30 November 2011

FWS Flash Fiction Serial: The Empty Places-Part Six "CASEVAC"

Erin adjusted her pilot optical setup on her lightweight helmet; the brilliant sunlight gleamed off of the Hopper waiting on the pad. There mere slight of her aerial insect beast stirred feeling deep inside of Hawksworth’s soul, supreme confidence washed over her, she was fulfilling her ultimate destiny by being here as a combat pilot. While most people dick around with what they’re going to do, Erin knew the first moment she saw an anti-gravity aerocraft loom over the landscape that she wanted to be a pilot. As she had done since the age of fourteen, she entered the bubble-cockpit of an A/G vehicle, and took the controls like it was a natural process. While most girls obsessed over the last fashion, the length of their skits, she already wore wings, and was a private pilot for major Colonial VIPs. It was the invasion that made her a combat pilot

She was greeted in the tight space by Ray, her co-pilot and general pain-on-the-ass, already hard at work on the checklist. “Got the Kinemassic field generators spun-up, Chief! VTOL thrusters lit! Rocket and gun pods are locked-n-loaded! We’re ready to rock!”

“Get those damn ground-pounders up now, Ray, we gotta go!”

Ray clicked over, “this November-Witch 1-1 Control, get Meatgrinder up here, we’re spun-up.”

“Solid copy, they’re all yours.” Ray flashed a wide smile and gave her the thumbs-up.

“This CASEVAC OP sucks!” Hawksworth adjusted her HUD readouts, and triple-checked, then she placed her PDW in the canopy slot. “The Syncs overran Jensen and White Forest; everyone is fallen back to this point.” She showed Ray on a holo-map hanging between them.

“Triple-thick trees, works both ways.”

“Maybe for the boots on the ground, but not up here.” She cycled back to some fresh incoming data. “It looks like the remains of FOB White Forest is under the command of a Sergeant Aroyo, call sign Wildcat 2-5.”

Co-pilot Ray nodded, “A Sergeant? The shit must be bad.”He cycled through the dozen A/G combat aircraft in their November-Witch Hopper unit, and saw two heavy-lift Babar hoppers. He tapped on the Captain’s shoulder, pointed, and confirmed with a nod. With a mere controlled and selected thought, Erin accessed the local COM-VR-NET, and was in cerebral contact with the pilot.

“Hey, Kettlebell 1-5?” She said casually

“What’s up, November-Bitch?” The thick accent of the male pilot came over, loud and clear, even with the COM-VR-NET.

“That’s November-Witch, truck-driver!”

“Oh, sorry, my mistake…”He faked.

“Sure, Kettlebell 1-5, done loading the Mansons and Onikumas yet?”

“Confirmed, Kettlebell 1-5 and 1-6 are loaded to bear, November-Witch 1-1.” She notified Ray with an update to his personal HUD. With that, and the green-light loaded status on Meatgrinder, the CASEVAC mission was on hot-standby.

Then her brain caught up to the fact that there was a missing Babar, “confirmed that, 1-5 just you and 1-6? SITREP on 1-7.”

“FUBAR’ed and MIA, 1-1.”

“Goddamn it, 1-5!” Hawksworth had played Backgammon with the co-pilot of Kettlebell 1-7 just last week!

“Allah Maakum, 1-1.”

“Xin lio.” She answered back and cut the connection, and flipped over to the Air-Boss. “This is November-Witch 1-1, Hoppers spun-up and ready for the hunt, Air-Boss.”

“Green lights, confirmed go on VTOL.” With clearance, Hawksworth expertly nudged the controls, and the heavily anti-gravity vehicle lifted off from the pad, flanked by a dozen other Hoppers. The alien skies seemed fitted with the insect-like armored aircraft. Newly minted recruit from Earth’s wastelands, Sandoval, gripped his new MILSPEC laser, and checked his ALC-9 laser pistol, along with the grenades. It took his mind off the fact that he had never been a plane before, and a low-dose of Courage helped relax him. Surrounding him in the open-door gunship was his new family, Meatgrinder, and his official comm.-traffic call-sign was Meat 3-7, or Meatgrinder jump platoon, third fire-team, number seven.

As the vehicles crossed the vast colored jungles, he noticed there was no visual break of the rope-trees, it was like a living ocean, he turned away, and gazed upon words carved into the plassteel doors: God be between you and harm, in all the empty places where you must walk. In oddly warm sense came over him, and immediately recognized that he would never forgotten those words. This phase gave Sandoval an belief sense of hope, when he had none, being his first combat mission, that if this Earther had survived the Outback, than he could damn well live to see Elysium. Seated next him was the other Aussie, and behind the visor, he boldly stared at the pretty girl. Samantha took noticed and smiled back. But they said nothing, just marveling in the vista of the other A/G gunships flying formation.

It was the freighting sounds of war that shattered her mind, and before Maya’s shielded eyes, the jungle floor was a concert of horror for the greedy gods of war. Dr. Phoenix’s laser weapons danced deadly nearly invisible beams of high energy into the charging alien life-forms. Bursts of brilliant flashes from impacts lit up the darkened conditions, accompanied by pops and cracks, like logs in a roaring fire. Human screams were washed as these alien feral berserkers torn in the Colonial ranks. Maya flashed her PLC-3 laser carbine from target-to-target, stressing the armor’s aiming software and motors to the maximum, while her body was tightly regulated by the steady course of Courage. The monstrous alien werewolf-forms, slashed and torn armored human flesh with claws and teeth, leaping from victim-to-victim, causing Colonial soldiers to hit their own, and laying the heavy AHL-1 laser cannons dormant as both sides mixed in a melee. On the raised position behind Maya, sniper Gauss shots wilted down the berserker reinforcements that emerged from jungle, but they could not help those locked in desperate close contact.

