Sentinels who were not pleased by what they saw, and several of them requested to be restored from backup after the mission. Firewall has classified this as Case TARKIN DOCTRINE. 
The long version is that Cetus is like a thing out of an old twencen sci-fi series. It appears to be a massive "ship" or artificial satellite, a couple thousand kilometers long (meaning it would cover a noticeable chunk of small planets like Mercury). And what this ship does is, for lack of a better term, eat planetoids. The sentinel team discovered this by finding what appears to be an observational window on the fore of the ship, and witnessed it's process. Currently consuming a dwarf planet Firewall has codenamed "Jonah", Cetus was named after the legendary sea monster (despite the fact that astronomically, it does not appear to be anywhere neat the constellation, Cetus). The ship is roughly cylindrical, with one end forming a giant "mouth", and the other end is a narrower port which seems to function for ejection. Exact details are hard to get however, as there does not appear to be a way to access the exterior from the passages connected to the gate, or the central span running through the ship. These interior passages almost seem like they were created by an organic algorithm, and seem to have some kind of arterial function - but nothing passes through them except the dense atmosphere. They have variable size, the largest being 4 or more meters across and roughly tubular in their own right, others are smaller than one meter and have undulating interior surfaces. The polymers the ship's interior is made from inhibit penetrating sensors, including X-rays, though passive electrical sense indicates some kind of power infrastructure which moves through the area around the tunnels. 
How it works, though, is probably the most unnerving (read: terrifying). As far as can be told through the observation windows and sensors, Cetus is powered by some kind of exotic gravitational drive. It latches onto and eats planets via a gravitic bessel beam technology, not dissimilar to the alien bots Firewall has been calling "Slouches" but on a much larger scale. It generates a shearing force in excess of the planetoid's own gravity and simply begins drawing up pieces of it's crust and then interior. Once inside the core axis, Cetus seems to seperate out what it wants, burning it as fuel or otherwise storing it, then matter it isn't interested in is discarded out the rear via repulsion beams. Since exterior instrumentation is not available, we can only make minimal optical guesses but it looks like Cetus prefers volatiles, rare metals and carbon compounds. The ejecta appears to be, oddly enough; radioactives, noble gasses, and certain metalloids, as well as other compounds we can't identify. Cetus appears to be able to propel itself through a combination of riding "tides" of gravity and somehow pushing itself using it's own manipulation. It's gravitic axis is also evenly cylindrical - even if you stood on the front, you'd be pulled down (or "up" if you were on the apparent underside) toward the center. Best guess for how the gate came to be inside it is that one of the bodies it "ate" had a Gate on it, and as we know they are particularly hard to destroy. The gate is almost like a parasite, or an infection on the interior of the craft. 
Details of Cetus' age, construction, creators and so on are all a mystery. Based on what can be seen from "observation windows" in the surface, there are several debris fields in this solar system which could be consumed planets - as many as four or five, depending on their size. From this range and our limited windows of observation, there also appears to be a partially destroyed terrestrial planet, possibly of previously Earthlike dimension, closer to the star, in what might have been a habitable region. It does appear, based on simulations of the debris clouds, that Cetus has a limited speed at which it can impulse itself around the system and has a cap on how much power it can use - this means that it probably cannot easily jump itself out of the system, nor defy conventional physics to arrive in another solar system in a timely manner. Based on this projected speed, it has been in this solar system for a few centuries. This, of course, makes the question of how it got into it's system a bit of a mystery nobody particularly wants to answer. Nor do we want to know how Cetus knows where to "feed" next. It has no wireless transmissions or any particular readings which indicate a central intelligence point or command center. And the only thing audible inside the ship itself is the steady, pulsing thrum of the bessel engine working. Firewall has developed several contingency plans should Cetus or any new subjects for Case TARKIN DOCTRINE be found to be an imminent threat. This might be hard, however, as the exterior is projected to be very hardened and the gravitic drive seems to warp local gravity which might deflect projectile energy. 
In conclusion, Cetus is existentially terrifying, but unlikely to cause any Transhumans other than my research team any serious problems - it's just further evidence we're small fish in a very, very large pond, and Cetus probably isn't anywhere close to the biggest fish. 
Though some of my pragmatics colleagues on Cinder have wondered if a TITAN world-brain project like Iapetus seemed to be would be able to do much vs a TARKIN DOCTRINE subject...
-Blue Mab, Firewall Crow

SIDEBAR: TARKIN DOCTRINE SUPPLEMENTAL REPORT
OP NECRONOMICON EYES ONLY
Well, it cost us a few asyncs and some resources, but the little "think tank" circle operation was a success - in a sense. We've got new intel about Cetus which might be useful. For opsec the six members brought in will use codenames, Alpha through Zeta. 
Gamma was the most immediately helpful, probably should have tipped me off. He was able to make predictions about the pattern of the arterial passages which we verified with mapping drones. He also said that it seemed like the structure was based on a mathematical principle, but not an original one, it was mimicking something else. No way to prove it, but might be relevant. He said he was going to try and walk the passages to see if there were any more clues. Could hours later we lost his signal. Turns out he smuggled in a plasma cutter and tried to get into the walls. All that was left was a blackened corpse, just a carbonized shell. We didn't tell him we knew it had a self-defense mechanism like a bug zapper. 
Alpha was the most cryptic. She kept touching the walls with her bare hands, speaking in bad poetry. Something about how Cetus would eat the stars, and through it flowed the blood of planets and it being a life-drinker or something. She seemed to think Cetus was partially organic, or had an organic mind in it. Well, she called it a soul but claimed it was something she could sense, psionically. Unfortunately somebody else will have to pick her stack for more details, as after a while she seemed to break. She got a nosebleed and started ranting about the "Worldeater's brood" and that it's sire would come hunting for those who "bled it" and it "feasted on civilizations melancholia". Since she was getting violent and disturbing the other operatives, security dropped her and took her back to the gate. 
Beta and Zeta weren't very helpful, but at least stayed reasonable. I guess this was outside their normal areas of expertise. They marveled a lot at Cetus symmetry though, but also on it's non-symmetrical portion. I'm not sure how much is supposition and how much was Psi, but they both agreed it was probable that Cetus was designed, at least, by an organic race or if it was built by an alien AI, they were clearly mimicking something known to their own creators. Possibly something aquatic? They couldn't agree between themselves if it was some kind of war-machine or just a ludicrous mining drone. 
Delta has straight up vanished. Security has been advised to treat them as a risk if they run into Delta. Supplies in particular are being closely watched. I expect drones will find a corpse in a few days unless they can acquire some water. What exactly was Delta's MOS again?
Epsilon stayed close to me most of my survey. She insisted on telepathically linking to me, and it was an... unusual experience. Never felt like that outside of infomorph working groups. Her insights flowing straight to my mind helped me concept some things, but I think she was probing for something from me as well. I lost track of her while disposing of Gamma's body. Last we got was a transmission which appeared to emerge from the core axis, where the gravitic beam was. The message was about as useful as "my god it's full of stars" and is cut off part way - we think she was destroyed by gravitic shear. I've had forensic drones trying to find out how she accessed the core area, something we haven't been able to do, but have so far not been able to find any sign of her. It was progress in a sense, but I can't figure out what data she had to make it on her own. Do I have it and just don't know it?
I think I need some time off the case, too. I've been dreaming about Epsilon. She tries to speak to me, but I can't understand her - it's like we're trying to talk underwater. Last night, I took some stuff which is supposed to help make dreams lucid - I tried to speak back. But when I did, I tasted the liquid we were in, it tasted like blood. I still couldn't understand, or be understood. Don't know what it means. Then my dream got esoteric: I dreamed of sharks made of starlight swimming through the Milky Way. Their stomachs were singularities, and their teeth were plasma. They kept swimming, devouring all the smaller, more sedentary fish they came across. Only the fish were alien worlds, with architecture and technology like I'd never seen. But they could not stop, because something was hunting them. The only thing I can think about the dream is "What the fuck scares sharks?"
-Blue Mab, Firewall Crow

