Yeah, I went there.
A while back I reread the first two Posleen War books, the only two I own, largely to reaffirm for myself how cool the ACS were. Well, I tried to look up information on the suits, but found only forums like this, with impassioned rants about the books. Since the books never lay out the capabilities, but scatter tidbits throughout, I found myself dog-earing pages where suit abilities and limits were mentioned for future reference. Then I started doing my analysis of Age of Darkness...and I figured, why not? It could be fun and will definitly kill some time to go over this.
I'd like to be clear, I'm doing this mostly from boredom, and a desire to produce a resource for vs. debates by collecting the disparate data in one place. I am not planning on speaking of the politics, the quality of writing, or anything relating to John Kratman, though I can't promise my frustration won't bleed thorugh at points. This is purely in-universe technical capabilities. I have only read the two books I own, plus the first third or so of the third book. Skimmed Hell's Faire. Haven't touched any of the spin-offs.
In case you don't know the plot: basically Alien reptile-centaurs, the Posleen are going to invade earth. Different, but only mildly less hostile aliens give us a five-year heads up and technology with which to defend ourselves and them (they aren't really capable of violence.) They create a conference, called Galtech, to integrate alien technology into ours, and adapt their tech to our needs, and they come up with some really cool power armor, the Armored Combat Suit (ACS.) which are largely run by AI Device (AID) but require human supervision. That should be enough to get started, for now I'm only going to do the first book: A Hymn Before Battle.ACS:
It was about the size of the pack of Marlboros in his left breast pocket and flat, absorbent black, very similar in appearance to their AIDs. Black as an Ace of Spades. And, somehow, it projected a field you could not put a .308 round through. He’d already tried. Several times just to be sure. And it didn’t even move the box when the shells ricocheted off; that was freaky. Mind you, the guys around him moved prrrretty (sic) damn fast when those .308 rounds came back up range at the Fort Bragg Rod and Gun club.
Okay, so it stopped bullets. But the field only extended out about seven feet in either direction and it stopped when it touched an obstacle. Just stopped, which sucked when you thought about it. And you should be able to brace it into something, not just depend on whatever it was that kept it in place. He’d had a little talk with his AID and it turned out the damn thing had some sort of safety lock.
The personal force field is a bit of supplementary equipment for the ACS battalions. Interesting that it stops bullets, since (much later) it was said that the force fields were only issued to give them a chance against heavy plasma or laser weapons. It certainly does fuck all against railgun rounds. Then again, there is a slight difference between a heavy railgun and Duncan’s little sidearm.
I’m not really sure what he meant by needing to brace it, unless he’s concerned about the generator flying off when something impacts the field, or the force field ‘stopping’ when it contacts an obstacle. At first read through, I took that to mean that the field doesn’t encompass obstacles but only forms a barrier behind them. Subsequent read-throughs are more ambiguous. Is it possible that that there is no field behind an interrupting object and any cover taken becomes a weakness in the field (kind of like the Spoil of Vervunhive in Necropolis)? I don’t know. But we learn a bit more about the force field a page later, when Duncan tries his grand experiment of turning off all of the safeties and turning it on. Show of hands, who thinks that will end well?
The Personal Force Field unit functioned by generating a focused plane of weak force energy as analogous to a laser beam as a line is to a plane, meaning not. The unit was designed to produce a circle 12 meters in diameter for 45 minutes. Given the option of maximum generation, it generated a circle 1250 meters square for 3 milliseconds before failing.
Some nice numbers to play with, and a few questions. For one, why is the field so wide across? Most battles last considerably longer than forty-five minutes, can the PFF be recharged or hooked up to the suit’s power supply? I can’t really think of many circumstances where it would be helpful to shield a square kilometer for just a few milliseconds, and you can do it and time it properly, but it’s nice to have options. You’ll quickly see that should be GalTech’s (the designers of the suits) motto: it’s nice to have options.
Pretty sure the ‘focused plane of weak force energy’ is inane techno-babble, but if anyone thinks you could actually make a force field that way, I’m interested to hear it. If I was less lazy, and thought that Ringo put that much thought into it, I could probably calc the field’s power consumption, or at least how it scales up.
The plane sliced as effectively as a katana in air through all the surrounding material, severing I-beams, bed structures, wall lockers and, in the unfortunate case of Sergeant Duncan’s roommate, limbs.
In addition, the throughput on the unit exceeded the parameters of the superconductive circuitry, and waste heat raised the case temperature to over two hundred degrees Celsius.
Oh, so that’s why there are safeties on the things. Good to know. This one accident indirectly leads to much death on Diess, since it inspires the battalion commander to lock up all of the ACS gear and not really train the battalion in their new tech.
Also we have room temperature superconductors that only generate heat when they overload. And a small pet peeve of mine, Ringo keeps jumping back and forth between metric and imperial for no real reason. Sometimes the temperature is given in Celsius, sometimes in Fahrenheit. Ranges are given in miles, and later in kilometers. It’s maddening. David Weber does the same thing, by the way. I don’t really have a problem with people using either system, sometimes I convert to imperial in my head just because it’s what I grew up with, but Valen’s name, pick a system of measurement and stick to it!
