17 September 2011

FWS Flash Fiction Empty Places: Part Two "Volunteering for Suicide "

We waited around for hours in the heat for the rest of the recruits, isolated from the rest of the market. I wondered if Zinc knew what I had done, and what these off-worlders would do when he showed up threatened them. Would they shoot him? God, I hoped so.

A man in a brown jumpsuit appeared and studied each one of us sitting against the mud-brick wall “Sandoval?!” He called out.

“Here” He motioned for me to follow him, with a guard followed close behind me into a building, it smelled strongly like cleaners. It was nice. The Foreign Service recruiter wore a mask, rubber gloves, and he didn’t shake my hand. When I repeated my desire to sign up the small thin off-worlder looked at me with genuine shock, as he scanned me with some type of portable medical device.

“You know what you’re signing up for, right?” I nodded and kept my fingerprint on the PDA. “Abaddon is not a nice place. You’re not a dusthead or nuts, right, dude?” I wasn’t even sure what ‘Abaddon’ was. I shook my head. Drugs, booze, fornication…none was a relief for me. I wanted closer not just an escape.

“Look,” I waved my hand to his comments, “what’s the deal here, are you for real?”

“About what?”

“Getting me off this shithole… forever.” He smiled and flashed a picture handing in the air; I jumped back, causing the guard to laugh.

“This is Elysium…” he clicked to green fields being pushed by gently winds. I’d never seen anything like it, but I wanted to be here. “And we are giving you forty acres and servant automaton.” He adjusted his mask and seemed to smile, but I couldn’t tell, “if you survive that is.”

I tried to look unimpressed, I’d been in my share of firefights, “You mean survive war you’re so on about?”

That got the recruiter, the smile dropped, and he switched off the projection of Elysium. “The war as to be over before you discharged out of the Foreign Service! Only then can you take up residence on Elysium!” He clarified strongly, but I was undeterred, I wanted off and away from this place.

I shrugged, I’d seen bad shit, and done some bad shit, “I’m still here.” Then the recruiter, who looked like he was still a virgin, said something that really pissed me off.

“Ever kill anyone?”

“What kind of dumbass question is that?!” The guard pushed me back down into my chair, as the recruiter leaped out of his.

“We… we have to ask… you know…” I never answered his question; I just returned a hard stare. “Okay… thumb print, and we’re done.” Before I touched the little computer, a shot of pain jumped at my neck, I leaped up, only to fall, then darkness.

* * *

I woke in the cleanest vehicle I’d ever been in. There was cold air blowing on my face, and I tracked it to vents. Never had I experienced A/C, or a vehicle that was all original and not covered in rust, sand, or blood, or all three. When I rode with Zinc, I had to be half-asleep; rifle-ready for anyone trying to take what was ours, or take back what was theirs. Zinc preferred me to draw guard duty, so sleep was often a short affair.

Surrounding me in the cargo bed of this vehicle was others like me, most were asleep, and a few seemed to be watching the two guards watching us. Their fingers were not far from the triggers. More than an hour later, the vehicle stopped at a gated complex surrounded with guards and heavily armed vehicles protecting a runway. Parked at a tarmac were three white shuttles, ready for my exodus. Off-World workers descended on the truck when we stopped, through the thin walls I could hear them:

“How many in this one?”

“About a dozen from some trading post on the outskirts of the Tanami Desert.”

“Not enough...this brings us up to barely five hundred! We need thousands!”

“Hard to get people volunteering for suicide.” Volunteering for suicide? I told myself, it would be all worth it, whatever I had suffer through, it couldn’t be worse than what I had been forced to live through.

The doors opened with a jerk, the bright desert light flashed all of us blind. “Scrub them hard, burn every bit of clothing, and shave them bald!” Hours later, I rubbed my shiny head, still confirming the odd fact that I was newly bald. We had been piled up into a empty common room, in white thin cotton garments, I never felt so naked in my whole life. None of knew what to make of the situation, and the guards weren’t saying a damn thing.