She fired her Steyr-Phoenix on the special anti-armor setting of 40kj, wiping out the battery and taxing the cooling system, but each beam that connected; flash-steamed exploded the organic armor of the Sync. Sergeant Aroyo was too fixated on the killing floor of the battlefield to see the berserker striking an aerial attack.

Her armor sensors alerted her into the attack a heartbeat before it sank its front and rear claws into her armor, Maya parried the blow with the body of her PLC-3 carbine, blocking its momentum, recoiling it back, but her carbine was shattered. Recovering much quickly than the human sergeant, it swiped in a wide arch with four inch claws, catching a chuck of her armor. She screamed, and more Courage answered the call. There was no time to deploy her sidearm, she spun, unhooking her tomahawk from her belt, just as the alien readied another strike. She dodged, planted the blade into its flank of organic armor. The pain and shock unbalanced the creature, allowed Maya a window of opportunity. With rage and drugs fueling her hand, she landed repeated blows into its side, tearing a bleeding gash, then kicked it off the mount of composted jungle material. Without a moment of rest or mercy, she hacking her attacker’s head into a red pulsating mush. As satisfaction washed over her, the hum of Kinemassic field generators emanated from above the canopy.

“This November-Witch 1-1, to Wild-Cat 2-5, we’re on station.”

“November-Witch, we’re in deep serious, berserkers mixed-in, heavy gun unit in the bush behind us.” That eliminated the option of CAS, and Hawksworth cursed, as she signed to Ray to extend the A/G field to ground level, and deployed a gunship via COM-VR-NET to pound the mobile Sync artillery units.

“Solid copy, 2-5, we’re roping in groundpounders.”

“November-Witch, we’ve got reinforcements flowing in from the North-North-West of our position.” Erin pulled up her holo-map, and assigned two of the gunships for CAS tasking on the alien positions.

“Confirmed 2-5, I’ve got some fire headed their way.” She finger-signed to Ray, and he adjusted the light in the rear to green. It was time for November-Witch’s passengers to get off. Sandoval was alerted to the change in the light via everyone jumping out of the open doors of the Hopper. His educated brain told him that it was okay, that the gunship had extended its anti-gravity field to the jungle floor, and they could descend without aid of a rope. But it was still against every natural instinct, until the door gunner yelled at them to get the fuck out. So, he grabbed Samantha’s hand, and as they jumped out, with the blood draining out of their feet, and Courage being pumped, he noticed it was surreal. They floated down; no rush of wind, no screaming, and no piss down their legs.

That tranquilly was shattered the moment their armored boots hit the deck. Samantha Porter died right in front of him; torn to shreds, bloody rain on his tactical gear. Sandoval, shocked at the violence unleashed on them, wiping it away, kept firing at her attacker, and took a massive hit from the Courage. The fresh dose of drugs coursed through his veins, fuelling his raging impulse of death and destruction, spurning him to assault their position. He killed them with a glad heart; blood mixed with his friend’s, and his laser gun pulsated in an orgy of grisly delight.

He was so fucked up; he couldn’t feel a damn thing. But, that was their plan, the brass back on Janus, medicated the hell out of them; giving the grunts hope to live though the fields of slaughter, and get that promised piece of Elysium. Sandoval didn’t want to feel anything anymore, nothing. Only the rush of combat, the pulsing heart of his weapon tearing my enemy into bloody art of shredded flesh.

As Meatgrinder waved into the melee of jungle floor, two anti-gravity gunships blasted the incoming Sync forces; this gave the ground forces below some breathing room to deal with the alien forces mixed within their ranks. Erin and Ray thought in that moment, that this OP was going to be easier than planned. That was until their helmets filled with alarms.

“Ray! What the Hell?!”

“Shin’s got incoming hot-box drop pods!” Erin wasted no time, she shipped down the data to troopers, and the response was nearly instant from the CO of Meatgrinder: Deploy the Mansons and Onikumas! The computers calculated the drop-zone of the Sync pods, and Erin clicked over to Kettlebell 1-5.

“The orders been given, Kettlebell! Send down the psychos!” From the belly of the great hovering beast, the Babar launched two massive shells at the alien drop-zone. In the horizon, rope-trees and jungle floor were scorched clean to make a clean DZ for the Mansons and Onikumas units.

“Psychos on the ground,” Kettlebell 1-5 linked over to Hawksworth. “Prey for the Syncs.”

“I only prey for my enemies to go to hell, 1-5.”

When the Sync endo-atmospheric drop pods burst open with fresh alien ranks, they fully expected to see empty rope-tree jungle, instead it was smoking ashy ground, and surrounding the pods was a phalanx of AI driven heavily armed mecha, called Onikumas, and Courage-pumped up murderous crazies, called Manson Units. These were the worst of the worst of Colonial society, and unknown to the general public, these warehoused humans were removed from their cells, and deployed to the battlefield as the Colonial version of the Sync’s Berserkers. They were the dirty secrets of the Colonial military, but in this case, they served death to the alien enemy, ending the Syncs attempted flanking maneuver in a few seconds of weapons’ fire.