Passing mention of a Personal Area Field (PAF) which is generally identical in appearance and capabilities to the above, but instead of enclosing one in a sphere, it just makes a wall that lets fire out but not in. Handy.
“Do they have Banshees?” The anti-grav armored fighting vehicles were critical for strategic mobility in the ACS.
“Very few. And the artillery support is 105, 155, and MLRs. The HOW-2000 is being held back.”
APCs for suit units and GalTech artillery. Neither really appears on Diess, and only the Banshees appear briefly later on Earth, so I can’t really comment much on their performance. Only that suit doctrine was clearly written with these things in mind. Presumably, like most everything promised by the Darhel, the vehicles and artillery arrive in limited numbers and far too late to do much good.
“The difference between ACS and normal infantry tactics is that ACS calls for much more in the way of shock and speed tactics. Airborne infantry is deliberate compared to ACS: ACS is more like armored cav. We’re going to train on a few simple maneuvers at first. Think of them like football plays: wedge, echelon right, echelon left, lean right, lean left and bounding line. And the only way to train for open field ACS combat is at the run. We’re going to start off slow then work up to speed.”
ACS tactics and suit-less training. Always nice to see someone thinking about how power armor would change tactics instead of “and now the super-elite infantry is super-strong and bullet-proof so they roflstomp everything in their path!”
Right, let’s talk about suit weapons.
“Maximum effective range of the M-403 suit grenade launcher?”
“Uh, a klick, sir?”
“Twelve hundred meters. Close but no cigar.”
Fun with ordinance. It’s raining explosive death from 1.2 kilometers away!
The grenades were antimatter charges wrapped with osmium self-forging projectiles. Each had the explosive power of a 120mm mortar. They had a hard kill radius, a zone of total destruction, of fifteen meters and a soft kill radius of nearly thirty-five meters. Using them at all with the Panzergrenadiere in close contact was dangerous. However, since they did not have as much shrapnel as a 120mm, they were slightly less effective at distance; the "soft-kill" zone had less than a fifteen percent likelihood of a kill against human targets in the open.
The programmed fire shot a double line of grenades down the 75-meter-wide boulevard, the grenades landing 15 meters from the Posleen-held building and 20 meters apart. Thus the total destruction zone stretched outward 50 meters from the Posleen-held megascraper with a further "soft kill" distance of 25 meters. The line stretched from thirty meters in front of the combat suit line for nearly a kilometer.
Suit launched grenades. Not much more I can add to this.
“The M-300 grav rifle has the ability to leave earth’s orbit, sir. It will hit something as far away as you can aim.”
Obviously, the range of the grav rifle. I’m tempted to start about Sir Isaac Newton being the meanest son-of-a-bitch in the universe, but it’s been done. Actually, this is retcon-inaccurate, in the third book it’s stated that the old grav rifle projectiles turned to vapor after ten kilometers or so at sea level, and the new ones have more-or-less unlimited range.
The depleted uranium pellets of the grav guns traveled at a noticeable fraction of the speed of light. The designers had carefully balanced maximum kinetic effect against the problem of relativistic ionization and its accompanying radiation. The result was a tiny teardrop that went so fast it defied description. It made any bullet ever made seem to stand still. Far faster than any meteor, rounds that did not impact left the planet's orbit to become a spatial navigation hazard. It punched a hole through the atmosphere so fierce that it stripped the electrons from the atoms of gas and turned them into ions. The energy bled in its travel was so high it created a shock front of electromagnetic pulse. Then, after it passed, the atoms and electrons recombined in a spectacular display of chemistry and physics. Photons of light were discharged, heat was released and free radicals, ozone and Bucky balls were produced. The major by-product was the tunnel of energetic ions indistinguishable from lightning. Just as hot, and just as energetic. A natural spark plug.
Again, later accounts put “noticeable fraction of the speed of light” at about 0.3 c. DU is a bit denser than lead, about 1.9 grams per cubic centimeter, but a grav gun round is 3mm across and 2 long. I’m not sure whether to treat the fat teardrop shape as a cylinder or maybe a cone, so I’ll do the cylinder to keep it simple. And so, 14 cubic mm, easily converted to 1.4 cm3 volume gives mass=2.66 grams. Abuse Atomic Rocket’s KE calculator and I get 10 terajoules of kinetic energy per grav gun round or a little over 2 kilotons of tnt. That’s… a fair bit of firepower for infantry.
And you can see the reason I normally let other people do the calcs. Also, the visual effect of a grav gun firing is a constant flickering stream of lightning from the barrel. Even I have to admit, that’s pretty metal. The escape thing may still be possible if they were fired more or less straight up, the atmosphere gets a lot thinner after 11 km or so.
In two seconds a thousand of these supremely destructive teardrops punched through fifty drums of fish oil. One pellet was enough to finely distribute a drum of oil over two to three thousand cubic meters of air.
