22: Pop Guns
It finally occurred to governments, corporates and militaries alike that the ever escalating munitions versus armour dichotomy was simply out of hand. Ground forces were not so much obsolete, but so encumbered by their protection they became almost immobile. Not that it mattered, more armour equated to bigger guns and before they vanished from the fields entirely, many troops gave up the armour altogether – it didn’t do anything except slow them down and being killed was the same either way.
Vehicles suffered the same fate. The more armour applied, the bigger the weapons fired at them. Rail guns made headway, until breakthroughs in ballistics protection put everything back to square one. Lasers seemed like they were the solution until Systek, a Col:Prime based armaments conglomerate, came up with CMA – Ceramic Mirror Armour. Lasers quite literally bounced off the stuff.
And on it went.
The last major government based military conflict, the ‘Bypass’, from any angle looked more like two teams of overweight wrestlers throwing pies at one another. While Col:Prime led Alliance of Governments, AG, to eventual ‘victory’, it became clear military campaigns had become a thing of the past. The escalation theory had finally introduced an odd sort of peace – there seemed little point entering a conflict, if the outcome was nothing more than ending up where you started; regardless of which side you were on.
In 2280, things turned once again when a Col:Prime patrol encountered a pirate gunboat, somewhere outside the Col:P45 orbit. It had been understood for some time that the arms stalemate meant many patrols only carried the bare minimum in armaments, and while it generally was not an issue in traffic ways, pirates liked to pick off patrol boats that drifted into their ‘territory’. This time though was to be different, the Col:Prime boat was carrying a new type of weapon the GA had been keeping quiet about.
While the pirates managed to fire off several salvos (which incidentally missed – pirates often had ‘authentic’ weapons but their fire control systems were mostly patched together), the patrol boat fired one shot which not only stopped the pirate boat dead, but shut it down completely. The Col:Prime boat simply pulled up alongside, boarded, and that was that.
EMPO – Electro Magnetic Pulse Ordnance. The AG realised if projectiles, lasers, missiles, whatever, were redundant, then maybe the best solution would be to just shut their opponent down. Every modern vessel, vehicle, and most other things for that matter, were a mess of electronics, so why not just fry the lot rather than keep on trying to blow it up? So for over a decade, AG outpost labs worked on various EMP weapon systems, eventually taming the pulse by delivering it packaged in a shell and fired at the target out of a canon or gun – old school style.
The crux of EMPO being on impact, the shell set off a highly localised EMP frying systems that made whatever the target was ‘go’; and that was all. Sure, sometimes it fried a little too much and the target’s reactor, or ordnance (occasionally both) went pop, but the distinct upside of not totally destroying a target, as the AG soon worked out, was the salvage; there was now money to be made from conflict. And as wiping crew had been extremely unfashionable from a societal standpoint for 200 years, EMPO soon became the darling of the military – they could now blow shit up AND not kill any one doing it. It didn’t always work that way, but on paper it looked good.
Over time everyone had their own version of EMPO and, as was to be expected, EMP resistant armour came into play. Unlike armours before it though, it didn’t stop the EMP but instead slowed down the frying process, keeping units mobile and active that bit longer. Several parties tried combining EMPO with explosive rounds, sort of like cracking an egg then frying it. It was soon realised though that traditional armour effectively cancelled out any explosive round, while the EMP portion of the round was still enough to either totally or partially immobilise the target. Why spend the extra money?
And just like that, conflict changed. Sure, there were boarders, or industry, or pride to protect, but now a bit of money could be made on the side.
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A collection of hard science fiction tales written and illustrated by Gerard Thomas.