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Neo-Shinto

As discussed previously, Shinto is a spiritual and religious practice native to Japan, which has stayed with Japanese cultures in the diaspora through the System and perhaps a bit beyond, as it has some applications which are considered more "cultural" than "religious. However, similar to the Buddhism it is sometimes syncretized with, there have been evolutions of thought and belief connected to Shinto, especially where technology is concerned. While small, these new belief strains have interesting interpretations which may have more interest and concern for Firewall.

Neo- or Techno-Shinto strongly integrates areas of technology, like many new strains or iterations of beliefs. Shinto itself has little commentary on technology, with some folklore saying kami dislike machines or electricity. This is most common in Japanese community clusters in the Outer System, and with AI and Infomorph groups as it promotes AI rights and fair treatment. Firstly, Techno-Shinto theorizes that much as kami personify the energy of natural phenomena, they too may also embody phenomena shaped by man - as we can alter the environment and create new natural order. To this end, an AI is akin to an artificial kami, the spirit which inhabits a system or aspect of the "natural" or artificial order of transhuman life. To get things done, one should be polite, respectful to AI and even make them appropriate offerings to put them at peace (though obviously many ALI are happy simply to perform their accorded tasks). To install an AI into something is to bridge the gap between technology and spirituality, to personify an item and it's natural energy and give it a way to interact with transhumankind. More complex and larger systems require more complex and higher order AI, akin to great features and natural phenomena having more potent and sacred kami. Mutterings about "machine spirits" is probably just an old joke.

Resleeving is a natural process of finding the Ego a new home, much like a spirit can be given a home in a shrine. Occupying the same space where an AI can go reinforced that the Ego can become more divine, and ultimately human minds and the divine spirit of the kami can be one and the same. So, resleeving and even instancing as an Infomorph is acceptable, even encouraged. Artificial bodies are shaped by humans controlling nature's rules to advance themselves. This can even extend to an approval of terraforming, nano-ecology and Reclaiming of Earth. Because it is relatively recent, however, actually identifying any Egos who have reached a "divine state" is still in the process of identification and distillation - for now it is one aspect of an evolving belief system.

Cleanliness and purification are still important to this belief system, but also includes mental and "digital" cleanliness. Perhaps drawn from how many members are infomorphs or AGI specifically, attitudes on mental health take cues from infosec thinking, due to familiarity with the risks of brain-hacking. Damaging or subverting AIs and Egos is an unclean and unholy act, and security methods and updates have almost ritual significance. Scorchers and other viral programs are also unclean of thought. Psychosurgery to cleanse stress, unwanted memories or "unnatural" thoughts and behaviors is similarly encouraged and to be performed with reverence. Firewalls and defensive programs are akin to charms and rituals. DRM is viewed akin to religious mysteries - it might be discouraged but is not outright antithetical. All of this blends to a very odd strain of thought to most outsiders, and even some insiders trying to grasp underlying beliefs. Their views on "classical" kami remain much the same, though many of them feel obliged to investigate "sacred bodies", and several Techno-Shinto philosophers have emigrated to the Sun as a result.

To Firewall, this nigh-deification of increasingly more powerful AI systems can be seen as dangerous. While they officially seem to regard the TITANs and their various physical and digital infection vectors in an almost satanic light, there is still risk from ASI if mishandled. Rumors abound that they have an ASI system, such as a Sibyl or Promethean class unit swarm the Eye. Their beliefs can also be shifted close to Techno-Creationist thinkers, if one continues the trend that a powerful AI is akin to a God, then perhaps the gods were powerful AIs? This is a thorny issue as well for many Sentinels and Proxies. Investigation of Neo-Shintoists is not easy, due to their small size, often remote communities and their emphasis on information security. Initial passes seem mostly harmless, however, an evolving train of thought which seeks to reconcile the spiritual and the technological - and man's place in an increasingly "unnatural" order.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Shinto

Shinto ("way of the gods") is the indigenous spirituality or religion of Japan. It is a broad religion focusing on many ritual practices which many of the Japanese people participate in even if they do not belong to formal sects. It can be used to effectively refer to all "native" Japanese spirituality as opposed to external influences, such as Islam, Christianity and Buddhism. Koshinto ("Old Shinto") is a subset which refers to pre-Buddhist beliefs mostly taken from even more ancient indigenous Ainu and Ryukyuan practices. It's practices are focused on the kami, spiritual or divine entities which represent the phenomena of nature, who are said to be many and are linked to physical places and elements such as rocks and trees. The way or path of the kami is the natural order of things, and through it humans should find the right way to live; with purity, sincerity and honesty.

Many of these beliefs and concepts are deeply cultural to various Japanese clades throughout the Solar System, even if they do not identify as explicitly religious. Wherever you go and find people of a Japanese background, language or cultural influence aspects of these beliefs such as certain festivals, rituals or various charms and amulets persist. Elements of Shinto and Buddhism are syncretized, contributing to the spread and retention of these elements among broader practitioners. And of course, most media libraries have complete versions of the historical works of the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki.