What? This is one guy firing one grav gun, so they fire 500 rounds a second? 30,000 rounds a minute? That’s a touch extreme, especially considering the absurd destructive power of each round. True, they’re meant to kill Posleen in the tens of thousands, maybe even the millions, but think about it for a second. One guy just fired off a thousand rounds at fifty Posleen. Where do they get the ammo for that? How many thousands of rounds are wasted in every engagement? Now I know what you’re saying, modern assault rifles can empty their magazines in about three seconds tops. It’s true. That’s why they’re generally fired in bursts, unless giving suppressive fire. These guys just hose it around like every shot is a live grenade they’re trying to get rid of.
And, effect of grav gun round hitting a barrel full of liquid.
The hypervelocity grav-gun rounds caused an energy wave front to build up in front of them. As the stream of rounds hit an individual Posleen, the effect was catastrophic; the hydrostatic wave front advanced away from the rounds at a fraction of the speed of light. Despite the relatively small size of the teardrops, the explosive force on the first Posleen hit was equivalent to packing a hundred pounds of TNT into its body cavity and detonating it, splattering yellow finely distributed muck over the landscape. And then the teardrops, hardly degraded in form or velocity, would seek out the next Posleen in line, and the next and the next. Most of the fire drove six or seven layers into the mass, cleaving them like a nuclear weedeater.
Effects of grav gun on massed living targets. Unless I was way off in my KE equations (quite possible) the shots should probably be going a fair bit further than six or seven bodies in.
As the suit careted the Posleen, Mike's pistol locked onto them automatically. The God Kings were concentrating on the undefended shuttles and Mike's first silvery burst swept two of them out of the sky from three kilometers away, one of the vehicles disappearing in actinic fire as the relativistic teardrops searched out its power supply.
Grav pistol. Not as powerful as the rifle, but still quick and accurate enough to casually kill from 3 klicks away.
The rifle ammunition used a dollop of antimatter as its propellant charge. Under normal use a small energy field, similar in design to the personal protection field, would reach out and shatter the miniature stabilization field that prevented the antimatter from contacting regular matter. Another field held the antimatter away from the breech of the weapon so that it only contacted the depleted uranium teardrop. When the antimatter touched the uranium, the two types of matter were instantly converted into a massive outpouring of energy.
This energy was captured in a very efficient manner and used to accelerate the uranium round down the barrel of the grav-gun.
Grav gun mechanics.
“A standard suit has two hundred thirty-eight discrete functions that can be combined in a near-infinite number of permutations. For full ability a soldier needs to be able to multi-task at least three in a combat environment. I mean, you can get by with just one or two, but three to five is “run, jump, and shoot” infantry. A command suit has four hundred eighty-two discrete functions. Its primary problems, almost faults, are information overload and function difficulty. Unless you have an AID that is really attuned to your needs you risk overload of C3I-” Command, Communication, Control and Intelligence “-flow. You either overload on information or filter out too much, either of which is dangerous. As to purely suit functions, a command suit has so many special functions designed to permit the commander to keep up with highly mobile units and keep him alive, that you again risk either overload or suit drain.”
Number of suit functions. This is probably a good time to mention that by midway through the first book, there are four suit designs in common use. You have the standard model, which all statements about suits should apply to unless otherwise specified. Then, a scout version that can run a bit faster and jump a bit higher/further and is apparently somewhat stealthier, but is also more lightly armored. Then a combat engineer suit that has all the attributes of a regular suit but looks ‘like a grape with arms and legs’ because it also has compartments for carrying an extra hundred kilos or so of explosives and detonators. This suit variant is later used for combat medics, usual suit gear, plus a lot of storage space.
Then we have the Command suits, issues to everyone Captain or higher. They’re more heavily armored (to what extent, it’s hard to be sure) have a better power plant, additional computer support, and several hundred command and control options that regular suits don’t have, and they can consistently outperform other suits in any area where their superior power reserve is a factor. Presumably they’re more costly or somesuch, since not everyone gets one. Then again, information overload is apparently a moderately serious issue.
Virtual Reality sunglasses nicknamed Milspecs.
Just a passing reference to Milspecs, glasses that connect to an AID and can function like a screen, even allowing typing on an imaginary keyboard, or be used in training to create VR environments.
Battle Silks- officially Uniform, Utility, Ground Forces-was the uniform developed for day to day use by CES and ACS infantry. It was not designed for combat, and since it was designed by a GalTech team, they rammed through a uniform based on comfort and style. Light gray in color, it looked something like a hooded kimono. The material, cotton run treated through an Indowy process to “improve” it, was as smooth as silk, lightweight, and temperature reactive. With a few twists to close or open throat and cuffs it was comfortable from one hundred to zero degrees Fahrenheit.
The uniform for ACS troopers when not in their power armor. Can’t say I like the thought of the color or the style, but I’m mildly intrigued by this ‘improved’ cotton.