Without warning, the white walls lit up with LED words in bold green letters and arrows pointing to wall slots: FOOD. COFFEE. WATER. Every one of us got a smile. “It’s chow time.”

Night overtook the land, and the temperature dropped, we hurtled together for warmth, despite the coffee and fresh chow. The power of these people amazed me; they had machines that produced hot coffee, something called espresso, then trays of hot food, endless amounts of food, too. All of us got two or three trays and nothing was said! Zinc never let me have that much! Never in my life was mealtime this great. The real symbol of the real power of these colonists was waiting for us on the runway, their black and white VTOL shuttles.

The woman next to me bummed the last of my cigarette, “I keeping thinking this is a dream, you know?”

“Yeah, I feel like I died and got to heaven after chow.” She twisted out the cigarette under her boot.

“What do you think about this war?”I looked at the bald female, and shrugged.

“I don’t know. Never seen a big war, mostly just raids, but it’s gotta be better than here…right?”I wandered if this cute bald girl huddled next to me was like me. Taken from her mother and forced to do horrible things.

She looked up at the star fields that lit up the cold desert night, “Maybe, but I heard rumors that it’s a war against aliens,” She noticed my facial expression and slapped my shoulder. “I’m not crazy!” Before I could response, more guards appeared, spinning up the nervous energy level among us. If you lived on Earth, then you knew the Golden Rule by heart: when someone pointed a gun at you, you pointed yours back, or you were a dead man. None of us were armed, and that only added to the unsettled feeling rolling around my stomach.

Following close behind the guards, were medical-looking people. Someone down the row exclaimed, “Here it comes… Needles.”

“Damnit!” Another spoke up.

“Shut up and relax recruits!” Spoke one of the guards, "Pills. Then boarding the shuttles for the transport.” The gas-masked guard shouted, who looked vaguely human, pointed the barrel to the little medical cups, “and you will take’em!”

And just like that we did, but fifteen minutes later I was dazed. Like my head was filled with sand. The guards shoved us on the shuttles onto retrofitted jump seats in the long cargo bay. I could barely utter a word, but fell into the seat and was thankful for it. I've never liked drugs or their effects. The drugs were ruining my experience of the launch into space, and the docking to a brittle-looking spaceship. More guards moved our zombified asses in zero-gee until we were locked in a room; the flux in gravity and the recycled air played hell with our bodies, floating vomit become a common site.

After hours, and the drugs wearing off, floating med-techs with small robots made their way around us, directing us into small pods. Some put up a fight…it ended quickly. I resigned myself to the thought if they wouldn’t have gone to all this trouble to kill me, they could have turned me over to Zinc.

I only learned this later that the colonies had eliminated basic training, via some sort of implanted education; however, the ritual of shaving of the head was maintained. Once loaded into the pods, we were clinical stripped, washed, and re-shaved, with the efficacy of machines, then injected with all manner of nanobots, and medical wires were attached to our bald heads. Only by a dose of another drug made the process tolerable.

During this indoctrination process or torture, as I couldn’t figure out the difference, we were in and out of conscience. There seemed to be no flesh-n-blood person beyond the veil of our pods. Another chilling fact I learn later was that the transport ships used by the colonies were completely automated. I thought back to the stories my mother told me about my great-great grandparents that fought in the AI Wars, I wondered what they would have said. But they didn’t live to see the nuclear war, and this new bloodthirsty enemy. I fell asleep as my pod was locked into place; I never heard the screams of people that were awake when the gel filled their tubes. I was glad for that; I would soon hear enough screams on Abaddon.