Shrines are considered to be a physical home for the kami, and a place where humans may connect with them to understand them and gain their blessing. As such, the Fall is said to have been quite disruptive to religious practices and destroyed several shrines. Famous replicas have been built many places, such as on Luna or Mars, in the hope of granting many famous and important deities "new" homes. As on Earth, most of these are private institutions who rely on the congregation or other visitors to remain solvent. Japanese communities will use these shrines as a focus for many cultural festivals. There are quite a few Japanese settlements on Mars, and even some nomads of Japanese ancestry who also may practice elements of harmony with nature and ritual purity, and speak to kami they feel dwell in quite a few of Mars' natural landmarks. "Superstitions" and traditions of respect for nature and the terrain have even bled into some groups not of a Japanese cultural origin. Europa's unique landscape and Japanese influence has also led to similar practices arising. The belief that the most senior and important deity in Japan is solar does not hinder such practices.

Various talismans and amulets, too, remain popular. Shrines and shrine replicas are swamped with ema (wishes), usually by refugees and indentures. Personal amulets (Omamori) are available at your local shrine or Japanese cultural goods store, with the best being handmade and digital amulets (written with digital calligraphy) of lesser quality - and are carried by all manner of individuals who seek protection and good fortune. It was also common to integrate aspects of shrines into homes and other structures, including shrines on top of office buildings. Thus, household shrines are still common, and it is rare to find an operation run by Go-Nin which does not feature a sizable and functional shrine - usually to Inari or the Eight Lucky Gods. Some would say this is further evidence Go-Nin is "behind the times". Street gangs and mercenary groups of a Japanese background will also often use symbolism of the war god Hachiman or the storm god Susano-o.

Beliefs on the afterlife in Shinto are somewhat muddled and dependant on historical periods, and due to syncretism with Buddhism, most are content to follow some understanding of reincarnation, which makes resleeving an acceptable practice. Alternatively, it is felt that one only spends a short time in the land of the dead before being revived. Aspects of resurrection and apotheosis pervade Shinto, so finding a new morph can be seen as simply finding a new home for one's spirit on the path to becoming more divine. Those who practice or simply live near shrines will find their names etched as "family kami" should they permanently die, and they may be honored there or in household shrines. Dead bodies are unclean, however, and so tend to be disposed of with appropriate thoroughness. Those with sufficient piety and time will even perform proper funeral rituals to dispose of a previous morph and pray that any "uncleanliness" leaves the Ego when they are revived. Due to folklore that spirits do not care for machinery and electronics, Synthmorphs are not often the first choice of any practicing Shintoist, but only the most hardline bioconservative shrines bar Synths from entering their grounds. To counteract this belief, pious synthmorphs may even integrate elements of amulets or portable shrines into their shells. 


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Power Glove

Skinlink (p. 309 EP) is a wonderful but relatively new technology, using skin-deep nanobots to instantly build wired connections when one touches a device. This is relatively free of interference, and can be highly covert. However, installing such nanoware can be expensive, and may be prohibited in certain polities. It's also not very secure, as far as covert operative go - a direct wired connection into one's morph can be very dangerous when interfacing with advanced computer systems, such as those subverted by the TITANs. Use of skinlink also raises thorny questions of forensic science, possibly leaving fingerprints, skin cells or other trace evidence which can mean the need for an expensive morph swap. Luckily, similar to Fractal Gloves, there is an external hardware solution for those who are security conscious. 

Power Glove: Also called the "skinlink glove", this is basically a smart material glove that forms a wearable version of Skinlink, allowing the user to build a wired interface to a device simply by touching it. The glove then contains an interface on the back which can be wired in to Access Jacks or a Dummy Barrier, or create a wireless signal like a Grey Box. The glove has it's own power source, and thus can also double as a Shock Glove (p. 334 EP), though the glove itself may not come as a pair. Because the Glove is a device, it may be outfitted with it's own AI or security software to act as an additional layer between the user and the computer system, an can be disposed of if needed. [Low]

These gloves aren't common among your typical hackers or computer operators - they usually just spring for the Skinlink and trust in their skills. Instead, you see Power Gloves in the hands of operatives working highly sensitive and "hot" operations, like Firewall Sentinels, or in the hands of those who work for groups or governments which do not usually authorize costly nanoware in their agents, such as various Jovian intelligence agencies. Arming an operative with full-body nanoware is costly and hard to reverse, but a Power Glove can be thrown away if needed.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Freezing Foam Grenade

The Freezer (p. 341 EP) is a pretty common weapon platform for crowd control, less-lethal action and generally trying to make sure people don't bother you. Their main drawbacks are that they are somewhat bulky, being two-handed, and they have a somewhat limited range of effect, at best working at up to 50 yards. But, the quick-hardening foam they use is a relatively in-expensive chemical compound, and can be re-packaged into other delivery systems with relative ease for additional options.

Freezing Foam Grenade: A type of grenade or seeker loaded with an aerosolized variant of the same quick-hardening foam used in a Freezer. When it detonates, it sprays the foam in a wide area, causing all in that area to need to make REF x3 tests or become trapped and unable to move, and makes this at a -30 if the attacker scored an Excellent Success. Like normal, the foam is permeable and allows those stuck to breathe if covered, but will block vision. Similar to a regular freezer, the grenade may also be laced with a contact toxin or drug to affect the targets, though many find Splash or Gas grenades more effective in that regard. Unlike a Freezer however, the grenade is too haphazard and short-lived to use to construct barricades or cover using the foam. The foam degrades over a period of 12 hours like normal. [Low]

Freezing Foam Grenades see a lot of use loaded as anti-riot rounds in large seeker weapons on vehicles, or occasionally as an alternate for Ego Hunters or cops to other methods of suppressing groups. They also make handy booby traps with various grenade triggers, and have the advantage of keeping the target around to examine or interrogate later. They might also be scaled appropriately and used from significant range to trap and disable armored vehicles which resist conventional projectiles, but paralyze their weapon and mobility systems. Due to their non-lethal nature, they're fairly easy to procure in most polities. Some people do not necessarily understand the nature of the grenade - and people have mistaken them for fire suppressants at inopportune times. The fact that the foam is not air tight means it does little to stifle most fires.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Fly-By Wires

"Fly-by-wire" is an old term referring to the replacing of manual, mechanical controls to an aircraft with electronic ones attached to a computer via electrical lines (hence "by wire"). These can also be attached to flight computers in order to digitally manage various elements very precisely, improving performance. Depending on the medium, this can also be referred to as "fly-by-wireless" or "fly-by-optics", which are generally how aerospace craft handle things in Eclipse Phase. However, the terminology for Fly-By-Wire stuck in another field; cybernetic implants.

