The Emperor’s Sword: Light Cavalry

Today, we return to this series once again…

Making up a further three of every sixteen legions (equal in number to the heavy infantry, and one for every three light infantry legions), and again not counting the specialists built off their platform, are the light infantry legions – swift-moving scouts, raiders, flankers, and skirmishers.

The personal equipment of a light cavalryman greatly resembles that of the light infantry legionary; their armor is merely another variant of the N45 Garrex, the N45v Hasédár cavalry armor. In addition to the standard features, the N45v Hasédár includes electromechanical “saddle clamps” (to hold you to the vehicle), superior inertial compensation, and plug-in vehicle interface hardware (for C3I, HUD functionality, and life-support longevity). They even are outfitted with the same weapons as the light infantry legionary, including not only the sidearms but also the IL-15i Battlesystem – since it is often useful to be able to fight “dismounted”.

The vehicles of the light infantry are stubby-winged ground-effect “chariots”, or “skimmers”, which can sustain a hover of a few to a few dozen meters off the ground – in terrain-following mode –, turn and flip on a dime thanks to high-speed gyros and auxiliary propulsion taps, all while being propelled at up to several hundred miles per hour by a bimodal (to enable their use in vacuum) thermal rocket/ramjet. A “hot soup” micro-fission reactor powers this and other vehicle systems. The single pilot rides the vehicle in a semi-prone position, protected by a non-fully-sealed enclosed forward/flanking armored canopy; to save mass and increase flexibility, the pilot is required to wear their own environmental armor, as described above.

(A jettisonable anti-radiation fairing can be mounted on top of the canopy to permit the ready deployment of such chariots by Flapjack­-class dropship.)

Vehicle sensors and communication equipment include all the usual standbys, including the active systems, T-ray snoopers, and full ECM suite used by the heavy infantry, again powered by the platform’s greater reactor capacity.

Loadout

A typical chariot loadout includes three target-linked heavy mass drivers (for’ard, and on each wingtip), an underslung heavy sluggun/micromissile launcher, and full-coverage point-defense/automated-return-fire lasers and autocannon. A small undermounted cargo bay aft can be used to contain additional supplies/ammunition, or be replaced with a fuel pod, for greater endurance, a medevac pod, or a minelaying pod; above it, a swarm hive contains close-air support supplies of eyeballs, shrikes, gremlins, and balefire – which, as for the heavy legionary, constitute expendable recon assets, counter-swarm swarms, anti-machinery swarms, and anti-personnel/area-denial carbon-devourer swarms.

Drones

The light cavalry legionary is usually accompanied, as his counterparts, by AI combat drones, usually a mixed set of the WML-7 Skycat and its bigger brother, the WMH-17 Skyorca, depending on mission parameters.

When fighting dismounted, the chariot itself software-reconfigures to act as an autonomous AI combat drone for the legionary.

Transportation

The light cavalry  can be transported by the G5-TT Corveé tactical transport, with the appropriate module, but on the battlefield – and often also to the battlefield, it’s simplest just to let them transport themselves…

The Emperors’ Sword: Light Infantry

Making up nine of every sixteen legions – even when we don’t count the various specialized legions which are mostly built off a light infantry platform – the light infantry are the backbone of the Imperial Legions. Which, in another sense, means they get all the dirty jobs that no-one more specialized is specially equipped for. This is by no means to underrate them; the Legions have long been a service that concentrates on quality over quantity, and your basic light infantry legionary is a highly trained professional equipped and competent to fight in a multitude of different operations – from basic raiding and ground-taking on up – in a bewildering array of different environments.

It’s also from the light infantry that most of the espatiers, or “ship’s troops” – those legionaries posted to provide muscle aboard the starships of the Imperial Navy permanently, as opposed to those who are just transported on troop transports to somewhere where fighting is needed – are drawn, although larger ships will also carry some heavy legionaries for stiffening.

Actually, for all you Mass Effect fans out there, it probably looks something like this...

Actually, for all you Mass Effect fans out there, it probably does look something like this…

So just what is the fashionable light legionary wearing these days?

In the Empire, although similar suits are in fairly common use by other advanced militaries and mercenary units, the answer is the N45 Garrex field combat armor. In some cases, it may instead mean one of its more specialized variants, of which the most common are the N45e Réyneri scout armor (originally built for the Imperial Exploratory Service rather than the legions, it includes extra long-term survival gear and stealth/infiltration capabilities, commonly used in covert ops), the N45a Qasel sea combat armor (includes kinetic barriers optimized for underwater use, specialized sensors like sonar, and the ability to replenish internal environmental supplies from compatible liquid media), the N45r Callérás high-rad field combat armor (includes a lot more radiation protection), and the N45s Merra microgravity combat armor (includes extended environmental supplies, a microgravity maneuvering unit, and magnetic grips – this is what’s issued to espatiers), but these are all variants on the same basic theme.