What started off as a defeat, looked like it would be a successful ex-fil back to base. Sensing the fortunes of the battle shifting, the aliens pressed their final attack, and one, specifically targeted the leader, Sergeant Aroyo. The alien warrior fired several hot spike-like projectiles into her lower armor plating, buckling it, Maya collapsed into the soft ground, struggling against the damage and trapped by a failed suit motor, the animal portion of her brain screamed at her to get-the-hell-up, fully invoking flight-or-fight, as heavy doses of Courage were injected, she didn’t fear, it was more survival. That came into clear focus when the Sync warrior leveled its weapon at her head, as her hands groped for a weapon.

It was over, but Maya didn’t give against this alien shit lording over her, she wrangled free her black market last-ditch shotgun pistol-revolver, desperately swinging it to bear. There was a whirl of movement, Sergeant Aroyo, braced herself for a thrashing by the thing above. her Instead her eyes welled up to the moment of her salvation, a colonial trooper chopping the Sync with a tomahawk, thick dark fluid trail whipping through the moist forest air, signing to the experienced soldier that her failed executor was being dealt within a brutal manner. Maya liked this soldier’s style. When he was done, the soldier wiped the blade on a tree, and extended a hand to her.

“Sandoval, Meatgrinder, we’re the QRF.”

“Sgt. Aroyo, what’s left of Wildcat.” She took his hand and was helped up, despite the liberal doses of Courage, pain receptors were lit up in her lower quadrant. “What’s the status, trooper?” She checked her wounds, as Sandoval applied a nano-patch to the cracked armor.

“QRF roped in on the flanks of the enemy, the Hoppers lit a backfire, while the crazies and bots secured the front, and we lopped around, and crushed them.”

“MIA?” She asked, Sandoval now knew, from the briefing, what she was asking: How many of my friends were dragged off to be more of these fuckers?

“17.” He said mournfully.

Maya screamed, “goddamnit!” She moved up on a ridge composed of fallen trees, observing the hasty battlefield. Lit Rope-Trees smoldered covering the jungle floor in hazy, but her improved hearing easily picked up the wails of the wounded, and the cries of living; it was the dead that are silent on the battlefield. Maya mused as her rescuer joined her.

“RTB?” She asked, trying to make some conversion to distract her from the horror below.

“Yeah, back to FOB Shin. They’re sending more Babar heavily Hoppers for CASEVAC.”

“The treehouse, eh?”

“I guess you could call it that,” he thought of his new home above the tree-line. “And when we get back to Shin, you’re buying the pints.” Sergeant Aroyo ignored the banter about beers, and rallied the scattered remains of her unit to a small clearing, freshly made by a few daisy-cutter artillery rounds. She and her new savior from Meatgrinder, were the last boots out of the hellish jungle, as Maya was roped up (A/G field only worked for decent not ascent), she wept for everyone they had lost and that had been taken away.

25 November 2011

FWS Topics: Temporal Warfare

Recently, io9.com posted a list of sci-fi works where the time is the primary battlefield (http://io9.com/5858758/when-time-is-a-battlefield-the-most-bewildering-time-wars) and not some far-away planet. These time-wars are not waged over where but when. While these time-wars are not the standard vision of traditional military science fiction, it is subelement of futuristic warfare, and presents a different idea of how and why future wars could be waged.
When it comes to presenting the concept of temporal warfare, those of us that grew up watching Doctor Who and Star Trek,  the concept was often seen, but few works have been able to bring this home. This could be do with temporal warfare lacking in a realistic approach with its delivery, overall lack of thought and hard science behind it, because at its core, MSF is natural more realistic and hard science than traditional sci-fi.

Could there be a Time-War?

If time was the batteground of the future, what would it look like? Would there be massive armies of futuristic warriors blasting each other with rayguns? Or would it be spy vs. spy type of warfare? Could there even be a war over the course of different time periods, without destroy the totality of the universe? Certainly any soldiers of the future that were deployed to another time period would have to be careful when engaging in any type of gunfight...one stray round could change the future in a vast unseen ways, butterfly effect, indeed. The main reason behind the use time travel as a weapon would to even the odds in a losing conflict or even changing the conditions to bring about their adversaries. When really thought of temporal warfare, it brought a quote of President Kenned from 1962: "this is another type of warfare- new in its intensity, ancient its origin-war by guerrillas, subversives, insurgents, assassins; war by ambush instead of combat, by infiltration instead of aggression, by eroding and exhausting the enemy instead of engaging him. It preys on unrest."

Temporal warfare never really entered by own writings until 2007. After reading Maus by Art Spiegelman, I explored the possibility of a temporal war in my still-unfinished-short-story, The Murder of One. In this far-future story, Dr. Misha Fischer develops time travel in the 36th century, and it leads to a war over the technology by governments and corporations, however, once the technology falls into he hands of various religious groups, they trying to prove the existence of their god and assassinate each others prophets to prevent each other religion's  from existing.
To end the conflict and preserve the human race,  Dr. Fischer escapes with the technology off-world, goes back several years before her development of time travel, and attempts to use the technology to explore the past with trained historical anthropologist-travelers that wear "encounter suits."
This story picks up when a traveler goes to a Nazi Death Camp, and ends with the death of Hitler during World War One, and once Dr. Fischer is aware of the altered timeline and she comes to the realizationthat  the only to prevent time-travel, is to kill herself.
This story taught me that if and when humanity achieve ability to travel through time, someone will exploit the technology for their own gain. This will distort how history originally unfolded, and the change our reality ways we cannot imagine or control. Making time travel one of the most dangerous technologies the world will ever see. This could be why the that laws of physics prevent it from happening.
"Reality is, what we think now, a string that someone else can pull, and history is how far they pull it..." -Dr. Misha Fischer, 3581 AD

Here is a list of some examples, most not covered in the io9 article, of temporal warfare:

Time Beavers

In this 1985 First Comics graphic novel by Timothy Truman, as the great time steam of the universe and its dam, being guarded by gun-carrying Beavers (I shit you not). Their enemy? Rats that seek to control the dam and become a time lords devoted to chaos. During a successful raid, the Rats get control of three important artifacts from Earth, and seek to use these objects to destroy the flow of time, while the Beavers hunt for the rat teams throughout certain time periods. Time Beavers was a wonderful graphic novel and is better than my summary of it. Truely, one of the lost gems of 1980's comics.