Fly-By Wires: Also called "skillwires", this system predates modern Skillware/Skillsofts. Using an embedded microcomputer (or more commonly these days, direct link to a cyberbrain or mesh insert library) this implant runs synthetic nerves to the limbs which on command perform rote actions instantly, without conscious input from the user and overriding their own natural movements. This means that the user can perform a particular action with computerized precision every time on command, and these actions can be simple or complex, but they are rote - they do not allow for improvisation or adjustment by the user. Using a skillwire to bullseye a pistol shot into a target's head at 10 meters will replicate that headshot every time - unless the target happens to be dramatically shorter or taller than where the Fly-By Wire is set to. When purchased, the user should designate a single Skill which the wire is keyed for - they gain a +20 to all Task Actions with that skill, so long as that action involves routine, repeatable movements. At the GM's discretion, once per Action Turn the user may perform a Simple Action as a Free Action or a Complex Action as a Simple if it is related to that skill if they think it can be shortened by executing on-demand (e.g. a Fly-By for Kinetic Weapons might allow a user to reload for free). More advanced and expensive versions are available which are linked to computers with broader command libraries and heuristics - these designate a single type of skill (Combat, Technical, etc) instead, but are more expensive. [Low], [Moderate] for Advanced.

Fly-By Wires were envisioned by authors and wannabe-badasses as a way to "git gud" quick at things such as combat, but in reality, there's not always a practical use to rote performance of actions in a fight - it makes one very predictable and doesn't handle complex situations well. Instead, Fly-By systems were popularized as hardware installs for AIs and later even indentures in the decades prior to the Fall, allowing routine tasks to be performed with mechanical precision but still leaving an "observer" to interpret possible anomalies and work around any problems with a minimal amount of job training. This has since fallen off as Skillsofts are very easy to distribute and install directly in AIs and Infomorphs to give them a more flexible "graft" of knowledge, and sub-AI Expert Systems can generally be trusted to operate themselves with external transhuman oversight. This doesn't mean that hypercorps or other organizations don't occasionally decide to cut corners to get around high costs. Additionally, highly trained experts have picked up on the occasional use of Fly-By Wires to perform certain actions they need on a regular basis instantly, and let their own skills pick up the slack.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Wolf's Ears

Wolf's Ears: Trade name for a personal acoustic awareness enhancer. Used in the past by hunters, military shooters and surveillance personnel, this sort of system has become highly refined by AF 10. They take the form of small inserts into the ears worn like contoured earbuds. Inside is embedded fiberoptic microphones and a small computer. It's first function has the system help to pick up and boost ambient audio which is low, making it easier for the user to hear. This grants a +10 on Hearing related Perception tests, which does not stack with Enhanced Hearing. However, the computer can also detect harmfully loud audio and reduce it's strength to protect the hearing of the user. Normally loud noises which might cause harm like gunshots and explosions will be reduced to manageable levels, removing any penalties one might take to Perception or some other skills for them. Some noises are likely to be too loud to reduce completely, but still will cause reduced harm to the user. The GM may offer a +10-+30 bonus on tests to resist certain effects or allow their penalties to also be ignored if they feel it appropriate, such as when dealing with a Concussion or Overload grenade. [Low]

Most users do not bother with this system, as it is technically out-dated by modern bioware, and rarely do users require the hearing protection (which modern nanomedicine fixes very easily) but special tactics or military units in bioconservative circles may utilize them in place of invasive cyberware alternatives. People who need hearing enhancement in a pinch might also want to avoid a lengthy install time.

More importantly however, Firewall operatives utilize Wolf's Ears in a roundabout way, hacking the internal systems to block certain types of sound signatures which could be harmful, such as Basilisk Hacks, while also retaining their situational awareness. While not as surefire as something like Analog Tools or a Faraday Suit, it can be helpful, applying its resistance bonus in this case. However, in order to program in the proper sound block, the Firewall Sentinel must be aware of the nature of the aural Basilisk Hack in the first place.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Bleeder Rounds

As discussed earlier what amounts to a "War Crime" is a bit more of a dubious era in AF10. This has led to the popularizing of a lot of technology of a military (and often, specifically anti-personnel) nature which would at the very least have raised eyebrows before The Fall if not been outright illegal. And in many habs with laws and formal governments, they remain illegal for private citizens to use. They may even be restricted from being used by the police. But, when things get bad these governments may often find they have a few of these tools in their back pocket. And, for members of technically illegal conspiracies who will stop at nothing to prevent a second Fall, fines and simulspace jail time for owning the "wrong" spec of ammunition seem like a small risk to take. Here's an example:

Bleeder Rounds: Related to Biter and Flayer (p. 338 EP) Smart Ammunition, the Bleeder round also alters it's shape and profile as it passes through a target. It can also alter its trajectory both in and outside the target when paired with a smartlink. However, the purpose of the Bleeder round is not just to cause more physical damage to the target, it is to specifically cause painful, incapacitating damage. The round shapes itself to make wounds more difficult to close up and prone to bleeding. It will adjust its trajectory to find joins, major organs or arteries, and nerve centers. If it passes through a region of vital anatomy it can fold, shape or sharpen to cut maximum numbers of blood vessels or sever nerves and ligaments. Or, if approached with a bone, it might harden, scrape or dig into the structure to cause more painful and inhibiting breaks. This means it causes +2 DV, and the target's Wound Threshold is considered 1 lower against the weapon using this ammo. Like Biter and Flayer, Bleeder rounds cannot be combined with other ammunition types. [Moderate]

Despite the name, Bleeders are just as effective against synthmorphs, targeting core mechanisms and internal components, though naturally the ability to filter pain makes synthetics more resilient. The primary saving grace against Bleeder rounds is that their high speed means they often have little time to adjust their trajectory or make dramatic repositions. They also have considerably less usefulness if something were to jam the Smartlink. The microcomputers on the Bleeder round when paired with a smartlink can make assumptions about the anatomy of the target and may even be linked with sensors to confirm - but against exotic morphologies such as aliens or entirely neogenetic creatures they may lack effectiveness. At their discretion the GM may decide that Bleeders have no additional effect on such a target. Luckily for Firewall operatives using them, that only includes some exsurgent types.

Bleeders were developed prior to the Fall, and almost immediately banned everywhere, and got a lot of media attention when they were illegally used, much like stories of "cop killer" bullets in the late 20th century. This did mean they were not thoroughly tested against the horrors of the Fall, and while many users swear by them, a single bullet can still only do so much on it's own. Even so, pop culture remembers the round a little, and restrictions on civilian and even law enforcement deployment exist in many polities. Even if not verboten, one can expect to get many angry messages and negative rep hits accidentally slinging the bullets around to hit an unintended target in a vital organ.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Undetectable Shrapnel

(Author's Note: So, I actually wanted to start posting H-Rep again earlier in the month, but was delayed by a lengthy loss in utilities for most of it. This did, however, give me some time to collect my thoughts and figure out more entry ideas, so look forward to regular updates [in some form] over the coming weeks)

"War crimes" is a fuzzy area in the Transhuman Future. For something to be a crime, there must be laws against it. And for those laws to matter, somebody has to be enforcing them. As there is no form of "international" governing body in the greater Solar System, nor do a majority of the powerful governments in that solar system wish to enter into any kind of treaties or agreements with most of the other, this means that since many of the Old Earth nation-states have folded there are not a lot of key regulations in how remaining polities conduct warfare. The UN attempted to remain together and positive in the exodus of the Fall and the immediate Post-Fall era, but rather quickly disbanded and either joined the Planetary Consortium or folded into their cultural groups. Since pandora's box of WMDs and other such things was opened to fight the TITANs, when there are serious security threats quite a few governments no longer hold back. This can lead to some fairly insidious and dangerous weapons.