“Now I’m doing drugs, but they’re fully authorized, sir. Sudden cessation of VR training systems, such as when you’re killed or when a senior officer walks into the room, causes such severe physiological reactions that we rammed two Galtech meds through the authorization process. One is a really super analgesic that is stopping the blazing headache I would otherwise have right now and the other is an anti-nauseate I didn’t get to in time.”
VR sickness, its symptoms and the measures taken against it. The FDA must really love GalTech, they’re just making friends everywhere.
The lieutenant tried to shake his head and stopped when he had to force it against the biotic gel filling the helmet.
The Jell-O-like material completely filled the helmet and the interior of the suit. It was responsible for more than a third of the cost of the armor and the only major part that was not, at bottom, O’Neal’s concept.
Putting on the helmet of a combat suit was something like putting you head inside a bucket full of jam. However, the material completely cushioned the wearer against the most extreme shocks and had a series of other important functions. It read the user’s movement intentions through their own neural net and drove the suit accordingly. It recycled waste into potable water, edible food and breathable air. And it had enough medical technology and ability to keep its “Protoplasmic Intelligence System” alive as long as they did not take a direct hit to the heart, brain or upper spine.
This is really what makes the ACS different from every other bargain-basement power armor in every sci-fi series (except, you know, Armor.) Food, air and water for a month or so is nice, and it has tons of extras, but the protective qualities are the biggest selling point. Any weapon used against ACS armor must first penetrate at least one (and possibly more) force field, then penetrate the heavy armor (and there’s another system I’ll mention in a minute that makes that fiendishly difficult) and even then it won’t kill the wearer unless they hit one of the few critical areas. Besides having a sizeable reservoir of advanced Galatic drugs, the gel is a medium for all sorts of nanotech, mostly medical, but they repair the suit, recycle waste etc. Men in suits lose their arms and are back in action within ten seconds (one armed action, granted.) The survivability of the suits is insane, men survive truly stupid amounts of firepower, FAE, a nuclear detonation, and having mega-tons of material dropped on them from great heights.
Albeit, the Posleen mono-edge knives pop open suits with ease, HVMs turn them into smears, and there’s still a bit of a problem with heavy railguns. Still, these things may actually be safer than 40k Terminator armor.
Since there was no way to actually see through the underlayer, the helmet was totally opaque. What the user saw was a high-quality representation cast by tiny laser-diodes that threaded out of the helmet wall. Instead of turning his head, when a trooper made a movement to look from side-to-side the viewpoint shifted. It was somewhat like controlling point-of-view with a joystick. Again, it took some getting used to. There was no feeling of motion, so it could induce motion sickness, and a trooper could suddenly find himself looking backwards by overdriving the viewpoint controls. Similar leads tapped the mastoid bone for sound conduction.
For comfort, the helmet would let the users move their heads side to side, but only slowly. However, since the diodes could do all sorts of neat tricks with vision, the peripheral vision was actually superior to normal and far and near sighting was enhanced. That was before any special requests like “heads up” displays, weaponry displays, distant viewing, split screen viewing or sixty-seven other visual abilities.
Early on in the second book, it mentions that the suits automatically provide a uniform light level, so no shadows and no dark corners where things can hide. On the other hand, that goes a long way to making everything feel more like a videogame, and long-time suit users can get really disconnected from reality.
“Michelle, give me an RBG representation of Indowy, Posleen, and humans within the nine-block sector.”
The AID flashed a three-D representation of the nine megascrapers, then began drawing in Posleen, human, and Indowy concentrations in red, green and blue.
Yes, gaming fans, the suits can even provide a mini-map. In 3-D. With the positions of friendly, hostile and neutral units. Between this and the shadow-less vision, war really is turning into a video game.
Command suits can access the visual feeds from other suits. This may or may not be a general suit ability.
Command suits can control fixed heavy weapon emplacements, at least two at a time. This, at least, is an ability unique to the command suits.
"Scouts, your job is to emplace some charges, but mainly I want you to launch flicker-eyes across the unmined buildings. You should be above the line of fire but if the Posleen notice you you'll be in for a hot time tonight."
Scout suits carry tiny stealthy hover-cams.
At the same time, cloaked by their holographic technology, the scouts flew unnoticed to the nearest windows, gossamer soap bubbles floating through the green-tinged air, and rushed to find sniper positions.
Scouts used as snipers. The suits can hover for short periods and fly for short distances, and the stealth systems still hold up.
The suit local transmission system used directional pulses of monoperiodic subspace transmissions. The transmissions were traded in a distributed network from one suit that was in sight to another, shuttling through the group in the same manner as a data packet in the internet. Since the transmission simply jumped from one suit to the next, the power was a trickle and the likelihood of detection or interception was next to nothing.
Suit communications are designed to be as difficult as possible to detect or intercept.
Meanwhile Mike gathered the NCOs around and sketched out an initial order of movement. The engineers suddenly became critical to the success of the mission. Withal they could move nearly as fast as the infantry they supported, their armor was so bulged with storage they looked like walking grapes. Most of the storage was detonators and triggering devices. When it came down to it, there were lots of things that one could convince to explode, if one had a detonator and, although there were a number of ways to convince a detonator to explode, the best ways involved being far away at the time. So, rather than load up on explosives and light on detonators, they went the other way. They did carry twenty kilos of C-9, reduced somewhat from the tunneling, but it was a minor chunk of their storage.