Dr. Who

The show itself was never that focused on warfare or gunfights, especially when concerning the Doctor himself. However, within the background of the longest running sci-fi show, there was the shadow war between the Daleks and the Time Lords of Gallifrey, over the destiny of the universal timeline. This came to an apex with  'The Last Great Time War' that cost Gallifrey its very existence. While the storylines that played through the original (or classic) Doctor Who series where Time Lords attempting to prevent the Daleks from achieving time travel technology were interesting, the new series having Gallifrey destoryed seems like bad written and destory a certain something that the classic series had.

Star Trek: Enterprise: The Temporal Cold War
"And that's where I had sex with your Great-Great Grandma..."
Throughout the Star Trek saga, the subject of time travel and travelers as been covered...alot; and at times, these time travelers have attempted to change the time line in their favor.
These lame attempts pale in comparison to the 'Temporal Cold War' of the best the Star Trek series, Enterprise. During the pilot episode until season four, different factions from the 31st century that possessed time travel were attempting to alter the 22nd century, during which, the Federation was formed, by the use of proxy forces. Despite my recent falling out with Star Trek, I believe the Temporal Cold War of Enterprise is one of the best example of temporal warfare in mainstream sci-fi. 
HEX (1985)

In the mid-80's, the Mad Max post-apocalyptic nuclear holocaust was big business and DC Comics wanted a piece of the mushroom cloud pie. So, they took their Western gunfighter anti-hero Jonah Hex, and transplanted him to a 21st century post-nuclear war apocalypse to do battle with biker gangs and giant worms (not kidding). During his eighteen issue run, Hex, Jonah Hex ran into other time travelers, that were sent to stop him.


Here is one of the concepts of time being a battleground that featured  the men and women that protect the timeline for being altered. Sadly, the Timecop movie and the short-lived TV series were not done well enough to unlize the concept and suffered from a lack of realism and general chesseiness. The good news is that there is a relaunch coming soon, and there is a fair possibility that this movie could be remade with a more solid concept and without a certain Martial Artist...

Millennium: "Owls" and "Roosters"

One of the offshoots of the success of the X-Files was the show about the end of the world, a secret society, a gifted profiler, and serial killers, and it was called Millennium. The show itself didn't have any time travel storylines, but the secret society that former-FBI profiler Frank Black worked for, the Millennium Group, had been waiting a thousand years for the turn of the next century, when the end of the world would occur. However, two sides within the Millennium Group battled for control, the Owls and the Roosters, one believed a scientific event would happen in 2000 AD, another believed that it would be the fulfillment of the end times. It was a group moving through time and battling about time, which was interesting concept and done extremely well...I miss the 90's at times.  

The X-Files "Synchrony" (4x19)

I was massive fan of the X-Files up until its Fifth season that is, and one episode that as stuck with me is the low-rated "Synchrony" from the middle of season four. Murders are being committed against a select group of MIT researchers using a freezing compound. It is later learned that the elder man committing these murders is an time traveler and is the older self to one of the researchers. This time traveler explains to his younger self about the horrors of a society that can travel through time: "What she created. What you - we - helped to create. A world without history, without hope. Where anyone can know everything that will ever happen. I've seen that world"
This quote has directly impacted my thinking on time travel and what might happen in December of 2012.  

Star Trek: Voyager "Year of Hell"

The majority of ST: Voyager's episodes were complete dogshit and helped end my long love affair with Star Trek, until Enterprise, however, Voyager did have a two-parter called "Year of Hell", where an alien species is using surgical insurrections into the timestream to restore their long-dead empire./ The captain of the alien time warship's was also a personal quest to restore his dead wife as well, and the other all story was similar to Moby Dick. This was one of the more brutal and violent episode of Voyager, where all seemed lost, until Janeway gives the time warship a taste of the divine wind.

The Forever War by Joe Haldmen

In a odd way, the Forever War is a book about soldiers fighting their way across time. The method of FTL for the aliens and humans fighting this war involves collapsers (wormholes), but the laws of time dilation still apply, causing the war to be waged over 1,143 years. This causes battles to be seperated by hundreds of years, and the soldiers to lose all concept of home and time.

Seven Days (TV series)

This UPN series ran from 1998 to 2001, and featured an NSA program called Operation: Backstep that created a time machine from a reverse engineered crashed alien craft from 1947. The time machine was in two parts, one opened the crack in time back seven days, and the other was the Chronosphere, where the time traveler was encased, which had flight controls and readouts, but wasn't a time machine in of itself.
The limit of seven days was due to their ultra-rare fuel source (Element 113) that was recovery from the crashed UFO. The time technology was also used into the future and there was attempted time machine being built by the Soviets. This little series was completely under funded and under rated during its run. Interestingly, this idea of a limited time machine being used by the US government as been seen in two recent movies.