Undetectable Shrapnel is a concept actually originating from the region of the 20th and 21st Centuries. While verboten in a proper war, some governments utilized them in counter-terror and anti-insurgency operations. Originally made of hardened plastics, in AF 10 these can be made from carbon fibers or other nanomaterials, transparent alumina or hardened, frangible ceramics. The idea is that these fragments still embedded deep in the body, but are not detectable by metal detectors and have a minimal cross-section on X-rays, T-rays, Ultrasound or many other sensor systems, only easily detected by a pervasive internal sensor network (i.e. Medichines). Since the shrapnel is hard to detect, it can linger in the body, preventing injuries from fully healing and causing further damage. Some may be keyed with a certain chemical "tracer", so that if they are discovered removed or in-situ they act as an ID on the person hit with the weapon. The most insidious types are made of smart materials or other embedded nanotech, and may administer nanotoxins or make more serious injuries - though many types of these materials are too fragile to use. Officially, you see these in place in minefields around the TQZ or certain spots on the surface of Luna, and unofficially, you may see them used by criminals to guard hideouts and caches, or by Hypercorps on planetary bodies to fend of Barsoomians or other Anarchist Guerrillas. Most governments have restrictions about using such materials on civilians, but these can easily be circumvented by their placement on private territory, or high-security locations.

Mechanics:
Other than just an insidious and thought-provoking concept, there are a couple of ways to handle "Undetectable Shrapnel" in play. The easiest is to impose a penalty to First Aid or Surgery rolls to the subject of -10 to -30, counteracted by using certain tools like Nanoscopic Vision or a Utilitool. This reflect the difficulty in treating the subject. For a more lasting effect, possibly on player characters, try out an effect like when a Wound is inflicted (indicating lasting or serious injuries), the character heals at half the normal rate unless healing by some form of nanomedicine, or imposing appropriate SOM or even DUR penalties until the shrapnel is removed. This encourages victims to resleeve to be rid of them fast, making a very draining injury in a game where physical harm is usually very quickly reversed. For PCs who want to utilize such things, the Shrapnel can be applied in the manufacture of any fragmentation weapon. This may require a difficult programming test to re-write blueprints to use new materials, upgrade the cost category or just make otherwise legal gear become Restricted or Illegal.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Battlecruiser

The Destroyer (p. 348 EP) is the most common military spacecraft in the solar system - a medium tonnage, fast and maneuverable ship designed for long endurance and escort duty which defends against attacks at short range. Because of their flexible armament, high-speed designs and very efficient power supply in the form of an antimatter drive, Destroyers are typically all that is needed by a space navy force to defend territory or patrol vectors used as trading routes. But, they are not the entirety of the design. Smaller ships, from fighters carried on destroyers and larger vessels, to armed shuttles which act as patrol boats, interception satellites and even "light cruisers" or "corvette" designs exist as small, fast attack and defense or long-term independant operation ships. There are, however, also larger designs - these take three primary forms:

  • Command Carriers are rare, large ships which are mostly armed with defensive weapons and almost always require escorts - their purpose is to launch and coordinate large amounts of smaller ships. Their mass harms their maneuverability and top speed, so these sluggish ships do not often leave their home ports but would be vital in an actual space war to force projection.
  • The fabled "Dreadnoughts" are even more rare, seen as an outdated return to military tactics of the past. Heavily armed and armored these large ship designs are much more popular in fiction than in actual military engagements. Almost designed to show off the material wealth and engineering prowess of their builders, these ships can easily be overwhelmed by smaller, more maneuverable craft which cost much less time and effort to build in large numbers. No new Dreadnoughts are listed as under construction, and the majority left in commission are in the Jovian Republic or LLA.
The third common large ship class is increasingly popular, and is the Battlecruiser. Battlecruisers are larger ships designed along the same lines as the destroyer. They sacrifice armor capability of their larger size to maintain speed, but are still heavily armed - the intent is to be able to chase down and outgun ships with lesser armament, but evade or outmaneuver heavier and more powerful ships. Modern, spaceborne battlecruiser designs first appeared in the era of conflict immediately prior to the Fall, as a countermeasure to prospects of Dreadnought warfare. Several constructed Battlecruisers did well in the limited space warfare during the Fall itself, both against human forces and even TITAN ones. Comparable speed and defenses but greater power make them a good match for small numbers of Destroyers, and better agility and similar power mean they are more cost-effective against Dreadnoughts. 

In the modern period, every faction with a major space force owns one or more Battlecruiser-type designs, and some of them own several and are constructing more. The main drawback of the Battlecruiser is its greater expense and logistics - they take more material to build and to fuel, and more mental resources to run, either in form of AIs or Egos. The fact that open space conflict is not generally a popular or advisable position also means in some polities (such as the Titanian Commonwealth) with high transparency or citizen influence that Battlecruiser expenses are often frowned upon or judged harshly as opposed to less expensive Destroyers for defensive purposes. On the other hand, the Jovian Republic is proud of it's fleet composition and energy resources of Jupiter to fuel them - and plans on having the largest set of Battlecruisers in the Solar System by AF 15. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Web Grenade

Area denial is an interesting area in AF10. While landmines are still made (and due to less issue of lasting injury, slightly less stigmatized) they can present issues in tight spaces of transhuman construction, and risk infrastructure or even depressurization in enclosed habs. A mantrap can block a door or other route - but only covers a single surface. To this end, there is some desire for a device which can offer an expanded area of coverage to block doors and halls and hopefully cause less destruction than explosive traps. Luckily, materials science has solutions.