  1. Okay, William- I have got your laser rifles.

    Steyr-Phoenix ALC-3 Laser Carbine

    Manufacturer: Steyr-Phoenix Arms

    Beam Energy: 5 Kj antipersonell shots , 40 Kj anti-armor shots

    Rate of Fire: select-fire- 200 rpm or semi-automatic fire at full power, higher rates of sustained fire at lower settings

    Frequency: 500nm- 0.5 microns (blue beams)

    Power Pack Capacity: 4.1 mega-joule super-battery- 800 antipersonnel shots or 100 anti-armor shots per energy magazine

    Weight- 2.8 kilograms unloaded- 3.8 kilograms with power cell inserted

    Length- 76 cm (about 2.5 feet long)

    The PLC-3 is a powerful and capable beam weapon resembling a somewhat overgrown machine gun with a lens instead of a barrel. This blaster is mostly made of tough synthetics and lightweight alloys. Its boxy body contains the laser tube, wrapped around with cooling coils to prevent overheating. The laser beam is focused by the emitter optics at the front end of the weapon. A shoulder stock steadies the weapon and contains the power pack. The blaster has a pistol grip and electronic trigger. An integral 1/5x optic sight helps the user aim the blaster. The remaining charge left in the weapon is indicated by a glowing dial set in the stock- as the charge is used up, the glowing section grows smaller. A similar display is set in the optic sight.

    The laser blaster has both an antipersonnel mode and heavier anti-armor mode. In antipersonnel mode, the carbine fires 5 Kj shots, each blast capable of over-penetrating a human and penetrating body armor. In this mode, the blaster can rapidly mow down infantry while conserving charge. The PLC-3's anti-armor blast is much more formidable- each 40 Kj blast will penetrate 11.6 cm of armor steel, while a standard 5 Kj shot will only penetrate 2 cm or so. The carbines beefed up cooling system can handle rapid fire, but automatic fire can cause cooling problems if you keep it up to long. Automatic fire at lower power levels can be sustained for longer periods.

    Continued below...

  2. The laser blasts are generated in a highly efficient phase-locked diode laser and focused through the beam emitter. The beam emitter optics contain a 5 cm lens, which focuses the energy beam onto the target. The laser beam starts out a few cm across, and focuses down to 5 mm at the target- the beam needs to be a few cm wide to avoid damaging the optics. Adaptive "smart" optics auto-focus the beam to adjust for target range.

    A high-energy-density super-conducting coil battery is set into the stock of the laser carbine. This innovative new power pack was invented by Dr. Phoenix specifically to power the new PLC-3, allowing the laser gun to hold much more charge. The power packs can be recharged from a variety of power supplies- a small universal adapter comes with the PLC-3 and fits in the stock. The adapter allows the blaster to recharge from any residential AC or DC current, vehicle power supplies, or portable generators. The magazine can be recharged in minutes to tens of minutes, depending on the power supply. The use of energy based ammo solved the logistical concerns of ammunition supply- a nuclear reactor could provide unlimited energy for a military unit to recharge their weapons, covert units could use a portable generator, and civilians recharged their rifles from their local power supplies. If you were on a wilderness planet, a solar panel could recharge your weapon. If you are on a colony planet, you can just plug it into the wall outlet.

    The PLC-3 laser carbine fires visible blue laser blasts. When the laser carbine is fired, a visible blue laser line is seen lancing out from the weapon. When the laser hits a target, a the impact point explodes into a dazzling bluish flash with a loud bang. The beam pumps a lot of heat into a target, explosively vaporizing it. In flesh, vapor expansion will carve out a large wound as water flashed into steam. Rock will shatter in a continuous explosion, flesh will burst into steam and gore, but metal will only have a small hole shot through it. The laser makes a crackling sound when fired, and sounds quite electrical at full auto- making a "zap" noise. Each burst of laser radiation is lethal out to a full kilometer.

    This laser carbine is a powerful and capable beam weapon for infantry. Aiming is a simple matter of aligning the target with the aiming reticle- there is no need to compensate for bullet drop or windage. Due to the coherent nature of the beam, it is not uncommon to see scopes attached to the laser carbine to allow long distance shots. The laser is gyrostabilized, smoothing out a lot of the jitter inherit to human marksmanship. Energy magazines hold a large number of shots, and they are simple to recharge from almost any power source. The superconductor coil power pack stores energy at a very high energy density, holding much more shots than normal ultra-capacitor energy magazines, so a trooper is not likely to run out of charge in the battlefield.