Terra Nova

This lackluster mega-expensive TV series as been hinting at a conflict between factions in 2149 are using the Terra Nova settlement and the breakaway Sixers in Prehistoric Earth to gain control. Maybe if the series focused on that and developed it, than Terra Nova may not be so lackluster, which is what we got on November 21st episode of Terra Nova, "Vs," that deepended the overall mystery of the power struggle for the Terra Nova settlement.  

The Terminator series

Out of all the time war stories, the best explored in several types of media is The Terminator. Unlike the other stories and plots mentioned on this list, there is something so pure and natural about the basic plot of Terminator that works, and is oddly believable, especially with the realism of the nuclear Holocaust and the dark future war with the machines.. The only issue, for me, is that the entire Terminator saga as been so frakked with, that the original concept as been destroyed by layers and layers of shit. However, if you just consider the first two films, The Terminator stands above the other time-war ideas.

The Big Time by Fritz Leiber

Fritz Leiber's 1957 story was ligthyears ahead of its time, and the concept of time-travelers abducting persons from other time periods to serve as proxies in their time-war was capitalized on by other writers, like Poul Anderson's1 965 Corridors of Time and Star Trek: TOS "The Savage Curtain"
The Big Time plot had two far-future factions named the Snakes and the Spiders fighting their across time using characters from different Terran time periods as proxies to change the time flow in favor of one or the other.

The Lord of the Sands of Time

Issui Ogawa is truly one of the master's time travel war books, along with All you need is Kill, he created The Lord of the Sands of Time, where mankind lost their war with the aliens, and the remnants of mankind are orbiting Jupiter. To prevent and/or reverseof  Earth's fortunes, mankind and the aliens are jumping around different time periods to swing the balance one way our another.

The Corridor of Time by Poul Anderson (1965) 

In this novel about time warfare, the Ranger and Wardens battle over "temporal freewill" of how the destiny of mankind unfolds, I actually read a few pages of this book in a used book store in Grandbury, Texas, and hit me at the time was the characters used different weapons in different time periods, and the characters could identify their time traveling enemies based on the weapons.  Along with Corridor of Time, he also wrote the The Time Patrol.

Time-Splitters Video Game series

I've never played the Timesplitters video game series, but from Internet searches, it seems that human soldiers are using time crystals to perverse the timeline from alien  "timesplitters" created by human to be the genetic superior to mankind, and they are attempting to frak with the timeline to install themselves as the dominant species.

Odyssey 5 (TV series)

During a routine Space Shuttle flight, the Earth explodes before the crew's eyes, and all seems lost, until a race called the Seekers rescues them, informing the crew of the Odyssey that fifty other worlds have been destroyed in a similar manner. The crew of five surviving members of the Space Shuttle Odyssey back five years before the destruction of the Earth  prevent the destruction. The series was cancelled after fourteen episodes, so we never got to find out if the Earth was saved...bummer.

Darkest of Days 

Nothing sucks worse that taking a great concept for a shooter ith a grand idea, then turning it into completely and utter dogshit.S uch was true of Darkest of Days. The story focused on time-travelers trying to save certain important individuals from dying in some of Earth history's biggest battles, while others attempt to stop them to alter the timeline in their favor. The game itself was widely panned, despite the use of ancient weapons and epic-scale battlefields, real pity.

The Guns of the South

What if, the best assault rifle in the world, the AK-47 was given to the Confederate Army by South African time travelers? Then you'd would  have this novel, which is one of the classics of alternative history books by Harry Trutledove written in 1992. This book will surprise you, much of the novel was devoted not to the Civil War or even the time travelers but to the realistic aftermath of the South winning the war. Out of the rest Turtledove's novels about the alternative Earth timeline, this is his finests.

15 November 2011


Ten years ago today, one of the greatest video games and greatest works of military science fiction arose to calim its foothold on our minds and hearts.
 Ten years ago today, HALO came to the original XBOX like a storm, giving us heroes, villians, war, and terror to fill the stars. My life is richer for having experienced the battlefields of the HALO universe...
Thank you, Bungie

12 November 2011

FWS Armory: Combat Pistols

With many apologies, FWS is finally updated! The staff have been too busy with Survival Mode on COD:MW3. FWS fears no Juggernaut!

Pistols, the most popular firearm type in the United States, often used as a personal defense weapon by civilians, police, and soldier through the ages. During times of war, the pistol does go into the battlefield, but unlike the assault rifle or machine guns, it is seldom used, expect in dire life-or-death situations.
However, in recent times, video games, movies, and TV have skewed the real-life role and usage of the pistol in armed conflict into the realm of fantasy in the minds of most people.
 In this blogpost, FWS will be exploring the usage of combat pistols in modern militarises, what will be changing, and what science-fiction as to say about the upcoming role of the combat pistol.

Modern Military usage of Pistols

Contrary the their depiction in mass media, combat pistols serve most of their operation life in waiting. Most are only fired on a range, and left in their holsters during combat operations. This is due to the combat role of pistols, to be a backup or secondary when the primary weapon is out of ammo or disabled. Currently, some of traditional roles of the combat pistols, like being the personal defense weapon of armored vehicle crews and medics for example, have been replaced by weapons like the Colt M4 carbine, the FN P90, and the H&K MP7. This happened before, during the Second World War, when the US developed the M1A1 carbine (my Grandfather carried one) to be a more offensive and capability personal defense weapon than the Colt 1911 .45 ACP. Given the limited role and rarity of use, governments often do not replace the pistol as frequency as other pieces of combat equipment, causing the same pistol to be used for decades, like the Colt 1911 and the Browning Hi-Power.