This armor is a multilayer protection system. Down right at the bottom next to the skin, there’s a silk organza-type body-glove. This is woven through with internal networking and tens of thousands of nodes for the environmental control and medical systems; these nodes and nodules are capable of sealing holes, stopping bleeding, closing wounds, dispensing emergency pharmaceuticals, and covering everything in decontamination foam if penetrations are detected in the presence of NBCN weapons.

On top of that, comes the armor-plating itself; a sandwich of interlinked, highly corrosion-resistant and refractory cerametal composite armor plates around electrical and thermal superconductor meshes, affixed on top of a flexible core suit of non-porous arachnoweave ballistic fabric. An outer ablative layer is sprayed atop the plating, which boils away to protect the wearer from directed energy weapons. (This is, of course, rather heavy – while not power-enhanced, like the M70 Havoc combat exoskeleton, the N45 Garrex is power-assisted, rendering it feather-light in normal use so that it doesn’t impair the legionary’s movements or cause fatigue.)

The outermost layer of protection consists of kinetic barriers generated by the suit’s hardware – essentially, a much smaller version of the same hardware used to protect starships – to “slap aside” incoming projectiles – at least so long as suit power holds out.

The whole suit is fully sealed, with internal climate control and self-contained air reprocessing, such that the Legions can fight anywhere from the chill of outer system moons to inner-system hothouses, come rain, shine, hostile atmospheres, high pressure, vacuum, being underwater, chemical, biological, and nanotechnological weapons, and/or radioactive fallout. For that purpose, the characteristic “teardrop” helmet of the IMS joins seamlessly to the suit body. An electronic sound transmission system allows the wearer to hear and speak, while filtering out sound-based attacks or sounds capable of causing sensory stun; likewise, the integrated imaging system in the helmet filters out basilisk attacks and similarly stunning visual stimuli.

Standard optronic equipment for the N45 Garrex includes an onboard microframe computer to run the suit’s management software and act as a hub for a personal-area dataweave “battle weave”, and a full communications, navigation, and sensor suite. The communications suite includes simple radio and whisker laser communicators, as well as access to the one-time pad encrypted military communications mesh. The sensor suite provides a full head-up display of sensor data incoming from a variety of sources, including teamware, tactical and strategic C3I systems, threat identification systems, weapon status data including “gun’s-eye view” projections, and other such information.

And finally, it has a very limited thruster/vector-control based flight capability. Doctrine strongly discourages using this for extended periods of actual flight, since a flying target is an easy kill; it is, however, useful for attaining a superior position, clearing obstacles, making quick “skips” between cover, running on walls, changing orientation and vector in mid-leap, and generally hurling oneself about the place like a god of parkour wherever no-one expects you to be right now.

And what’s she carrying?

Something like this:

  • The IL-15i Battlesystem battle carbine. This is the light legionary’s primary weapon – combining in a single unit a standard carbine and an underslung sluggun. The former does the main job of propelling tiny flechettes downrange at mind-croggling speeds, which do appropriately gory damage by sheer kinetic energy to whatever they hit. The latter, well, can fire any number of things depending on the mission – anti-materiel spikes, flechette canister shot, bore-compatible grenades, or gyroc micromissiles, the latter of which can include as their payload exploding shells, incendiaries and napalm, cryoburn shells, nanoweapons (if someone’s set up a microwave power system for them), chemical/gas dispensers, cyberswarm dispensers, network node – or spy dust – dispensers, injector needles (at low power), restraint nanoglop, electroshock “stunner” shells, acid globs, anti-electronic fiberdust, mollynet, antimatter nuke-in-a-bullets, and on and on and on. Some of these loads are, obviously, more commonly issued and used than others.
  • The KF-5 Wyvernspit anti-nanitic/area-denial flamer – basically, a weaponized plasma torch (to avoid the need to cart around huge quantities of fuel) capable of creating intense heat at point-blank range. Used for anti-nanoswarm defense, area denial, threatening people, and incidental arson.
  • The EI-12d Valkyrie target designator. Tied into the tactical net, this permits the legionary to call down ortillery strikes and missiles from UAVs to deal with bigger targets than she has time to deal with personally.
  • The IS-5 Stinger pistol, a sidearm used for close up personal defense.
  • A military-grade nanolathe, to permit them to perform field repairs and to manufacture any other small items of equipment they might need on the fly, using recipes stored in the suit computers and/or downloaded ad-hoc off the military mesh.
  • A hanrian, which is to say the second of the Two Swords (1). In its modern military recension, it resembles a cross between a Roman gladius and the USMC combat knife, and serves both as a melee weapon and a general-purpose tool. It’s not a mollyblade or any such fancy device, inasmuch as it’s expected to be used much more often as a utility knife than in combat, but it is made of much better metals for purpose than just about any sword of history. Damn things never get blunt.
  • A bandolier containing replacement powercells, replacement heat sinks, replacement sluggun magazines, nanobricks, and pouches for any other miscellaneous supplies she feels might be particularly useful today. (Grenades come in the sluggun magazines; if you need fixed explosives, you can pull one out and program it manually.)
  • Possibly some components of/ammunition for a heavy fireteam support weapon – missile launcher, heavy semi-portable, etc., although such are usually transported by the IFV and/or robot logistics drones.
  • An emergency survival kit. In the interests of maximizing mobility – especially since high-speed maneuver is such a large part of their doctrine – and combat effectiveness, Legionary doctrine prefers not to burden troops with all the rations and resupply and such they might need; again that’s what the IFV and robot logistics drones are for. But just in case the shit hits the fan, they do get one of these.

