S.E.D.s (static explosive devices) can range from the most basic I.E.D. (improvised explosive device) all the way up to advanced and intelligent mines. The lion’s share of devices in use fall somewhere between these two extremes and have played a significant role in galactic warfare and politics.
Humans had all but abandoned use of mines before the Second Age of FTL travel. They almost forgot about the idea until a rude awakening when they ventured, accidentally, into Wun’Tux territory. Prospectors rushed to an asteroid belt and recorded a collection of strange, scrap-like objects littered throughout before a number of explosions engulfed them. The asteroid belt had been – unbeknownst to the humans – stripped clean by the reptilian race who then engaged in a style of ‘Scorched Earth’ never before seen by civilian miners.
Three more groups of prospectors were lost before it came to the attention of the American military who wrestled with a dilemma; the existence of the Wun’Tux was still a secret following the incident at Freya but they didn’t want to lose any more civilians to mine fields. The compromise involved blaming human pirates (although this didn’t stop the rumours amongst superstitious miners of secret military experiments or giant space monsters).
It wasn’t long before USEF scouts discovered one of these fields. They quickly found if they moved slowly enough and in small enough numbers the devices would not go off. Defusing them proved more difficult – an arduous task involving explosives specialists in vac-suits. The prospect of having to do so for every possible field of mines was logistically unviable – the military needed an easier, more efficient method.
The task was farmed out to the new military science (MilSci) staff at Highpoint. The most obvious way – controlled detonation – was untenable as the mines had a tendency to explode in a chain reaction and damage nearby resources. The Wun’Tux devices were unsophisticated and volatile; it was this lack of sophistication that would prove their undoing. American military scientists knew the reptiles must have had a way to activate the mines in the first place – apprentice scientists were given the repetitive task of bombarding the devices with all manner of radio, sensor and jamming waves and observing the effects. All of their attempts to jam using wide bands of frequencies failed, but after weeks of sleep-deprived experimenting the science teams found the ‘magic frequency’, a continuous, local broadcast of which would switch off the proximity sensors. These broadcast vanes were placed onto extended apertures – nicknamed ‘wings’ for their appearance – and tested on remotely piloted ships in live fields. They worked perfectly.
The technology proved cheap and effective; militaries built a number of specialist minesweepers but civilians were more likely to install the tech on any old capital-scale ship they could find. Thus the term ‘minesweeper’ became common.
De-constructing Wun’Tux mines gave the Highpoint Mil-Sci division food for thought, however, and they began to develop their own mines – more sophisticated and resistant to deactivation. These modern human mines are painted with sensor-absorbent coating and run on very little power, making them very difficult to detect. They are deployed at suspected jump and choke points as a deterrent to various interlopers.
Other species use S.E.D.s in various guises and mission profiles meaning minesweepers are a regular sight around the galaxy – both military ships and independent operators selling their services to the highest bidder.