Common Combat Pistols

In the 1980's, the allied nations of NATO transitioned to standardized weapon calibers, 5.56mm for rifles and 9mm for sidearms and SMGs. This ended the rein of the Colt 1911 .45 ACP as the standard US sidearm, switching to the M9 Beretta 9mm in 1985, while the NAVSPECWAR (SEALs) carries the superior and more highly rated SIG SAUER P226 9mm (called the Mk 24 Mod 0). In other militaries around the world, the Beretta 92F series, SIG SAUER 226/229/228, the H&K USP, and Glock 17/19 enjoy global acceptances, and all chamber the 9x19mm round
However, in the shadow realm of USSOCOM, operators carry everything from custom-made 1911s, Glock 17/19s, the H&K SOCOM Mark 23 .45 pistol, and the the MEC 1911s.

Combat Pistol Calibers: Does Size Really Matter?

Since 1985, when the US military converted over from the classic .45ACP that had been in service since 1911, to the European 9x19mm round, there has been a debate over the size of the pistol’s caliber. Unlike in the civilian world, where shooters chose their pistol caliber based on their own personal preference, the military pistol users often have no choice on what sidearm they use or the size of the bullet. There is also a vast difference between the types of attackers and environments between the civilian and military usage of a sidearm. Most attackers in the civilian lethal force situations are not accustom to being shot, and one good hit from most any common round, ends the attack. While in the military, especially in Afghanistan and Somalia, where the attackers are fucked up on drugs and more used to be shot, deadly force or stopping power was paramount.
So, is the size of the bullet important to a combat handgun?
Supporters of the 9mm Parabellum round would often cite the low recoil, the faster speed of the projectile, the ability to carry more ammunition for less weight than the old .45 ACP. Even in the hallowed ranks of Tier One Special Operations, some of these operators carried 9mm sidearms, like Pete Blaber, who was a DELTA commander during Operation Anaconda, who carried a Glock 9mm.
Since most service branches of the military had no choice, they drilled shot placement to overcome the lack of stopping power that the 9mm round possessed, which was stated so well by a SEAL firearms instructor: “when I put two rounds through your heart and one in your head, you won't know the difference..” But even training could not make for the inability of the 9mm bullet to pierce body armors, which led to the downfall of the old standard of the submachine gun world, the H&K MP5.

Not every branch of the US military was drinking the 9mm Kool-Aide, DELTA Force, the Marine Expeditionary RECON units, and The FBI HRT modernized the M1911 pistol well into the 21st century. They and other .45 ACP supporters cited stopping power and the ability to penetrate ballistic armor as key points for the US military to return to the good ole .45. This lack of spotting power was seen in operations in Somalia in 1993 and more recently in Operation Anaconda during 2002, when experienced enemy targets were able to resist multiple hits by the M9 sidearm. After this, it seems now, that supporters of the .45 ACP had gotten their wish, in 2006, the DOD approved for the development of a Joint Combat Pistol which tested various .45 ACP , and Hecker & Koch entered with former DELTA Operator Larry Vickers, the H&K45. However, by 2007, the JCP and its successor were halted, extending the life of M9 Beretta. In 2010, USSOCOM and NAVSPECWAR official approved the H&K45C for service, ending a portion of the 9mm in service with the US military.
It seems that size does matter.

Future of Military Pistols

I'm Sexy, and I know it!
The long-held argument of which caliber is more effective in combat could be coming to an end. 9x19mm, the most widely used pistol/SMG caliber,  as its days numbered, due to an odd twist of historical irony. Similar battlefield pressures that led to the adoption of Colt 1911 .45 during the Moro guerrillas uprising in Philippine, is forcing the US military to re-evaluated their usage of the 9mm Beretta.This as led to the adoption of the H&K .45 by USSOCOM and NAVSPECWAR, and most likely, the entire US military. Another pressure on current crop of military/police pistols is hostiles using body armor that can defeat the commonly used 9x19mm bullet. In response, there as been development of new high-velocity rounds, like the 5.7x28mm and the 4.6x30mm, that easily slice through Kevlar. It is my guess that it will not be too much longer before these HV calibers are as widely accepted as the venerable 9mm and .45.

Why doesn't every soldier carry a pistol?

When I take to the paintball field, I carry my Tippmann Alpha Black carbine on my chest, and on my leg is a Tiberius TAC-8 magazine-fed pistol, and when I run out of CO2, or the marker fails, I switch to the pistol without leaving the fight. I've had to run entire games with only my sidearm, and this got me to thinking, why doesn't every soldier carry a sidearm?
If I was deployed into a warzone, I'd want a primary and a secondary, along with my trusty tomahawk, and would not every soldier want that sense of security of having a backup, even if they never use it?
Part of argument against this could be money and weight. The US military spends over $400 for each of the M9 Beretta, which would have to be added to the cost of outfitting every soldier, couple that with increasing the production and supply of 9mm ammo and magazines.
All that begins to add up, along with the extra weight to a soldier's base combat loadout. Also, I think that commanders don't want a soldier to go all Bruce Willis and switch from their assault rifle to a much less able weapon just to live out some boyhood fantasy. I've been guilty of this sin a few times in video games and paintball.
The advantage of every soldier carrying a sidearm to me, would be a sense of security and if anything goes wrong with your M4 carbine, you're not bring a knife to a gun fight.  
According to my research, these are the members of the military allowed to carry a pistol:
  • Machine Gunners
  • Medics
  • Radio Operator
  • Heavy weapons operators
  • Snipers
  • Officers
  • NCOs
  • Personal protection details
  • Special Operations soldiers.
  • Pilots
  • Armored vehicle crews
  • Artillery crews
  • Military police officers
  • Guard duty detail
  • Dog handlers
Popular Perception of Pistols