Web Grenade: While coming in grenade form, this device is more like a container for spools of carbon nanomaterial fibers, which end in grip head micro-anchors. When detonated (ideally in an airburst) the coils fly out in all directions to a maximum length of about 1.5 meters and anchor to surfaces, creating a web of black coils. These strands impede visibility, and are strong enough to be impossible for a morph to break under their own strength - they have to be cut with a tool, or the core grenade found and dismantled so the webs lose their anchor. Such a process can take several minutes, buying valuable time in a pursuit or security situation. Anyone unfortunate enough to be caught in the blast radius of a Web Grenade takes 2d10 DV with an AP of -5, and will effectively be grappled to the web grenade until they can extract themselves. This can be done as a Complex Action with a SOMx3 test, but causes 1d10/2 DV which ignores armor as the anchors are ripped out - or can be done as a more delicate proceedure over about 5 minutes (possibly requiring some form of Medicine test). This is available both as a minimissile and a grenade, but not as micromissiles, standard missiles or minigrenades. [Moderate]

Web Grenades are often used by scavengers and zone runners to keep away hostile exsurgents, TITAN bots or just fellow scavs by blocking narrow access points and delay long enough to escape. Some criminal operations (especially smugglers) also occasionally use them to delay rivals or law enforcement so they can get away. Military and security forces are also known to carry them, however, should they need to improvise security on a location with methods less permanent.

Addendum 2E: If converting to the 2E playtest, count the Web Grenade as Moderate Complexity. It still inflicts 2d10 DV, and applies Grappled status to anyone hit with it, and inflicts a d6 of DV which ignores armor if ripped out. They probably shouldn't be restricted, and also note the lack of the "Armor Piercing" trait. Any other aspects of Seekers and Grenades normally applies.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Heterotaxy Cyberbrain

"Heterotaxy" is the term for a form of genetic defect where major organs are not in the proper location in the body. While not unheard of in Flats, the defect has been extinguished in Splicers and better though technically some lines of morphs may be heterotaxic compared to standard transhuman or other "source" genes for design purposes. This idea of relocating organs for specific purposes can be applied to other things, such as implants, which led to the exotic development of the Heterotaxy Cyberbrain.

Heterotaxy Cyberbrain: In short, this implant/enhancement is applied to a morph which already has a Cyberbrain and relocates the cyberbrain to another location inside the body besides the normal one. For humanoid morphs this is typically the head, and the relocation may be to the body - but can be even so exotic as to be in a limb. The dimensions of the cyberbrain do not need to be exactly the same, but the relocated area must be able to hold a sufficiently strong computer to run the cyberbrain software. In place of the normal cyberbrain routing hardware is usually installed to make sure sensory input and command output is processed through the rest of the body correctly and prevent undue disorientation to the Ego. Sleeving into a morph with a Heterotaxy Cyberbrain is slightly unusual, and can be difficult, imposing a -10 penalty on Resleeving tests. This implant can only be applied to morphs with a Cyberbrain. [High]

The primary purpose of the Heterotaxy Cyberbrain is the obvious - a relocated brain makes it difficult to permanently disable a morph via cranial damage. While there are severe penalties due to problems with senses and coordination (i/e Wounds) for taking head trauma, a morph is unlikely to be stopped simply by suffering blows to the head - and instead suffers similar effects when struck in the area where the Cyberbrain has been relocated. It is often combined with the Possum Cache (p. 198 Transhuman) in order to better "play dead". Barring expensive implant masking, The Heterotaxy Cyberbrain is incredibly easy to detect if one knows what to look for, however. The cranial area is much less dense and will obviously lack a proper brain to scan ("empty-head" or "air-head" is a common nickname for HC users) and the increased mass and electrical activity of the relocated cyberbrain can be very obvious to many types of scanners. The users of the Heterotaxy Cyberbrain tend to be eccentric or paranoid.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Simulacra

Simulacra
Type: Terrestrial (Reducing)
Primary Star: K9V (Orange Dwarf)
Gravity: 1.22 g
Diameter: 15099 km
Atmospheric Pressure: .84 atm
Atmospheric Composition: 59% Methane, 28% Nitrogen, 12% Argon, trace others
Surface Temperature (Mean): 6 C
Day Length: 23 Hours
Orbital Period: 423 Days
Satellites: None
Gate Access: Portal Gate
Notes: Alien Microbes, Planetary Rings, TITAN Artifacts
Simulacra should be an entirely boring planet. It is a "reducing" terrestrial, with a volatile atmosphere which is poisonous to transhumans, a low temperature and an arid landscape except for some ice caps in the polar regions. The natural terrain is dry and relatively flat, occasionally differentiated by geologic activity. It does appear to have some extremophile microbes, very basic prokaryotes, but they are comparatively uninteresting in their early evolution - only a source of concern for greater preservationists. Or, it would be more accurate to say it would, if "preservation" of Simulacra was still a concern.
This is because the extremely notable feature of Simulacra which lends it its name is the fact that on it's surface around the Gate is a perfect replica of 1920-era London UK. Based on historical data available to Gatecrashers, the replica appears to scale and 100% accurate to the information that is to be had, though while some facades and elements are artificially weathered to match pictures in history, dating them has assumed that the constructs were all built within the past 10 years or so - presumably after the Fall.  Additionally, while materials appear to be generally correct, close examination shows that they were obviously built using advanced manufacturing techniques and nanofabrication tools to produce and assemble the materials. This project would have taken immense time and energy, even for TITAN capabilities (the assumed builders) and has no apparent purpose. While buildings have a roughly correct layout and floorplan, they have no distinct interior features apart from the architecture, such as furnishings or appliances. No utilities are networked in the buildings at all, and as of yet no living creature or construct has been confirmed to exist in the structures. It also appears to be incomplete; as it nears the edge of the nearly 1500 sq. km area historically associated with Greater London, buildings appear to be unfinished or unpolished. On the fringes, some of them are clearly partially assembled from the bottom-up, and the pattern in which they are made does not follow the street pattern but an exotic fractal one.
Upon being discovered several years ago, Simulacra was briefly a point of intense interest for the Gatecrashing Guild and many associate corporations and governments, but the fervor of scanning the planet has died down as investigation has mostly turned up things which are strange as opposed to interesting or useful. Experts in X-Risk analysis and archaeology frequently argue over the subject of the "replica city" and what it's purpose could be, but have yet to reach a solid consensus. After delays, news of Simulacra broke on Titanian public media several months ago and rapidly spread through the Solar System due to it's open nature - leading to an influx of many amatuer Gatecrashers interested in hunting for artifacts or capitalizing on Earth nostalgia for rep and fame. While some hope that more eyes will make efforts to "clear" the vast construct city for anything of note, the more serious academics are concerned that any valuable data may be destroyed or muddled by the influx - and have petitioned Isra to more strictly monitor those who are allowed though the gate to Simulacra. The Gate itself is located in the replica of Charing Cross - in the location where a statue of Charles I historically stood.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Swordstick

The "swordstick" or "swordcane" is an invention which has existed for long periods of human history - concealing a sword-length blade inside a cane or other stick which can appear harmless. While certain technological advances might make this seem obsolete, transhumans still have a lot of the same cognition as before the introduction of transhuman technology - biases and assumptions brought on by cultural memes and instinct can persist so carrying a "cane" which hides a weapon can be beneficial.

