Trope-a-Day: Bottomless Magazines

Bottomless Magazines: Not literally true, but due to the architecture of modern Imperial firearms, it often seems that way.  A typical example has three types of “ammunition”, in a consumables-you-need-to-fire sense: a metal-containing “magazine cartridge” that the flechettes the weapon actually fires are produced from; an energy cell to power the mass driver that makes it work; and a heat sink (containing the same high specific heat capacity thermal goo we’ll be talking about later in Deflector Shields) to give you somewhere to dump the waste heat produced by said mass driver so your gun doesn’t melt.

The flechettes are small enough and light enough (grain-of-sand size, made up for by extremely high velocity) that by and large you should never need to change the magazine, even in a whole sequence of firefights of unlikely length, although you may want to swap in a new one at maintenance time, just to be sure.  The heat sink usually only needs to be swapped out at maintenance time (the goo may eventually crystallize), because in normal operation the radiative striping on the gun should be able to get the heat dumped in between uses, but if you routinely keep up sustained volumes of fire, you can carry some spare heat sinks with you and field-swap them to let you keep it up beyond what would otherwise be the weapon’s thermal limit.  The energy cell is actually the thing you’re likely to need to swap most often, and it usually holds enough energy for a good couple of hours of firing, so while you may need to change it, you still probably won’t need to change it that often.

And of course, those magnificent legionaries in their combat exoskeletons have their guns plugged into the much larger energy and cooling reserves of their armor, so those guys really do have de facto bottomless magazines.

Trope-a-Day: Deflector Shields

Deflector Shields: These come in one played-straight kind: kinetic barriers, which are a product of vector control (a kind of Applied Phlebotinium, yes), essentially applying counterforce to, or slapping aside, incoming massy objects, from space dust to missiles, but don’t do anything to massless radiation.  And they’re usually ad-hoc plates, not an always-on bubble, but details…

The universe is not nearly so kind when it comes to providing us with a way of shielding against EM radiation, massless photon phenomenon that it is (and no, you can’t shield against lasers by making the hull shiny; it still heats up, explodes, and then isn’t shiny any more).  The best they can do for this one, apart from the layers of shielding compound, and bunkerage and suchlike stashed under the hull, is for the hull plating and underlying layers to include a nice framework of thermal superconductor nanocomposite (at which thermodynamics weeps, but it is actually allowed by physics as we know them); this dissipates radiative heating throughout the entire structure of the ship, thus preventing exploding hot-spots.  Of course, it doesn’t avoid the problem that if you keep acquiring heat faster than you can dump it – and remember, you generally can’t use your radiators when in combat – you’ll broil yourself.

To deal with that, military ships generally carry a few big tanks of thermal goo, a thick, goopy substance engineered to have a ludicrously high specific heat capacity, into which tanks heat generated during combat, specifically including what happens when you get hit by a medium-range energy weapon, is dumped.  And when the thermal goo heats up enough that it’s no longer useful, it’s simply pumped over the side, taking its heat with it.

Which doesn’t solve the problem, but does significantly extend the time before you have to choose between surrender and broiling yourselves alive.

There is absolutely no way to shield against gravitic weapons except by counterfiring your own gravitic weapons extremely quickly and accurately, but honestly, if you’ve somehow managed to end up within (extremely short, by space standards) gravy range, you’re already totally screwed.