The public imagination with pistols as been fueled by too many  Old West movies, Hong Kong cinema, video games, and gang culture, leading to misinformation on the abilities of a standard pistol, despite these weapons being the most common firearms in the US. The vast majority of visual media projects the wrong abilities onto a pistol, showing them to be a good replacement for an assault rifle or even an SMG. This is true in shows like 24 where Federal Agent Jack Bauer uses an USP compact to take down bad guys using all manner of fully automatic firearms, however at least, 24 demonstrates Jack reloading and using a proper grip. That is another issue, improper handling, lack of simple aiming, and hand placement, then followed up with actors unloading the full magazine. Due to the use of blank guns in TV and movies, actors can ignore the basic laws of proper handling in sidearms, like not bothering to aim or stop from unloading the clip, which would throw off an ability to aim at a target. Don't even get me started on the morons that hold their pistol sideways!
Then there is the worst popular misconception, the Magnum Research Desert Eagle. It seems that every major video game, Anime, or shoot'em film as some asshat wielding this handcannon, unloading .50 AE rounds one handed. I've rented and fired a Desert Eagle .50 Action Express, and I was unimpressed to say the least. The slide of this beast seems to be like a freight train about slam into your face, followed by the brutal recoil, and the slide locking back into place, it was jarring, and my shot placement was not good. After three slow-fired rounds, my wrist hurt, and I turned the weapon to my buddy to finish off the magazine. The reality of the powerful large-framed Desert Eagle pistol as been replaced with a fantasy and bad rumors of the pistol being the standard pistol of the IDF (The Desert Eagle is actually American). While the Desert Eagle is a well made weapon, it was not designed to be a standard issue military sidearm, due to it being designed to fire larger caliber bullets, like the 357, .41, .44, and .50AE, which none are military standard calibers and not in the supply chain. Also, the pistol is heavy, along with its expensive ammunition, weighting down the wearer just that much more, when a .45ACP would do the job just as well. The Desert Eagle is a sidearm at home on the range, not the battlefield.
And then that brings us to the subject of dual-wielding pistols...

Can you Dual Wield?

Question: Are you have you been previous or currently a member of the SPARTAN-II program? Are you a supersoldiers? Or are you using paintball pistols, Airsoft, or twin.22s? Are you interested in wasting ammo while hitting nothing?
The plain fact is that firing pistols from both hands original occurred  when pistols were blackpowder and single shot. This tactic was especially used by ship boarding activities and horseback infantry. The traditional continued into the American Old West, where the romantic imagine of Cowboys and Outlaws firing from both hands. This tactic of using two guns were used due to the painfully slow reloads required for black powder revolvers, and it is likely that they used one then switched out when it ran dry, this called the "New York Reload." The old Soviet NKVD intelligence force used to train their troops to fire two-at-once tactics to force the enemy to dive for cover.
Today it is very common to see two pistols, often 9mm or .45 ACP being fired akimbo, and havoc being wrecked on the bad guys as shell casting fall and techno music thumps.
Now, I agree its cool and makes for pretty combat scenes, but I call bullshit on that. Some people that are not Neo or Noble Six could fire two 9mm pistols at once, but the question begs itself why?
Human begins are not Owls, their eyes cannot target two objects at once and use either pistol to attack them independently At best, dual-wielding is a self-covering-fire tactic, which is how I use it in the realm of paintball, at worst, you waste ammo and spray the surrounding countryside with pistol ammunition. Once you've bleed off your ammo, you have another issue: reloading.
Since you're not Vishun, you have drop one and slowly reload both, great time to get yourself killed. Then the real question comes up of what would hitting a single target with two pistol blazing away? If you strike your target with a 9mm or .45 in the desired locations, would two be really needed? You are not shooting at a bear or a Terminator, but a human being, one or two rounds is more than enough, trust me. I've worked in an ICU for nine years, and I've seen many GSWs, one bullet in the right area, and you're toast. It's all about control and aiming in the real world, not styling and mimicking Chow Yun-Fat.

Science Fiction's Perception of Pistols

Where would we be without the iconic large-framed blaster in most sci-fi works, or even the ray-gun of the action-adventurer of the atomic rocket ship pulp-era? The field of sci-fi is littered with all manner of combat pistols, most are the popular "blasters" that seem to fulfill both offensive and defensive roles. The popularity of these DEW large framed weapons as altered the public and sci-fi fans on the role of the pistol and its capabilities. Han Solo holding off a team of Stormtroopers with his DL-44 comes to mind. Often, the pistols in science fiction are used as primaries, and little regard is cast towards the reality of combat pistols. Some shooter MSF video games have attempted to demonstrate the reality of using a pistol in a combat zone, via the benefits and weaknesses. However, most gamers drop the "weaker" pistols for another kind of assault rifle or shotgun, making pistols low on the list for video game creators.

My favorite examples of Sci-fi pistols

The Pflager Katsumata series-D M2019 "Detective Special" .44 From Blade Runner 

The hero prop itself is like Blade Runner itself, was a mixture of odd bits to forge a dark vision of the future, two separate guns were mixed to make the M2019 .44  Detective Special, The Steyr .222 Model SL receiver, Carter Arms .44 Special Bulldog revolver. I've written about my love affair with this pistol before, but it goes without saying, the Blade Runner handgun is, in my opinion, the greatest sci-fi pistol of all time.