She’s also accompanied by, and acting as the command nexus for, half a dozen AI combat drones, usually a mixed set of the WML-12 Warhound (“wolves”), WML-14 Slitherslay (“serpents”), WMH-4 Octoscorp (“spiders”), and the WML-17 Skycat (“raptors”), depending on mission parameters – each of which is quite capably and similarly armed in its own right. When not specifically commanded otherwise, these default to acting as automated return fire platforms, tracking incoming fire and returning it automatically.

Note: these, however, are the officially issued general purpose weapons. On the one hand, the Legions have access to a wide variety of specialized weapons which they’ll hand out as required (if your mission spec calls for house-clearing on a world inhabited by tough guys with natural armor, for example, it’s time to break out the S-11i Mamabear heavy slugguns all around; for riot control, break out the algetic whips, that sort of thing); on the other hand, individually qualified specialists also get the weapons appropriate to their specialty – sniper rifles, etc., say; and on the gripping hand, they also encourage and even subsidize legionaries carrying any personal auxiliary weapons they fancy, know how to use, and which are compatible, on the grounds that it (a) adds flexibility in a pinch, and (b) confuses the enemy’s attempts to figure out what their capabilities actually are, and more confusion to the enemy is always a good thing.

Transportation?

The light infantry is usually delivered to the field, and between fields, by the G5-TT Corvee tactical transport, of which more has been said earlier.

On the field, however, the light legions are usually transported around the battlefield by the V40 Ralihú, an armored personnel carrier/infantry fighting vehicle with full environmental support and sealing, all-directions all terrain-drive, brief hop-jump capability, and a modular swap-out enhancement system with modules permitting it to perform in the roles of IFV, squad transport, ambulance, etc., with equal facility. It also comes equipped, in all its modular roles, with a turreted heavy mass driver and coaxial quadbarrel mass-driver machine-gun.

(Yes, even the medical ones. While the Empire will ostentatiously disable them when fighting people who do abide by the Ley Accords, they spend enough time fighting people who don’t think that the rules of civilized warfare apply to them that they didn’t feel that spending money and logistic capacity on an unarmed military ambulance was a good idea.)


Footnotes:

1. The first-sword, the teirian, is not carried by most units outside dress uniform and is rarely used on the modern battlefield by even those who do carry it, it being mostly a matter of tradition and intimidation for them. A modern teirian is a damnably effective sword under many circumstances, mind you, but not effective enough against equally modern combat armor unless you spend ridiculous amounts of money on it – and, of course, requires closing to within reach.

The Emperors’ Sword: Some Notes

(I also want to note that I could equally well title this series “The Empresses’ Sword” – the word, after all, is identical and gender-affix free in the original Eldraeic. Not my fault that English is an annoyingly inflexible and imprecise language…

…but alternating would probably confuse folks and make it harder to search for.)

Before we get on to the actual details of the bulk of the forces in question, some assorted notes on other topics:

Artillery

The Legions, by and large, do not take artillery with them to the battlefield, despite their love of big guns and heavy firepower. The reasoning is as follows:

  1. Either you control the orbitals above the battlespace (even in an over-horizon sense), or the enemy does.
  2. If you do, you don’t need ground artillery, because you can simply drop KEWs from orbit.
  3. If they do, and you still need more gun than your heavy tanks can give you, you’re just providing the enemy with a big, fat, slow target (in the shape of your towed/self-propelled guns) that they can drop KEWs on from orbit.
  4. Either way, it ain’t going to help you.