    Continued Below

  3. I designed a laser pistol as well.

    Steyr-Phoenix AL-9 Laser Pistol

    Manufacturer: Steyr-Phoenix Arms

    Beam Energy: 2 Kj shots

    Rate of Fire: semi-auto

    Frequency: 500nm -0.5 microns

    Power Pack Capacity: 25 2 Kj shots per energy magazine

    Weight: 1.25 kilograms unloaded, 1.8 kilograms with power cell inserted

    Length: 21 cm

    The AL-9 Laser Pistol is a laser sidearm. The body of the laser is somewhat bulky, containing a highly efficient phase-locked diode laser. The energy beam is focused through the beam emitter optics, which contain a 3 cm lens. The ultra-capacitor energy magazine inserts into the pistol grip. The laser pistol has iron sights and a small integrated red-dot. Due to the accuracy of the coherent laser beam, it is not uncommon to see a small sniper scope placed on top for high-accuracy long range shots.

    The 2 Kj blasts can easily kill a human. When the AL-9 laser pistol is fired, a visible blue beam lances out from the gun. When the laser hits a target, the impact point explodes in a dazzling bluish flash with a loud bang. The intense pulse of laser energy pumps a lot of heat into the target all at once, explosively vaporizing it. The beam affects different materials differently- rock will shatter in a continuous explosion, flesh will burst into steam and gore, and a small hole will be blasted through metal. The laser pistol makes a sharp, electric snap when fired. This laser pistol is deadly out to about 250 meters, and capable of dazzling or blinding beyond that. Most of the time, it is used for close range combat- say 50 meters.

    Christopher Phoenix

  4. Here is a little background on these lasers.

    The Steyr-Phoenix ALC-3 Laser Carbine is a powerful laser firearm that fires intense pulses beams of blue laser light. Why blue? Visible frequencies travel through the atmosphere very well and can focus better at greater distances than infrared lasers. Not only that, but it looks really cool.

    I gave the ALC-3 both an antipersonnel shot and anti-armor shot so it can deal with nasty aliens with bio-armor- at the expense of greater ammo usage. The power pack stores energy at the same energy density as TNT- and there will be a similar result to detonating a kilogram of TNT if the power pack explodes. Fortunately, the power pack is pretty stable... most of the time. It might come in handy if you needed a bomb, but the power packs are expensive. The ALC-3 is rather compact- but lasers tend to be, since they don't need long barrels.

    The AL-9 laser pistol has an ultra-capacitor magazine, not a superconducting power pack. The AL-9 is a very nice gun- I would love to own one.

    Christopher Phoenix

  5. This is what laser gun battles will look like.

    Visible beams make trails through the air, which will be visible at indoor lighting intensities, but will be hard to see in sunlight. When a visible beam laser hits a target, the impact point flares into a very bright flash the same color as the beam. Each hit makes a loud bang as material explosively vaporizes.

    An infrared laser beam will be invisible, other than ionization and burning material suspended in the air, but will make plasma flashes and sparks when it hits. These plasma flashes will not be nearly as bright as the flare from a visible beam laser hit. None of my lasers are infrared- I maximized the range by using a shorter wavelength.

    Anyone using a laser will need eye protection. The if even a tiny fraction of a blaster beam is specularly reflected into someones eye, they will be blinded- so all the troopers need anti-laser flash goggles. These are being developed by the US military today. Anti-laser contacts are being designed as well, but I prefer goggles. They work well for protecting from a nuke flash, as well. Or keeping little bits of metal shavings from getting in your eye in microgravity- don't leave Earth without anti-nuke and laser flash goggles!!

    Wounds created by laser shots will be ragged and messy. These wounds are created by the mechanical shockwave of a steam explosion. People hit by lasers will bleed. If you are wearing thick clothing or armor, steam might spread underneath your clothing or armor and burn you.

    Please comment back with any questions or comments you have.