The armor was circled with storage compartments, each designed precisely for explosives storage. The store points had blow-out panels and two of them had blown out on one of the engineers during the explosion under Qualtren; it gave him a lopsided look. Now they opened the compartments and started distributing their packages of good cheer. Every troop took fifty detonators and triggering devices. The triggering devices were fairly intelligent receivers that could be set to detonate by time or on receipt of a signal. In addition, the platoon redistributed their own C-9 so that each of them had at least a half kilo; that would be enough for their purposes.
\Engineering suits. When you come down to it, there are also a number of ways to convince explosives to go boom without detonators. Though I can appreciate not wanting to carry a ton of explosives on yourself.
There were six high-density inertial compensators along the spine of the suit. They had been placed there to prevent severe inertial damage to the most vital portions of the user. Lieutenant O’Neal launched himself into the air and away from the threat, an instinct of hundreds of hours of simulations, while his AID dialed the inertial compensators as low as they would go. This had several effects, good and bad, but the net effect was to make it less likely that the flechettes would penetrate his armor as they had the private’s; at this range their penetration ability was vastly increased.
The lack of inertia permitted the suit to be moved aside or pushed away as if no more substantial than a hummingbird. Combined with the strength of the armor it successfully shed the first sleet of rounds, but it made him as unstable as a Ping-Pong ball in a hurricane. He was picked up by the impacts, flipped repeatedly end for end, struck the warehouse wall, and blown sideways.
The system I was talking about earlier. Good luck hitting the suits with kinetic impactors, they can just amp up the inertial dampening and go along for the ride. Well, until they get smashed into something at high velocities. I assume that’s where the expensive super shock-absorbing gelatin comes in.
"If we can't avoid a group of Posleen, charge 'em, concentrating on the ones with the heavy railguns. The light guns can't penetrate our armor so don't bother with them. After we take down the ones with the heavy weapons, we can finish off the rest like killing fish in a barrel.”
The light 1mm railguns are considered a negligible threat, even at close ranges. Even the 3mm heavies are only dangerous at close ranges or in the event of a lucky shot.
A burst of fire into the energy pack of the nearest saucer devoured the vehicle in a shattering explosion. He rode out the explosion as if it were an epiphany, staring into the fire like a soul in hell. There was no danger; the suits could shrug off any explosion short of the sort of cataclysm that struck Qualtren. And even then they could give it a run for its money.
Point blank detonation of a tenar is not a serious threat to an ACS trooper. I believe in the first chapters of book 3 it’s said that when hit, a tenar does a wonderful impression of a 500 lb. bomb.
The suits were doing a good job of mimicking the top of a building in every frequency so the Posleen thought there was a sole human to deal with.
Suit stealth system can fool Posleen eyes and the sensors of a tenar.
Mike leapt across the roofs at full speed with his deception systems on maximum. Besides the camouflage hologram, now carefully mimicking the color and texture of the rooftop, a modification of the personal protection field warped radar and subspace detectors around him while a tiny subspace field reduced movement turbulence and sonic signature. The host of deceptions appeared to work like a charm; the C-Dec was content to concentrate its fire on the human-occupied building
More on the stealth systems. They’re also good against radar, subspace sensors, and the ability to detect turbulence from their air passage. Now why they don’t fit these same systems onto fighter jets is more than I can say. Perhaps there are some limits that aren’t clear.
He started off with a limp, but his suit's biomechanical repair processes were already underway. The armor's auto-doc administered a local stun and jetted the area with quick-heal, antibiotics and oxygen. The inner skin of the armor sealed the area, reducing blood loss and pumping the leakage away to be recycled into rations and air. At the same time, nano-repair systems began the task of replacing the outer "hard" armor one molecular-sized patch at a time. Given enough time, energy and materials, the self-repair systems would completely heal even major damage.
Suit medical technology. Immediate local anesthetic and antibiotic, direct pressure on wound, plus an agent to encourage rapid healing. Also, the suits self-repair over time with nano-tech.
"I'm hit!" screamed one of the troops, followed by a bemused, "I thought I was hit." He sat on the roof looking at his thigh. "Am I hit?"
"You're hit," said Mike, belatedly falling to a prone position. "Everybody get down, dammit. Don't sweat it, your suit will take care of it."
That local anesthetic is pretty damn impressive.
A sudden searing pain jerked him into wakefulness and was as quickly gone.
"What the hell was that?" he mumbled blearily.
"I applied direct pain stimulation to your nervous system," the AID answered nervously.
"Well, next time try shaking the suit or something, okay? That hurt like hell." He checked the time and shook his head. It would just have to do.
Suit can directly affect nervous system. In this case, a jolt of pain to wake the user.