Policy in this area, therefore, is to be generous in handing out the EI-12D Valkyrie target designator to ground forces, and let them call down all the “rods from god” and other ortillery weapons that they need.

(There are mortar-equivalents, of a sort; as we’ll see later, the IL-15i Battlesystem battle carbine includes an underslung sluggun capable of firing anti-materiel spikes, bore-compatible grenades, and gyroc micromissiles – and since its mass driver is quite powerful and its targeting software is entirely capable of handling an arching trajectory shot, one of these with the right ammunition is quite capable of functioning as an effective mortar.)

Close Air Support

Close air support is most commonly provided by the G7-BU Sunhawk, badass tilt-turbine/hybrid-rocket and (from an authorial perspective) shameless homage to the A-10 Thunderbolt II (“Warthog”), a wing or two of which is organically attached to most legions. It flies low, it hovers, it delivers untold quantities of messy death via a gun so large the whole airframe is built around it with the able assistance of a fine collection of auxiliary missiles and bombs. It is ably accompanied by the G12-BU Falcon, a smaller air-support vehicle built along similar lines, with a chin-mounted mass driver and cheek-mounted short-range missile launchers.

Much like the dedicated air-to-air interceptors (which, as a side note, are usually operated by the Navy as the irritating orbit-to-atmosphere subset of space operations), these are designed to be able to sortie from aerospace cruisers in low forced orbit, as well as from ground airfields should the campaign run long enough for you to have any ground airfields.

Closer air support comes from the Legions’ fine selection of UAVs fielded as support weapons – special attention here should go to the LD-116 Ravager variant of the modular battle tank platform, whose entire function is to dispatch and coordinate wings of ad-hoc micro-UAVs as needed in the current battlespace – and the occasional wide-area nanoswarm “death cloud” used for area-denial or line-breaking.

Even closer air support comes from some of the half-dozen combat drones slaved to every legionary as a matter of course, and also – for the heavy infantry and the cavalry – from the microbot/nanite cyberswarms they’re toting with them as expendable recon assets and balefire eaters.

Delivery

The most usual means of delivering legionaries about the place is the G5-TT Corvee, a quad-engined tilt-turbine/hybrid rocket vehicle with a modular changeout system which allows it to serve as – among others – a troop transport – for legionaries and their IFVs – medevac ship, gunship, or missile platform as desired, although these latter are rare as close air support role is usually left to the Sunhawk. These serve the purpose of transporting the legionaries around planetside, and also – since like the Sunhawk, their hybrid-rocket capabilities let them reach and return from starships in low orbit – from orbit down to the orbithead.

Establishing an orbithead in the first place when you don’t have a landing zone, on the other hand, is the hard part, for which there are multiple varieties of ways to drop from orbit fast and lithobrake, depending on exactly who you are. For this, light legionaries get the Sledgehammer-class drop shuttle (to drop entire companies at one go) and the Fist-class triple-drop pod, used to insert a three-legionary fireteam and their drones. (The Fist is primarily, but not exclusively, used for special forces ops.) Heavy legionaries, by contrast, get the Piton-class single-legionary drop pod, which is essentially a disposable shell with braking rockets, ECM, and decoys that fits around the outside of the M70 Havoc combat exoskeleton and lets you fire it out of a missile tube.

The cavalry get the Flapjack-class cavalry dropship, of which more has been said elsewhere.

The other exceptional transit mechanism is used by legionary espatiers/ship’s troops when attempting hostile boarding actions. Usually a starship to be boarded has already surrendered, and as such legionaries can board it through its normal docks and locks, carried by their parent vessel’s pinnace and safely under its guns; but rarely, it is necessary to board and take a starship that is still resisting, or more commonly a habitat. For this, what is formally known as the microgravity assault vehicle (MAV) but more commonly referred to as the boarding torpedo exists, the most common being the Marlinspike-class. The job of a MAV is to avoid fire on the way to boarding, ram the target, cut through the hull, and crawl forward to wedge itself into a position suitable for discharging troops directly into the inner spaces of said target. This is what you might call a high-risk, low-survivability operation, which is why it’s very rarely done.

