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.
Above: A Gnobo warrior wielding an extended punch-cudgel
The Gnobo melee weapon of choice is the Taboor; loosely translated as ‘punch-cudgel’. Unlike the Illayko whisper hatchet, which has a utility use as well as a martial one, the punch-cudgel is utilised solely for fighting.
One Taboor (or two for experienced pugilists) is strapped to the user’s dominant forearm. It sits underneath so that the line of the weapon is closest to the wielder’s little finger. When inactive, the unit is folded in on itself and forms a not unwieldy bump on the forearm. When activated the ‘neck’ and ‘head’ extend forward past the user’s hand and the control prong folds out into their hand.
On the most fundamental level, the Taboor works like an old-fashioned ton-fa, albeit it swaps adaptability for strength in being strapped to someone’s arm. The weapon can be used to deflect attacks as well as pummel opponents at longer range than mere fists alone. Advanced models have a length control, allowing their users to reduce the effective length of the weapon if they are caught in the confines of a small passageway; perfect for ship-to-ship action.
Gnobo tend to wear a Taboor as part of their battle dress; it’s use is taught in basic military training and emphasised throughout military or mercenary life. When disputes between individuals necessitate settlement by combat, Taboor are almost always the preferred implement.
Since the dawn of space combat, human armament consisted of a mix of direct fire energy weapons and explosive warheads. As they reached out to explore the galaxy at large, these systems remained effective and serviceable. That is: until they met the Wun’Tux.
Wun’Tux durillium armour plating was capable of shrugging off energy weapon damage; this rendered such weaponry almost useless. Warheads were the only armament to have an effect and there are only so many warheads one ship can carry. This effectively left humans fighting with one hand tied behind their backs. Government R&D departments began to study the behaviour of this armour plate to try and find some solution. The American military saw fit to share the data with a slew of private military corporations.
Inspired by long barrelled anti-material rifles of old, the Blackmane engineers designed something in the mould of a rail gun. Tempered slugs of Tungsten alloy would be accelerated down a long barrel towards a target at incredible velocity. In theory, this slug could breach the thick armour plates and damage the ship beneath. Tests on derelict Wun’Tux Clanships demonstrated promising results.
Unfortunately, Blackmane’s prototype was so unwieldy it had to be mounted spinally; giving no ability to target independent of the ship’s direction. The inability to mount it on a turret was a huge disadvantage – Blackmane were close to throwing in the towel. It was sheer chance the project wasn’t terminated at this point. One of the Royal Naval Lieutenants on the review board recalled watching giant cranes building the orbiting defences at Europa.
These cranes used a special gyroscopic stabiliser to accurately position heavy liftarms; objects roughly the size of the prototype cannon. It took one call (along with a extortionate licensing fee) to hijack the patent on these cranes and integrate them.
And so the Linear Cannon was born.
The first working versions debuted at the close of the Second Age; Warships were hastily retrofitted with turreted Linear Cannons and pressed back into service. These ships found the weapons astoundingly accurate at medium ranges. The armour penetration worked as advertised, giving the humans an equalising edge in the subsequent battles. Skilled gunners soon learnt particular angles and weak spots and within a matter of weeks Wun’Tux had become more wary to engage humans in pitched battles.
First contact with the war-like Wun’Tux was a rude awakening for human forces who had lived in near-peace for too long. More potent and advanced weapons were put into development and by the Third Age the Linear Cannon was less revolutionary and more ordinary, still respected for it’s accuracy and armour piercing abilities.