Máquina de Carne

The infamous tragalrás athánar (“meat machine”) – by whichever regional designation it is known1 – is both a awful and an excellent weapon. On the former point, certainly, it is crudely designed, generations obsolete, dumb, inelegant, and a wide assortment of other things which tend to give professional Imperial weapons designers fits of the vapors.

On the latter, however, it is durable, reliable even under the most stressful conditions, adequately lethal against soft targets, simple enough for even low-tech cottage industry to manufacture, and adaptable via an assortment of relatively simple kluges. It is these latter qualities that have made it the favored personal weapon of paramilitaries, asymmetrists, and criminal gangs the Worlds over.

Tracing its mixed heritage back to a variety of pre-gauss automatic rifles, the contemporary Meat Machine inherits a centuries-long evolution of design features chosen for maximal simplicity. The basic systems of the MM are an open-bolt design, using a spring-loaded magazine to push cartridges into the breech, where a gas piston advances them to firing position in the chamber when the trigger is pulled. It lacks any ejection mechanism; the cartridges are caseless, cast from a foamed propellant/oxidizer mixture – enabling it to operate in vacuum, in exotic atmospheres, or even submerged – beneath the bullet. This propellant is ignited by a mechanically or piezoelectrically generated spark. Residue build-up is generally loosened by the action and purged by the next shot, but does require periodic barrel cleaning.

Its design is very simple for ease of manufacturing or repair, using a wide variety of materials. In the most basic designs, the receiver is typically stamped (or occasionally machined) out of a single steel billet, whose scraps are used to construct the entirely mechanical action, mounted on or in a plastic or scrap wood frame. This makes it trivial to construct for most fabrication facilities, and simple even for pre-fabber cottage industry to turn out workable examples. Common dry lubricants – even animal grease – complete the assembly.

Performance varies widely depending on the quality of the assembly and the components of the foamed propellant, from barely adequate to sufficient to penetrate most civilian and low-grade military armor – proof that while the industry as a whole may have moved on to mass drivers, old chemical propellants still have some use. In addition, the flexibility of the weapon where propellants are concerned make it easy to avoid traces that show up on commonly-used sensors, including that of high-energy powercells.

In short: it’s a piece of junk that has its uses, and one not to be surprised by the wrong end of.


1. Common examples include “Meat Machine”, the name given to it by Resolutionist Faction ironmongers; the Nal Kalak Type 43, as it is known to one of its official manufacturers; RUSTY LEMON, the cryptonym assigned by Imperial State Security; the “Sewerslum Special”, a nickname from League of Meridian law enforcement; and “the ablative meat-stick”, as it’s known in the mercenary trade.

Surprise

PALAXIAS (IMPERIAL CORE) – In the weeks following the suicidal asymmetrist attack on the Numeropolis Drift mathematics research station in the Athra (Ringstars) System – which punctured the habitat hull causing thirty-seven temporary deaths and the permanent deaths of two visiting fellows from the Sseydri Gerontocracy – denials of responsibility have continued to pour in from rogue groups and even a few polities across the Associated Worlds.

These denials have garnered little attention from either the Ministry of State and Outlands or the Admiralty. However, action has been taken on the matter, as a cruiser task group of the Sixth Capital Flotilla, assigned to respond, set sail today from Prime Base, Palaxias. When asked if any details would be made available at this time, the commander of task group GRUMPY TIERCEL, Vice Admiral Nimil Sargas, stated “I’m afraid that our destination and mission orders must remain confidential for the moment. We wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise.”

 

Trope-a-Day: Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters

Before we begin, some EXCITING NEWS. Maybe, actually, not that exciting, but this is the very last trope-a-day in the initial set! Woo! We’re done!

Well, okay. We’re not done. We now go back to A and start a second pass through to capture a whole passel that I missed the first time around. But it’s still a sort of milestone, anyway.

Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: Definitions vary… widely, much as they do in reality.  The Conclave official definition of terrorism is “the deliberate targeting of noncombatants for political ends”, but doesn’t go to the trouble of defining “noncombatants”, and also makes with the latter an unnecessary distinction between terrorists and, say, Space Pirates – unnecessary because the general policy for both groups is “Kill ’em all.”

The Empire’s definition is the broader-based “people who don’t fight like gentlemen” (i.e., according to the Laws and Customs of War), with the necessary caveat that what they really mean is “people who don’t fight like gentlemen… first”, inasmuch as a polity that sponsors terrorism, hides terrorists among the general population, etc., etc., has given de facto informed consent for what it gets when the Imperial Navy nukes it back into the Stone Age from orbit.  After all, it’s the only way to be sure.

(And while they do like freedom fighters in theory, their hardline views on the proper conduct of even freedom-seeking insurgencies in re respecting people’s rights mean that revolutionary groups that don’t keep their hands very clean (i.e., avert The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized) and their targeting very carefully on the legitimate military/governance enforcement targets need not bother applying for Imperial assistance.

Which would seem more contradictory than it is if one wasn’t aware of how deeply cynical most Imperials are regarding the way most freedom fighters are primarily fighting for the freedom to oppress someone else.

On the other hand, it keeps them out of a lot of tar-pits.)