Enhancements

Given who we’re talking about here, there really shouldn’t be any need to say that everyone in the Legions is enhanced to the eyeballs with milspec bio-, nano-, and cybertechnology. Baselines don’t cut it on the modern battlefield; much too slow, fragile, and suchlike. So it doesn’t matter what species you were: eldrae, kaeth, etc., once you join the Legions – and you’ve made it through the first half of the Anvil so they can be pretty sure you’re not going to wash out – it’s into the healing vats to be stripped down and put back together with a full set of military-basic upgrades: faster reflexes, better senses, less need for sleep, skin, muscle, and bone weaves for extra resilience and strength, an auxiliary heart if you didn’t already have one, faster healing, immunity to fear (in the proper sense that means you still receive warning signals when you ought to be cautious, but it can never overpower your volition), and so on and so forth…

Logistics

Which I will mention here simply to point out that yes, they have logistics. Lots and lots of logistics, although most of the logistic chain is the Navy’s business, and only the part involving getting it planetside and to the right people at the end belongs to the Legions. The teeth need the tail – but in these posts, I’m mostly examining the teeth, so the tail will not be mentioned much. A detailed look at it may happen in the indefinite future.

Special Forces

The Imperial military is actually rather heavy on special forces, by most standards, given the Empire’s general preference for subtlety, indirection, and outright deviousness whenever possible and strong dispreference for anything resembling mass attritional warfare. Which makes it a rather complicated subject, and something that I’ll deal with, by and large, also later.

Sophonts on the Battlefield?

Why do they even have sophonts on the battlefield, and not just field vast armies of nothing but drones, possibly remote-controlled?

Because:

(a) Tactical networks aren’t totally reliable; and

Because there are such things as signal jamming, and EMP, and plain old interference, and people knocking out intermediate network nodes, and having someone sophont and able to make decisions down there in the battlespace means no-one ends up in the embarrassing position of playing the Trade Federation in The Phantom Menace. Which is good, ’cause those guys should have won awards for sheer logistical dumbassery.

(b) Light-lag is a bitch; and

If you want to stay inside the enemy’s OODA loop, adding a whole bunch of signal delay is not a good way to do it. Milliseconds count on the modern battlefield. Hell, sometimes, microseconds count.

(c) More minds equals more flexibility.

An ecology of thousands of interacting minds responds much better to stresses and the unexpected than a single or small number of central controllers. A giant peer-to-peer network made up of nodes with initiative is much less likely to screw up and stay screwed up – which is especially valuable when said screw-ups involve getting killed and/or losing the war.

Specialized Legions

What we’re going to be talking about in later parts of this series are the four basic types of legion: light infantry, heavy infantry, light cavalry, and heavy cavalry, maintained at an approximate 9:3:3:1 ratio.

The legions, of course, also have innumerable slightly-specialized variants on these basic themes, along with outright specialist legions: guards/peacekeepers, communications specialists, combat engineers, super-heavies, military police, siege specialists, logistics specialists, undersea legions, first-strike specialists, reconnaissance specialists, saboteurs, experimental technology legions, battle theater prep specialists, automaton legions, hunter legions, special weapons legions, medical specialists, underground specialists, even terror legions. I don’t plan on detailing all these specialized variants here, though, just the basic types they vary from.

The Legions don’t have a separate military intelligence section, however: Admiralty Intelligence performs that function for the entire Imperial Military Service.

Next time: the light infantry in all their glory…

Trope-a-Day: More Dakka

More Dakka: While, by and large, they are not found on normal battlefields, those wonderfully clever people at various research and development establishments have gone a long way towards the wonderfully dakkalicious, both through sheer scale and through quantities of fire.

Skipping over the more normal options available and actually used – even the IMS standard IL-15i Battlesystem, the standard-issue assault rifle/shotgun/SMG/anti-material sluggun/grenade launcher/missile launcher combo-pack, offers a respectable quantity of dakka – let’s just look at a couple of proposals, here:

On the one hand, for example, is the not-yet-built-or-engineered proposal for using the Dyson bubble at Esilmúr as a fleet killer, with the addition of a perfectly normal wormhole pair, one end of which would be axially mounted on a regular lighthugger – which would be quite the weapon when the entire output of the Esilmúr sun was magnetically focused down the wormhole using the harvesting arrays in reverse.  You could melt planets with that – although it’s probably impractically slow to actually get in position, the speed of light being what it is.

On the rather more practical hand, of course – well, thinking of things you can assemble from modular components, consider that a sluggun can double as a bore-compatible grenade launcher, that multibarrel/Gatling slugguns do exist, and so do antimatter grenades.  In short, you can assemble – using off-the-shelf components – a device which will let you high-rate (as in, thousands of rounds per minute) cycle-fire mini-nukes full auto!  (What you could possibly realistically want to use this piece of comical overkill on, and how exactly you’d go about surviving firing it, never mind paying for the ammo, are left as exercises for the reader.)

Nonetheless, it’s never enuff.