    Christopher Phoenix

  6. Bravo! BRAVO! Mr. Phoenix! My only hope for this flash-fiction story lives up to your research! The Laser arms should make an its apperance it part four, and be used during part five and/or six. Added to the Phoenix laser rifle and pistol, the colonials use a Gauss heavy support, and more traditional artillery, since I don't think that plasma, particle, or lasers could be used for archable fire support...I could be wrong, its happened before. Once again, you've out done yourself Mr. Phoenix, thank you, I hope your the fruits of your research.

  7. Thank you, William!! I am so glad I could be of help! I never knew cooperative world-building was so fun- or that designing weapons was so fun. I look forward to seeing the laser arms used against the aliens...

    You're quite right that "ray-guns" - lasers and particle beams - are line of sight weapons only. The only way you could use a laser to attack a target over the horizon is to bounce the beam over the horizon with a aircraft borne or orbiting mirror- needless to say futuristic versions of traditional artillery and mortars will still have a place in combat, although tactical laser cannons could be used to attack line-of-sight targets. An orbiting laser cannon could fire at units on the ground with great precision, if it can find the enemy.

    I have on more Phoenix laser arm for your story- looking over my work, it was clear something was lacking. Your troopers have no heavy laser weapons for support fire, so I designed a larger laser that can fulfill the same role as a squad automatic weapon. It is man-portable, but bulky, and can deliver sustained fire with its beefed up crystal arrays and cooling systems.

    Christopher Phoenix

  8. Steyr-Phoenix AHL-1 Heavy Laser

    Manufacturer: Steyr-Phoenix Arms

    Beam Energy: 10 kJ antipersonnel, 90 kJ full power

    Rate of Fire: select-fire- 600 rpm (10 hertz) or semiautomatic

    Frequency: 500nm- 0.5 microns (blue beams)

    Power Pack Capacity: 20 mega-joule super-battery- 220 full power 90kJ shots or 2000 10 kJ shots

    Weight- 7 kg unloaded, 10 kg loaded

    Length- 90 cm (a little less than three feet long)

    The AHL-1 Heavy Laser is a powerful beam weapon designed to support infantry with long bursts of laser fire. The AHL-1 resembles a somewhat overgrown machine gun possessing a short, thick telescope instead of a barrel. Like the ALC-3, this heavy blaster is made out of tough synthetics and lightweight alloys. The somewhat boxy body of the blaster contains an oversized laser tube and cooling system. The thick lenses in the beam emitter optics focus the high-energy beams. A shoulder stock steadies the weapon. The heavy laser has a pistol grip and electronic trigger. A scope is mounted on the heavy laser, allowing for long distance shots. A red dot sight is mounted on the blaster for close in shots. The remaining charge is indicated by a glowing dial set in the side of the weapon, and similar electronic display is set in the scope. As the charge is used up, the glowing section grows smaller. Weighing 10 kg fully loaded, the AHL-1 is a cumbersome weapon.

    The laser tube, cooling system, and beam emitter optics are built far more sturdily than the ALC-3 to withstand the heat build-up of sustained bursts. The powerful phase locked diode laser is wrapped with heavy-duty cooling coils to dissipate heat from sustained fire. The beam is focused by the emitter optics at the front end of the weapon. The aperture is a few cm across, but the beam focuses down to 5 mm at the target. Adaptive "smart" optics auto-focus the beam to adjust for target range.

    The Heavy Laser fires 10 kJ beams to deal with most threats, capable of blasting straight through most targets. When the power setting is set to full, the heavy laser becomes far more formidable. At full power, the blaster fires high-power 90-kJ shots that will blast through almost any armor- the extremely powerful 90 kJ blast can penetrate armor steel or carbon nanotube armor. What a 90 kJ blast does to a human body is nothing short of horrific- a single soldier will be torn apart. The heavy laser is capable of long bursts of sustained automatic fire, although sustained blasting at full power will cause it to over-heat. As with most automatic weapons, it is best to fire in short bursts. Generally, competent soldiers will use the 10 kJ beams for most situations and turn up the power to 90kJ to penetrate heavily armored targets- like mecha and armored vehicles. The effective range of the Heavy Laser is a about kilometer, but the blasts will dazzle or permanently blind beyond that.

