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 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.
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.)
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.