Swordstick: Also called a swordcane, this weapon has a thin blade concealed inside the body of an appropriately sized stick or cane, with the head of the stick serving as a handle for the sword. Some models use mechanical releases to retrieve the sword, but most use meshed systems similar to a smartlink to ensure the release is done properly. Originally made of wood, the exterior of the stick can be any material - and tends to be made of particularly dense things to try and hide the blade from sensors. It's a -30 Perception test to determine the stick is also a sword if one is not aware of it. Sheathed, the stick acts as a Club, dealing damage appropriately (and using the Clubs skill), but when unsheathed it is a Monofilament Sword (and uses the Blades) skill. [Low]

The swordcane is still quite useful to many people - retro or anachronist fashion sometimes makes use of canes and walking sticks, which the swordstick can turn into a deadly weapon in a pinch. Some people may have persistent injuries, or more bioconservative souls may not wish for the rapid healing miracle of a Healing Vat and thus have injuries last longer. And of course, in certain areas which might include rugged terrain, a hearty stick is never out of place - thus allowing one to also get away with carrying a sword. In legal terms, swordsticks usually count as a concealed weapon intrinsically - and are regulated as such.

(nb - While as of this writing skills/CC hasn't been released for the 2E playtest, based on what I've seen from the initial preview this weapon will probably be a lot more neat under 2E's more condensed skill list. So keep that in mind)

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Cancer Sticks

Cancer was once a defining challenge for humanity. "Cure for cancer" was a magical solution which would herald riches and fame to whoever produced it. The jump to transhuman technologies has largely solved this problem. While Flats may still sometimes suffer from genetic predispositions, genefix procedures eliminate most of these tendencies in morphs. Implants like Radiation Tolerance (p. 189 Rimward) greatly increase the amount of potentially toxic radiation a morph can endure, which can cause cancers and other diseases as a long-term symptom. And modern nanomedicine procedures, along with more conventional medicines can easily eliminate cancerous cells which arise from carcinogenic exposure. If all else fails, resleeving or rapid organ cloning can avoid the possibility of harm from cancer.

In many places, this has skewed transhumanity's perception of what was once a great killer. Scum and even Ultimates may consume products or enjoy activities which could lead to cancer for thrills and to prove the superior endurance of their morphs. In the Inner System, in the heart of the Planetary Consortium like Progress activities like smoking are a sign of wealth - because long term organ damage and cancer is no problem for anyone rich enough to buy a new set of lungs. In the Outer System habs, these sorts of activities tend to be frowned upon as it "wastes" community resources, but rarely to individuals who engage in entertainments or hobbies which have side effects feel excessive pressure from the community - only the habitually wasteful.

But, there are some ways to market this sort of activity. A common item seen on Extropia and in certain similar cultures is Cancer Sticks. A parody of classic marketing for cigarettes and other tobacco products, the "Cancer Stick" is literally a carcinogenic stick. They can be sucked, smoked, chewed or sometimes dissolved in drink depending on the particular brand and configuration. Even the components can depend on who makes and sells them - but usually their composition is similar to candy or other "treats" which have some attractive taste or smell to them, possibly some additional components to calm, numb pain or even stimulate (meaning they be mixed with other drugs) to give a pleasant experience while also containing various carcinogenic compounds or elements, such as arsenic, asbestos, cadmium, nickel and radon. Lung, mouth, throat and stomach cancers are the most common effects of the Sticks, but depending on the substances a variety of areas can develop symptoms. A common variant on this style is "Radium Gum", a chewing gum made with radioactive elements or isotopes or other carcinogens mixed in.

Both iterations of this idea are often reserved for the fairly well-off, because their use of certain radioactive or heavy metallic elements and compounds is a draw on limited resources - which also happen to be rarer in the Outer System. The inherent medical costs also tend to bracket the users of Sticks to higher incomes. This means that the habit is usually seen among the middle and upper class in the Main Belt and Inner System, a "conspicuous consumption" which can be genuinely habit forming (especially for those with oral fixations), though the Scum "shits and giggles" trade in Cancer Sticks across the system is high - and their components can be recycled into useful materials which often makes them an interesting - if hazardous trade good. The Jovian Republic and many other individual Bioconservative habs heavily restrict or ban Cancer Sticks also, making them an interesting black market and sometimes politically-minded good; boxes of Cancer Sticks tend to show up  at the offices and doorsteps of notorious bioconservative politicians as a sign of protest.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Updates/Second Edition

So, in case you don't know, Posthuman Studios has launched a Kickstarter for Eclipse Phase 2E, which can be found here. It's already funded, so Second Edition is a for sure, and they have several interesting stretch goals already met and planned. To my understanding, there will be an open playtest starting on the 5th - so expect to see some thoughts and impressions here, possibly even some notations about conversion of earlier entries to new mechanics of 2E. I will not be doing a post-by-post conversion, and depending on the subject future entries will probably follow both or just 1E rules - but all fluff pieces and work should still be applicable.

I've been working on an unrelated writing project for the past week or so, which has taken up a lot of my focus from writing H-Rep. That said, I still have plenty of notes and subjects - including groups, new tools or weapons, concepts and locations, so expect to see them before too long at some period, probably once the 2E playtest gets my mental ball rolling.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Breach Hammer

Breach Hammer: Similar in design to the much larger Power Sledge, this one-handed blunt weapon has a shape and density adjusting head to bring maximal impact force when swung at a target. It is designed to strike both opponents in hardened armors, and also to be valid to use against some inanimate structures, like interior walls, doors and vehicle panels. Some are balanced to be thrown, but the weight means that this is not a usual tactic, reserved for morphs with enhanced strength and reflexes. [Low]
AP -3 1d10+4+DB DV

Breach Hammers are a rare sight, usually only carried by law enforcement or special forces operators in certain conditions where they might need to break down obstacles or break up armor - but aren't using tougher implements for more rigorous breach work, perhaps because they do not wish to harm civilians or infrastructure. Due to the hardiness of synthmorphs, riot police on Luna sometimes forego regular batons and other implements for hardier breach hammers in order to be better suited to actually damaging synthmorphs. And of course, while smashing down a door or wall is not "subtle", it can be quieter than using something like liquid thermite or plastic explosives to breach a door, meaning those who wish to act with swiftness and without incredible amounts of light and noise might use them for their typical purpose to breach.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Void Reef