    Continued Below...

  9. The AHL-1 fires visible blue laser blasts. A bluish line is seen lancing out from the heavy laser when it is fired. When the beam hits a target, the impact point explodes in a dazzling bluish flash with a loud bang. The laser affects different materials differently. Lasers simply drill through dry materials like plastic. Brittle materials shatter around the impact point. Rock shatters in an explosion of superheated debris. Tough stuff like metal will have a hole drilled in it. Wet materials burst in a steam explosion- so flesh will explode into steam and gore. Large, messy wounds will be torn in flesh as water flashes explosively into steam. The laser makes a crackling sound when fired, and sounds quite electrical around a 10 hZ- making a "zap" sound.

    The AHL-1 heavy laser uses a super-conducting coil battery, similar to the ALC-3's power pack, only larger, which fits into the bottom of the blaster. The heavy laser power packs uses the same universal adapter as laser carbine power packs, so users can recharge their power packs from any residential AC or DC current, vehicle power supplies, or portable generators. Depending the the nature of the power supply, power packs can be recharged in a few minutes to tens of minutes. Users of the AHL-1 don't have to worry about ammo supply- any power source is an ammo supply. The AHL-1 can be plugged into an external power pack for many more shots than its portable packs can supply. In an emergency situation, the AHL-1 can accept the smaller power packs designed for the ALC-3.

    The AHL-1 Heavy Laser is a very powerful infantry beam weapon, quite capable of supporting a squad with sustained laser fire. However, the heavy laser is cumbersome and bulky. A strong soldier can effectively use one, but most find it a burden to carry. The Heavy Laser fulfills the same role as a squad automatic weapon- but it has much more power and versatility than the primitive projectile weapons used centuries before. Lasers are fantastically accurate- controllable automatic fire, line of sight aiming, and lack of recoil are tremendous advantages over bullet-firing weapons. Aiming is a simple matter of aligning the target with the aiming reticle. High powered scopes are often attached to heavy lasers for long distance shots, as the coherent beams are accurate over great distances. Laser weapons have no recoil and are truly controllable when burst firing. The Heavy Laser can emit pinpoint laser blasts to destroy heavily armored foes or suppress enemy units. The AHL-1 has a very deep energy magazine. It is unlikely a soldier will run out of charge with a full power pack in battle- but if he does, the AHL-1 can use the laser carbine's smaller power packs. Laser weapons are rugged and reliable- there are no moving parts to jam and lasers never need to be cleaned.

    The AHL-1 Heavy Laser excels at its purpose- squad support and penetrating heavy armor. A single squad often has a heavy laser gunner armed with an AHL-1 while the rest use laser carbines. When a heavy laser is firing, the crackling bluish beams blasting the area around the enemy soldiers are extremely intimidating. The laser can be tracked back to its source by the "blue arc"- light scattered out of the beam by air molecules- but most of the time, the enemy is already dead. The dazzling bluish flash of a laser impact usually dazzles anyone nearby who doesn't have eye protection. Soldiers using laser weapons always use anti-laser flash goggles to avoid being blinded by their own beams, so they can't see the "blue arc", although they still see flashes of plasma at the target. Powerful 90kJ blasts take down mecha or giant aliens pretty quickly with aimed shots. A soldier with an AHL-1 can be a very effective sniper out to the weapon's full effective range.

    Christopher Phoenix

  10. I think your troopers have a full arsenal of laser guns now. I have been giving some thought to the rest of your soldiers arsenal, as well, considering the advanced battery tech that they have demonstrated by using laser blasters.

    You mentioned that some soldiers might spend their own money to obtain a projectile weapon. Some sort of mag-rifle is probably going to be the preferred weapon of a veteran who prefers familiar slug-firing weapons to a futuristic infantry laser. There might be a few veterans who don't agree with the initiative to arm soldiers with infantry beam weapons, but I suspect the deep magazines, unlimited recharge capability, and powerful shots of battle lasers will win them over in the in.