Spike's Jericho 941 from Cowboy Bebop

In my favorite Anime series, Cowboy Bebop, one of the primary characters Spike, carries the "baby eagle", the Jericho 941. While the series uses realistic weapons and picks for all manner of weapons, this is odd choice, given that the 941 is not a popular weapon, along with not even standard issue pistol for the IDF. However, this pistol just works well when the framework of the series, and after watching this, I added the Jericho 941 in the .40 S&W round on my firearms want list.


I have to give credit where credit is due, Bungie out did themselves with the Special Operations sound suppressed variant of the M6 12.7mm handgun, a great deal of thought went into making the arms and mission of the ODST different than the normal UNSC forces, especially the SPARTAN-II. Most creators of sci-fi do not invest this heavily into presenting a pistol tailor made for elite operations, along with making it have a balance, rather than just a weak, forgettable weapon. Plus, its really satifiing to pop grunts in the head with this.
This is based off of the real-steel H&K MK 23 SOCOM Offensive handgun.

The Colonial Sidearm from Battlestar Galactica (2003)

After the second season of the new Battlestar Galactica, the old Colonial sidearm that was patterned after the Blade Runner M2019, was dropped for the real-steel FN Five-Seven pistol. The pistol appeared  throughout the series with only one modification from the original, a micro-grenade launcher. I was impressed with the decision by the producers to use a real-steel pistol over their original prop, not to mention the wise choice of the Five-Seven, which after firing one myself, is currently one of my favorite pistols, only second to the Sig Sauer P229.  

The Visitors' Laser pistol from the original V sega

Growing up in the 1980's, allowed me to experience the "blaster" tread in sci-fi first-hand. During this period of everyone trying to be Clint or Han, was the NBC TV series V. The hostile lizard aliens that came to Earth to eat us and steal our water used a unique design for their DEW blaster, appearing to be two weapons fastened together, however, the size and function of it seemed to be more than a simple combat laser-blaster, more like the primary armament for their military, and the rifles were only wiped out when the situation warranted it, much like Starfleet.

The M5 Seburo from Ghost in the Shell
I'm just going to say it, Shirow is a fucking genius. In 1989, he designed a compact combat pistol that very similar to the FN Five-Seven pistol: the Seburo M5 5mm. Much like the real-world  FN Five-Seven pistol and its PDW big brother, the P90, the M5 chambers the same anti-body armor HV round as the PDW used by Section Nine. Even the round that the M5 fires, the 5.45x18mm round, was developed by Shirow to counter the effect of body armor over the 9mm, which is now current trend. The M5 appears mainly in the Ghost in the Shell manga, and was not animated until the Ghost in the Shell TV series, the 1995 OVA, the role of the M5 was taken over by the real-steel CZ 100.

The H-90 Mars Gallant from Robotech: The New Generation and The Sentients

Much like the M6C SOCOM from HALO 3: ODST, the H-90 Mars Gallant was a pistol built up to be an offensive mission-flexible weapon. The foundation of the H-90 was the oval-shaped particle pistol fed via "flat-cells" of protoculture. The base pistol's range could be extended with a barrel extension, and the power output with a "stock" that used a large power-pack. this one of those great designs that does not receive the credit for being one of the coolest unknown sci-fi guns.

The Cosmo Dragoon from Captain Harlock and Galactic Express 999

According to the legends that surrounds this pistol, it is the only weapon that could kill machine-people, and in the universe of Matsumoto, there are only five that are spread out across the several of Matsumoto's series. This gun as a beauty to it that Sir Francis Bacon would have enjoyed.

The Moses Brothers Self-Defense Engine Frontier Model B from Serenity and Firefly

Space Westerns have been a oddity of sci-fi, and none have been done as well as Firefly, and what Space Western could it be without a cool kick-ass futuristic pistol? Enter the pistol of Mal Reyolds, the Self-Defense Engine Frontier Model B.
For such a small gun there seems to a great deal of theories on it, I've personal read four different operational inner workings of Mal's futuristic revolver, here is one:
"Barlow's Guide to Small Arms (2462 ed.)';

Following the growing trend of multi-use sidearms, this pistol fires several different types of ordinance. The weapon features two distinct firing systems - a Newtech Gauss / coilgun carriage and a conventional hammer-based firing system. The default for the gun is Gauss mode, but the switchover to certain conventional shells is immediate. The coilgun carriage is powered by a hefty battery carried in the pistol's grip. This leads to one of the pistol's main drawbacks - weight.The primary ammunition is Newtech Gauss Caseless Quadloads. Favored for both their punch and small size, the unique aspects of Gauss firing allow multiple shots to be carried in a single shot."

This would make the Self-Defense Engine Frontier Model B handgun needlessly complex, over thought, and it is completely unneeded for any handgun to have two KEW systems, especially when their targets are not wearing body armor. Whoever wrote that knows very little about firearms. This also files in the face of the independent spirit of the outer worlds, attempting to escape the grip of the inner worlds' government.
When I researching the laser pistol from "Heart of Gold", there were references to the outer worlds returning to less complex and more 'traditional firearms' to avoid reliance on the central government for supplies and spare parts for their fancy DEW blasters. The older chemically propelled firearms allowed for the outer worlds to still have a way of defending themselves without fear of the inner worlds cutting of the wagon train