The grenade idea worked well except in the case of one unfortunate private who discovered after arming the grenade that he could not retract his arm. Fortunately GalTech medical technology could regenerate the missing hand if they ever got back to friendly lines. Given that the pain was quite brief, the suit sealed the breach and pain-blocked the damage almost instantly, it caused a certain amount of black humor at his expense. It only got worse when he told them his last words were, "This is gonna huurt."
More suit medical technology. Guy loses an arm but is still fine to fight. When he gets back to base, they can regenerate the arm, but he’ll always be “Lefty” to the men who fought on Diess. On the same page, we see the effects of Hiberzine, a suspended animation drug that can be dispensed by the suits.
Mike studied the schematic again, flexing his hand idly. The AID automatically adjusted the resistance of the glove to that of the torsional device he normally used.
And the suit can be used as exercise gear, resisting one’s movements to a preset degree. Not really relevant to combat or vs. debates, but I love how insanely engineered these things are. Here, the glove is functioning as a stress ball.
They had been up since before dawn, fought a "murthering great battle," been blown up by a catastrophic explosion, tunneled out of hell, swum the Stygian depths and now had to go on after a ten minute stop. Well, that was what technology was for. "Michelle, order all the AIDs to administer Provigil-C."
The drug was a combination of a Terran antinarcolepsy drug and a Galactic stimulant. The Terran drug prevented sleep from forming. However it was believed that the stresses of combat were such that more than an antinarcotic was necessary.
When the powerful and persistent Galactic stimulant started coursing through their veins, the troops started to move.
Provigil-C, suit carried stimulant, that is a mixture of Earth and Galactic pharmaceuticals. Allegedly good for ten hours (Pg 351) but were tested for three days of simulated combat without rest, and the test pilots were fine. However, this batch is tainted in that it contains only the Galactic superstimulant and not Provigil, the anti-narcoleptic that normally mitigates the side effects, stretches out the effects and keeps people from crashing when it wears off.
"Well, we checked that lovely little pharmacy in your suits after it happened. You know that the 'Wake-the-Deads' are loaded into the suit, not produced by it, right?"
"Yes, sir," said Mike, wondering where he was going.
"Well, there was a little problem with the batch in your suit. And in most of the rest of the battalion's as well. The damn pharmacy company that produced it forgot to put in the Provigil, the 'anti-sleep' drug. All that was in it was the GalTech stimulant."
"Oh, God," groaned Mike. The Galactic pharmaceutical was ten times as powerful as methamphetamine. It was no wonder he had felt like a tomcat in a room full of mechanical presses. He was surprised his head had not rocketed through the top of the helmet.
See? Please note the ‘C’ drug is 10x methamphetamine.
But since I’m making the suit’s protective qualities seem so impressive, let’s take a look at a couple occasions of a suit failing to work.
A heavy laser, targeting on the Charlie company machine gun, scythed into the room housing Mike and the squad. Spec-Four Bennett would never see Trenton, New Jersey again. The laser cut sideways, exploding the wall inward and momentarily blinding the squad with debris. It narrowly missed Sergeant Reese, bubbling the hologram projectors on his helmet, and sliced diagonally across Spec-Four Bennett from left shoulder to below the right nipple unchecked by his force-screen or the immensely refractory armor.
The laser slashed through the front of his armor but was stopped by the combination of his mass and the rear armor from cutting all the way through. The tremendous heat of the coherent beam of light caused his torso to flash into steam and sublimed calcium. The armor held together, however, except a two-inch-wide strip blasted out of it, and Bennett's pureed remains squirted out like cherry soda from a shaken bottle. This ejecta flipped him backwards across the room.
Private McPherson was less lucky. Two 3mm rounds penetrated his abdominal storage, setting off a cache of grenades and popping the blowout panels in a sea of actinic fire, then through his body armor. After that they were unable to exit and began bouncing around inside. McPherson's suit began to hop and flip randomly through the air, arms and legs flailing to keep up as the two hypervelocity flechettes bled off their kinetic energy within the body of his suit. Two seconds later, when it finally, mercifully, stopped, the only evidence of damage were two tiny holes, one above the right hip and one almost centered on the navel. The storm of directed fire had died to a light shower and Sergeant Reese started towards him.
Apparently the armor is designed to reflect away a lot of a laser’s energy, but it doesn’t seem to work all that well. Heavy Railgun rounds, when they penetrate, are unable to exit and instead bounce around inside of the suit, pretty much guaranteeing a kill. Were I feeling charitable, I would take the fact that neither weapon punched out the back end as evidence they were close, since I don’t believe the bodies of the people inside were much obstacles for either weapon. But you know it goes, close only counts with horseshoes, hand grenades and large thermonuclear weapons. The fact is, armor that stops enemy weapons after they’ve killed you is shitty armor.
Pg 303- suit also vulnerable to grav pistol, and presumably grav rifle.
Unfortunately, at his current rate of energy consumption he would be out of power in twelve hours; the kinetic damping systems had been forced to work overtime counteracting not only the effects of the fuel air explosion but also the settlement of the rubble.