    You mentioned gauss heavy support weapons. These would probably need a big power pack, and since the lasers already have super-conducting coil packs (the technology was invented by Dr. Phoenix, of course), I think they will have similar packs. A gauss machine gun will need a power pack and magazines full of needle shaped projectiles.

    The artillery should be gauss, as well. The rounds have a needle-like cross section, to slice through the lower atmosphere as efficiently as possible. Each gauss round has so much kinetic energy, it kills the target by impact alone- explosive warheads are unneeded. My calculations tell me a 2 kg projectile moving at 5000 meters per second will impact with the 25 mega-joules of energy- equivalent to 6 kilograms of TNT. Each shot will fly on a sub-orbital parabolic arc that can reach up to 80 miles high, and GPS data from satellites can help it adjust its trajectory with small maneuvering fins.

    The gauss artillery will need a portable generator and capacitor bank to charge up for shots, and will deliver pinpoint fire over great distances. A large armored vehicle will have a generator and capacitor bank built into its chassis, so it might be a lumbering vehicle. The gun has a potential range of hundreds of miles, so it does not need to be at the front lines.

    The soldiers will probably use gauss mortars for indirect fire- DARPA already has looked into coilgun mortars- you mentioned them in your gauss gun post. The electromagnetic mortar will be silent, with no puff of smoke giving away its position. The firing rate should be double traditional mortars, since their is no separate propellent charge to load. Perhaps they use nuclear isomer charges...

    Christopher Phoenix

  11. Your soldiers will also have tactical laser cannons- if they can create portable blasters, larger weapons will also be used. These laser cannons will be mounted on armored vehicles, tanks, aircraft, and spacecraft.

    Advanced laser cannons will have apertures of a few centimeters for ranges out to a kilometer to 30 cm for ranges of ten kilometers. Tactical lasers will fire high-energy pulses of light. Lasers damage different substances differently. The lasers can drill through dry materials like metal and plastic, cause combustible materials like wood burst into flame, and explosively vaporize water. Any living thing that gets in the way of a laser cannon beam will die a very messy death as the water in their tissue blooms explosively into steam. Given the energy potential of these weapons, flesh will be vaporized down the bone. Depending on the frequency of the beam, these lasers can be invisible other than ionization or make a visible trail like the laser carbines. Higher frequency light is more visible than lower frequency light, so blue beams will be more visible than red ones.

    Laser cannons can be mounted on armored vehicles as a direct fire weapon. Power can be drawn from the vehicles engine to charge the laser's ultracapacitors. These laser cannons can be used against enemy vehicles, large aliens, or as an antiaircraft weapon.

    Advanced fighter aircraft will mount laser cannons as their primary short-range air-to-air weapon. "Photofighters" can draw power from their plasma drive engines to shoot down alien aircraft or fry targets on the ground. Unlike ordinary cannons, lasers have far more range than any gun, no recoil to work against the planes movement, and hit instantly.

    Lightly armored APC's could use laser cannons to provide more direct firepower. I expect coilguns will be common as well in Empty Places- so their might be a mixture of coilguns and laser cannons mounted on armored vehicles, aircraft, and spacecraft. Since a laser can have its beam folded many times in the laser generator, there is no need to have long barrels on laser cannons. The actual laser might be buried deep in the vehicle, and a short beam pointing telescope will direct it at a target.

    Spacecraft will mount large laser cannons with meters wide apertures, probably firing in the vacuum UV or X-ray spectrums. In space, you want lasers to operate at the highest frequency possible to focus at a long range. To fire at targets on the ground, they would have to be switched to visible wavelengths, since air absorbs vacuum UV and other high frequency light.

    Mass accelerator guns can be used on spacecraft, as well. You might have human spacecraft shooting at alien spacecraft with coilguns and lasers. Lasers are very accurate, but lose power with range. KE guns can rip spacecraft apart but are less accurate.