Void Reef
Type: V-Type Asteroid
Primary Star: M8V (Red Dwarf)
Gravity: .03 g
Diameter: 530 km
Atmospheric Pressure: N/A
Atmospheric Composition: N/A
Surface Temperature (Mean): -50 C
Day Length: N/A
Orbital Period: 368 Days
Gate Access: Discord Gate, Tempest Gate
Notes: Alien Traces, Resources Available, Exhuman Settlement
Visibly, Void Reef is a striking Gate locale. It is named because the gate is settled into a family of V-Type asteroids which exist in a relatively small population system, with a couple of uninhabitable mercurian terrestrials in the inner system, and a large out system gas giant with a few moons which has mostly swept the area clear. Thus, the local region somewhat resembles a rocky shoal or reef - exemplified by the presence of some minor nebular gases which lend a slight violet tinge to the region. Go-Nin is deeply interested in this area for many reasons - rare V-Type asteroids are loaded with resources as they are stratified, often thought to be a destroyed planetoid. Also, the Factors have expressed an interest in V-Type asteroids, and Go-Nin hopes to parlay some of their research to them for technological favors, perhaps not counting on the Factor's reluctance to deal with Pandora Gates. Additionally, there are signs on Reef-1 (the primary asteroid which is the gate location) and the closest visible asteroids that other Gate travellers may have visited and the past, doing their own surveying and sampling.  Go-Nin's eagerness got even stronger when they encountered another unusual factor - that Reef-1 appears to have a fossil record, small coral like creatures and other forms are buried in the strata of the asteroid, along with signs of decayed organics and small macrofauna exoskeletons. Was the original planet destroyed by some force after it had evolved life? It is a great mystery Go-Nin is eager to turn a profit on.
Unfortunately for them, their efforts to categorize the entire Void Reef formation have hit a major stumbling block. There is a group of Exhumans here, believed to be allied with the Rortians, who call the Void Reef their "Shattered Nest" and lurk in some of the more far-flung asteroids, and have begun preying on explorers who move through those areas. They appear to be a clade of Adaptives and Soul-Eaters, who use hive-minded technology similar to Rortian dreadnoughts to share processing among several morphs in packs - which resemble insectoid bodies and are vacuum adapted, and may utilize Long-Term Life Support. This makes them very cunning and dangerous in large packs, and they are clearly more familiar with the terrain. Intelligence suggests they are taking some of the researchers and workers hostage to peel their Egos and gain new skills and information, possibly engaging in ascendant forking. This has in turn caused a large number of Ultimate "Purifiers" to move in and begin conducting patrols and raids in the area. All while Go-Nin keeps shipping in miners, surveyors and scientists to keep research and production moving forward as their expected pace.
This has turned Void Reef into an exotic frontier locale, with Ultimate Mercenaries and Raiders striking at Exhuman settlements, Exhuman pirates and soul thieves jumping workers who stray too far, and humble workers and scientists just trying to get their job done caught in between. All while several mysteries about the Reef itself persist.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Way of the Sword

In terms of combat efficiency and effectiveness, ranged weapons (especially kinetic ones or explosives) reign supreme. But there is a certain artistry in melee weapons, and value in their used for a lot of utility and some interesting things can be done with proficiency. Of these, the sword may be one of the more interesting and versatile melee weapons - unlike many others it does not necessarily evolve from a tool for working or hunting - but is a purpose built weapon to fight humans. This lends it a certain romanticism to the sword - which can be seen in the prevalence of swordsmanship both as a skill and sport in many parts of the Solar System.

Design-wise, fundamentally styles, patterns and types of swords remain unchanged, but in order to keep up with advanced in armor technology almost all of them utilize the "monofilament" style blade and advanced composites for sharpness and durability. While fabricators can mass produce swords, there is also something to be said for having them crafted specifically by those with knowledge and talent to do so - and quite a number who make swords are also capable of wielding them. The really daring can bridge into the exotic, utilizing vibroweapons and plasma swords.

Traditional swordsmanship sports persist in quite a few places, including forms of fencing in multiple styles and other HEMA groups on Venus, and the traditional kendo remains prevalent in several locations as well. Cultures with strong history have preserved historical martial arts schools related to the blade, taught for competition, self-defense and preservation of history. New arts and sports even arise, based on new weapons tech or cultural markers. Due to advanced in medical technology "blood sports" of all kinds can be popular in the system, and dueling in many forms has returned as a hobby sport, or even a way to settle disagreements. Numerous Extropian legal houses accept an honor duel as an appropriate way to settle a legal dispute.

These do not do as much to preserve the skills and utility of the sword as the concept of the "Street Samurai" however. Dating back to the 20th century, the idea of using swords as a weapon even when more advanced systems exist is kept alive in popular culture and seen as a marketable skill. Firearms may be restricted for safety or fabrication concerns, very few cultures are extreme enough to prevent a person from openly carrying a sword (in general public anyway). Restriction on longer weapons both by custom and practicality also occasionally makes smallswords, the Japanese daisho pair, and small parrying daggers or other accompanying weapons popular.

Carrying swords is intimidating, offering an air of danger but class to a person. It shows one is armed, and probably not afraid to fight - and that they have enough confidence to use a weapon which can require extensive training as opposed to an iron or a needler. Due to the ease of manufacturing and more common ability to carry this means many freelancers, hitters, troubleshooters and covert operatives train with various blades and may carry them to use - and some gangs focus entirely on utilizing blades thematically over guns (or perhaps, because they can get access to a pile of diamond axes). Additionally, the low-tech nature of a sword may make them preferable when faced with certain high-tech risks, as seen by use of Ultimate Purifiers and Rajput - an Exhuman neurode or TITAN puppet cannot backhack a katana.

Romanticism often turns to mysticism and urban legend, however. Many tales are told about the exploits of those who dare only to use blades. People still insist the classic "Zatoichi" tale of the blind swordsman is true. Legendary blade maker known by the alias "Masamune" is said to produce blades sharp enough to cut bullets like falling leaves - and a colleague (or possibly the same person with an alternate name) known as "Raikiri" can make blades which "cut lightning". And Alexandria the "Atomic Knife" is said to make a blade so sharp the right angle and force will cut an atom. Many have heard the urban legend of Annie Walker, who took only a blazing blue plasma sword into a camp of Martian bandits and killed every last one in revenge. One of the many skills the legendary operator "Jane Excalibur" has said to have mastered though countless lifetimes of forking and resleeving is use of a traditional longsword. While denied by the public media, the anarchist operator known as Thanatos once recovered an asset from Hypercorp hands in a daring highway raid vs Les Ghoules and Oversight armed with only katana and pistol. If you go to Phelan's Recourse, you might find Lou o' Light, who can teach you to cut the top off a small mountain in a single swing. And of course there are urban legends aplenty about hitmen who only fight with swords - such as the Night Cartel's Falconer M. or or the Triad's "101 Blades".