The main Achille’s heel of the ACS, and the main battle over its design. You could give them an antimatter generator that could supply all their power needs indefinitely, but if it were compromised, say by enemy fire, there would be a very big boom. So instead, the suits have batteries. In theory, the batteries give the suits a range of about three hundred miles, or three days of power if they fight in a single city or town. In practice, it’s more like half that, on a good day. Hell, in this particular case the first day of battle isn’t over yet. They can be recharged pretty quickly and easily, assuming you have a power source that’s up to the job, which is hardly a given in a combat area.
He took a sip of water and just sat and scanned his situation for a moment. No rifle, lost sometime during the explosion. Shoulder grenade launchers sheared off clean. Replacement was a simple field repair assuming spares which he ain't got. One hundred twenty-eight thousand remaining rounds of depleted uranium 3mm penetrators with antimatter activator charge, pretty much useless without a rifle. Grav pistol and forty-five hundred rounds. Two hundred eighty-three grenades, hand or launcher useable. A thousand meters of 10,000kg test micro line, universal clamp and winch. C-9, four kilograms. Detonators. Sundry pyrotechnic and specialty demolition supplies. Personal Area Force-screen; useless against kinetic weapons, as he had pointed out, but of some utility otherwise. His suit had air, food and water for at least a month.
Suit inventory after a protracted firefight and explosion. But it’s the most complete I could find. Ok, looks like ammo for just over four minutes of firing, though the suits probably carry a bit more than that, since this was after a running battle. 4500 rounds for the backup sidearm. Almost three hundred grenades, which can be launched or thrown, I like the flexibility. As I said previously, here the force-field is said to be useless against kinetic weapons, though one did just fine against bullets earlier. And, as I said, the suit has abundant supplies and recycles all waste from the user to make more.
Couple of things bear special notice, or just confuse me. First, I admit to being inspired by the art on the back cover, even though it is clearly wrong in giving the suit a visor, the point being I presumed the grav rifle to be mounted on the suits forearm. Now, it could be mounted, it could be carried and used as a normal gun, or both, the test is ambiguous. There is a part where a suit-less man is using a rifle, but that could be a design feature that doesn’t exclude mounting. It’s a little thing; it just bugs me not to know.
C-9, back around WWII, the British did some research into mixing various explosives to increase the potency or stability. They called these composites by letter, so Composition B, which became the standard filling for artillery shells was a somewhat different mixture than Composition C, which was used as a plastic explosive, though they had most of the same ingredients in differing quantities. Well, Composition B lasted for over a decade, but Composition C had temperature issues, it wouldn’t detonate if it was too warm or too cool, so by 1943, they created Composition C-2. This was followed by C-3 a year later, then C-4 shortly after Korea. Why is this relevant? Because Composition C is always 80+% RDX, with plasticizing and phlegmatising elements, that’s the definition. So, if C-9 is part of the C family it shouldn’t really be massively more powerful, and since the number is a model number, rather than a power scale as people seem to believe, it should be called C-5. Well, whatever is up with that, he has four kilos of the stuff.
The cable and winch system is also of interest, I presume it to be primarily for suit recovery, but it could also be used to give them more options in navigating and manipulating their environment. I admit I can’t think of many circumstances where they’d need a full kilometer of cable, but hey: it’s nice to have options. There is a small, maybe nothing contradiction issue with the cable and winch system, but I’ll get to it momentarily, along with the universal clamps.
The winch and line were built-in features of the suits. The winch was a bulge the size of a pack of cigarettes on the back of the suit and the line was thinner than a pencil lead. Designed for microgravity work they were rated to reel in a fully loaded suit against three gravities. On the other hand although the reel system and the universal clamp, a "magnet" that acted on a proton-sharing technology, had been extensively tested for full immersion, neither had been tested under heavy strain while fully immersed.
If the cable is good for 10,000 kg as said before, it should be able to handle the weight of twenty suits, easy. It’s possible they simply never tested it under more than 3 gravities, or that the cable is good for 10,000 kg but the winch isn’t. On the whole I’m not really worried about it.
Also, universal clamps are “magnets” that stick to any surface through the magic of “proton sharing” and cannot be removed except by killing the tiny amount of current it needs. They have at least one at the end of the cable, plus the same technology in soles and palms.
"Michelle, adjust the winch to maintain a tension of ten pounds regardless of rate of descent, up rate of descent to ten meters per second."
"Lieutenant O'Neal, if you strike a serious obstacle at ten meters per second, it could cause serious damage. Regulation maximum uncontrolled movement is seven meters per second."
"Michelle, I wrote that spec, and it's a good spec, I like it. But there are times when you have to push the specifications a little. Let me put it this way, what was the maximum gravities sustained by a mobile survivor of the fuel-air explosion under Qualtren?"
"Private Slattery sustained sixty-five gravities for five microseconds and over twenty for three seconds," answered the AID.
"Then I think I can take hitting concrete at an itty-bitty thirty or forty feet per second," Mike answered with a smile.
"Nonetheless, his suit systems indicate some internal bleeding," protested the AID.