    Christopher Phoenix

  12. Something has popped up I think you will want to know about- an experiment at CERN has apparently detected neutrinos traveling faster than light. The scientists are trying to find all possible explanations for this, such as an error in their experiment.

    The physicists fired neutrinos through the Earth toward a detector. As neutrinos barely interact with matter, the neutrinos simply fly on through the ground into a detector. The bunches of neutrinos keep showing up 60 nanoseconds faster than is expected if they travel at light-speed.

    Here is a direct quote of an article on this:

    Dr Ereditato and his colleagues have been carrying out an experiment for the last three years that seems to suggest neutrinos have gone faster than light.

    In the course of doing the experiments, the researchers noticed that the particles showed up a few billionths of a second sooner than light would over the same distance.

    The team measured the travel times of neutrino bunches some 15,000 times, and have reached a level of statistical significance that in scientific circles would count as a formal discovery.

    But the group understands that what are known as "systematic errors" could easily make an erroneous result look like a breaking of the ultimate speed limit, and that has motivated them to publish their measurements.

    "My dream would be that another, independent experiment finds the same thing - then I would be relieved," Dr Ereditato said.

    But for now, he explained, "we are not claiming things, we want just to be helped by the community in understanding our crazy result - because it is crazy".

    "And of course the consequences can be very serious."

    This could be disproven as an error- but neutrinos really can travel at superluminal speeds, than light is not the ultimate speed limit. In that case, the whole structure of Special Relativity falls apart.

    "If you give up the speed of light, then the construction of special relativity falls down," says Antonino Zichichi, a theoretical physicist and emeritus professor at the University of Bologna, Italy. Zichichi speculates that the 'superluminal' neutrinos detected by OPERA could be slipping through extra dimensions in space, as predicted by theories such as string theory.

    Special Relativity tells us that no object with mass can travel at or above the speed of light, that massless phenomena like light are measured as traveling at the speed of light in all reference frames, and that if mass or information travelled at FTL speeds, time travel paradoxes will result. As a result, most physicists rejected FTL travel, since they can't have relativity and FTL travel without rejected the notion of causality- that cause must proceed effect. If a single particle managed to change its own past, then the effect preceded the cause. and causality would be violated. This happened in Terminator- the use of time travel corrupted the timeline.

    If, however, neutrinos can travel at superluminal speeds, then Special Relativity falls down, and cracks appear in natures FTL armor. If neutrino's can travel at FTL speeds, why can't we send information at FTL speeds (creating an FTL communicator) or even send starships through hidden dimensions in space? An if Special Relativity is proven to be incorrect, then perhaps FTL travel does not equal time travel...

    Christopher Phoenix

  13. Don't get too excited. It is most likely this is an experimental error, but it could also be one of the most major discoveries in the history of physics in making. One of the scientists is willing to bet his house that it is simply an experimental error, but until the scientific community scrutinizes the data and reproduces the results in several different experiments, we won't know for sure.

    This is all speculation on my part, but a serious challenge to Relativity would have very serious consequences. I don't think we'll start building FTL starships the day after Special Relativity falls down, but I'm sure that physicists who are interested in breakthrough propulsion will be very interested- so much as a single crack into the superluminal world could be a game changer for space travel.

    Sten Odenwald- the astronomer who wrote Back to the Astronomy Cafe said that physicists have been pushing matter to near-light-speed for decades but never found a single crack into the superluminal world. It is possible that the physicists have now found such a crack. Watch this space...




    I can't help but think... Superluminal neutrinos? Particle accelerators? Extra dimensions of space? Those physicists had better be careful, or aliens might just start teleporting out of nowhere into their labs. Perhaps the man in the orange suit with the crowbar will be somewhere nearby when they try to verify the existence of superluminal neutrinos...

  14. I am glad that the discovery was made before I posted my blogpost on FTL drives...indeed the labcoats should be careful, when they started experimenting with teleportation is when they opened the portal to hell...well, according to DOOM anyway.
    The universe is truely a strangle place...