"Is he still functioning?"
Ok, what the hell? The same suits that casually shrug off hundreds of railgun rounds can’t handle slamming into something at highway speeds? What about half a chapter ago when he was getting tossed into walls by railgun rounds?
Pg 340-the suits can easily harvest power from common Galactic sources that look like glowing green gems and are in just about everything.
The four remaining scouts caught the grav pistols tossed to them and moved out of the door to the room, following a heads-up projection of a green will-o'-the-wisp ball, bouncing ten feet in front of them. The ball would lead them on without their having to constantly refer to a map. It was dim enough to not impair their target line and, of course, invisible to the enemy since it was a projection in their helmets.
One way of making sure your men find their way to wherever you want them.
"Michelle, throw aiming grid. Left arm on automatic, visual targeting." He whipped open the door, stepped into the corridor and looked at the Posleen normal guarding the power room. "Fire." The pseudomuscles of the armor swiveled the left arm of the suit to vertical and delivered the one-kilo gem at two hundred meters per hour to the forehead of the Posleen. The centauroid dropped like the rock that hit him.
I’m speechless. Did I say these suits were insanely over-engineered? Well, I’m saying it now. An automatic throwing sequence? Do I have to point out just how many systems must be involved with that? And it’s compatible with a considerable range of projectiles. He later throws a number of grav gun rounds at 100 m/s and a Posleen Boma blade, all with perfect accuracy.
"Right, well it just so happens that the maximum jump range in the specifications we called for was one hundred meters for warriors, one twenty for scouts and one fifty for command." Mike crouched and whispered an order. His suit rolled backward over the mile high drop and sprang outward. In apparent defiance of gravity it shot out and over in a back flip and landed neatly on the far roof. He then sprang back, landing with a thump in their midst.
Jump specs for suits. Note the advantages command suits have, because of the superior power. The ‘warrior’ suit, which is just what they call the standard infantry suit can do a 100 meters, 120 for scouts, 150 for command, for those of you who prefer to see the numbers. The specs are however somewhat conservative, as a scout finds out when he leaps 170 meters with a running start.
"Michelle, command run and maximum jump, execute."
The legs of the suit began to blur. In the hundred meters from his position to the roof's edge it accelerated to over one hundred kilometers per hour in a series of ground-devouring bounds. As the boots of the suit came in contact with the roof, a grappling field would engage to prevent slippage, therefore maximum energy was applied to each thrust. When he reached the roof's edge the suit's AID automatically launched him into the air. Under the combination of forward momentum, his inertial compensators' contragravity function, and thrust from the inertialess thrusters built into the suit, he was carried over two hundred meters onto the far roof. With a return series of bounds he reached the edge of the roof and bounced effortlessly back to the platoon.
Suit jumping mechanics. Though as O’Neal points out, his command suit was the prototype for a number of features, and so is hardly standard, he still jumps 200 meters. Again, the AID can employ his arms and legs much better than he can. On the same page, he reassures the troopers that if they miss a jump their antigrav will activate automatically. In fact, if anyone blinks at the approaching building’s edge, their suits override them and jump anyway.
When the other squads were in position, the platoon stepped over the edge. The suits dropped under an artificially induced two positive gravities to within one hundred meters of the ground then began to slow. They hit the bottom still traveling at nearly six meters per second, but the suits absorbed this with bent knees.
Suits jumping off a kilometer-tall building. First they accelerate on the way down, then the antigrav brakes them. 6 m/s apparently slow enough for safe landing.
As he turned to meet his fate he stopped, arrested by a form rising from the sea. A multiheaded red dragon the size of a building was humping itself up out of the green waves. Dozens of heads were snaking low out of the water, while one central head was raising itself to full extension with a broad fringe ruffling and puffing around the purple-lined maw.
As the battle-maddened and oblivious God King lined up for another charge, the dragon heads opened their mouths and began to breathe silver lightning.
With the first silvery breath a ringing scream, so loud that it was for a moment a physical thing, burst forth from the beast. At that first scream of rage and raw emotion Major Joachim Steuben, oblivious and uncaring of the closing death, sank to his knees and burst into un-Teutonic tears. Then the drum riffs of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song," at the maximum volume available to the sophisticated sound systems of the Armored Combat Suits, brought every action to a momentary stop.
Program: Tiamat. The suits project a large holographic disguise of a many headed dragon. Then hover and fly inside of the hologram, which matches them enough that their fire appears as the dragon’s breath. A psychological tool and one O’neal will use multiple times. I have to wonder how he pitched that one during the design phase-“a suit unit should be able to turn into a dragon. That’ll scare off the fuckers!” Ah well, it’s nice to have options.
Also, the suits have highly advanced external speaker systems that can function for normal speech to people outside the suits, a public address system, or to play loud rock. Why not?
As the scouts reached their positions and began to peck away at the God Kings, Mike felt it acceptable to return to the ground. He had also used up over thirty percent of his available power, mostly hovering, and needed to return to ground mode.
Hover mode is a real power hog.